Even though I was old enough to know better, I was still excited at the approach of my birthday. I might need to pause occasionally to work out my current age – the years were starting to slip by – but as the day approached I could sense a growing expectation. There would be get-togethers with friends and family. There would be cake. And, most importantly, there would be presents.
Of course, the older you get, the less you really need or even want. In some cases you might even reach capacity and anything new coming in means something else needs to go to make sufficient room. But none of this seemed to hamper the building sense of excitement and curiosity. I was used to receiving books and trinkets. My brother was the best present seeker, surprising me with unusual items and games, usually with a silly twist.
One of my friends called and we arranged to meet up for lunch at a cafe. She said that she had something special for me and I was intrigued. After lunch and catching up on each other’s news, she dipped into her oversized handbag and placed a present carefully on the table.
‘I hope you like it. I made it just for you.’
I thanked her, flushing with pleasure. I lifted the gift, surprised at its weight. I felt its shape, trying to work out what it might be before tearing open the brightly coloured paper. It was a piece of pottery. I knew Julie was artistic and I’d seen her paintings and sketches. But this was something else.
I looked at the piece, turning it slowly to take in the unusual shape, the bulbous lumps and bumps, some open, others closed. I lifted the lid and looked inside. It was curved within, a smooth hollow ready to hold something safe.
‘Thank you. It’s lovely.’ My words sounded slightly puzzled.
Julie grinned at me. ‘Do you know what it is?’
I swallowed. ‘It’s like a pot, something to put things in.’
‘Yes, but what is it inspired by?’
I blinked, trying to work out where she was heading with this, and wishing she’d given me something simple like a scented candle instead.
‘Nature?’ It was all I could think of.
‘Yes!’ Julie slapped her leg and laughed. ‘I was thinking of those walks we sometimes go on around the lake, and the way you point out grevilleas and waratahs. And how you watch out for banksia men, just like the ones you used to see at your grandparents place as a kid.’
I smiled back at her, feeling a wave of gratitude for both Julie and our friendship. The etched pottery container took on a different slant now. As my fingers felt my way around it I could feel sunshine on my back, hear birds call as they swooped around us as we walked together, sometimes talking, sometimes not, through the bush beside the lake.
This piece was inspired by a piece of pottery, as pictured above.