Coast Chronicles: The Bowl Not Taken

<I>CATE GABLE photo</I><BR>Clematis provides a backdrop for a lovely soup bowl at a charity event.

Last Thursday evening 350-plus people crowded into the Seaside Convention Center to be a part of the Clatsop County Women's Resource Center's (WRC) seventh annual soup bowl fundraiser.

Thirty dollars entitled you to pick a bowl, fill it with soup and join others in the community supporting a worthy cause. Soon Oregon State Sen. Betsy Johnson would fire the crowd up too. A total of $25,000 was raised.

Arrival My mother Virginia, sister Starla and I arrived at the event early and noticed a line was already forming in a corner of the room. Seeing any line, I automatically find out what's up - a lemming after a good deal. I got in line.

Both Greg Hamann, past Clatsop Community College (CCC) president, and Rita Hamann, WRC board secretary and this year's soup bowl chair, were there looking dapper and happy.

Pat Burness, WRC executive director, gave me a big bear hug and roared in my ear, "I'm mad at you!" In my article a couple weeks ago, I mistakenly labeled her "past executive director." Pat is still very much in charge - an incredible, unstoppable advocate for women and families suffering domestic abuse.

There was great anticipation in the line. Just beyond the doors were the amazing bowls handmade by Richard Rowland and his band of CCC potters.

A first-timer, I kept trying to cadge a glance inside as the door opened for arriving soup makers and bread bakers.

Kismet Thwarted Weeks before the event, I began imagining the bowl selection process. I would be the absolute last person in line and simply take the one remaining bowl on the table, the bowl that had been rejected by everyone else.

It seemed humbly lyrical, romantic even.

This bowl would clearly be mine, being the only one left. It would be a matter of fate, kismet, the choice having been made by the people who had gone before me or by some Supreme Being who would specially select my bowl by a process of elimination.

Instead, as I mentioned, I got in line immediately as close to the front as possible. Only David Campiche and party and a few unknown others were between me and that door.

Glance at your watch: 30 minutes to go. Sip a malbec. Glance at your watch: 27 minutes left. Read the program. Glance at your watch. Etcetera.

As the room filled, the line curled around on itself like a dragon eating its tail, the end of the line people sort of blending with the beginning of the line people. I began to worry that the people at the back might try to look like those of us at the front of the line. I eagle-eyed them just to let them know that we knew who we were - and they were not us.

I would like to point out that during this unbecoming behavior, at least I had a little voice in my head saying, "What the hell is the big deal and could you please relax?" Not that I listened.

The Bowls Finally, at the appointed time, the tiny door opened and we rushed in.

The bowls were laid out on a series of five or six tables and folks swarmed over them. My mother saw a bowl she liked immediately. My sis had decided she wanted a bowl with green on it. She picked one up, then exchanged it for a second she liked better - done deal.

They exited where the tickets were taken and went to find us a table. I continued to search for the perfect bowl.

All the bowls were stunning. Let me just say that again - all the bowls were stunning.

But some were just a teensy weensy bit more stunning than others.

I picked up several bowls and put them down and picked up several more before one definitively caught my eye: a dramatic bowl with a piney-green glistening outside glaze and a blood-maroon inside glaze that had teasingly dripped down the outside rim of the bowl like ice cream onto its cone. It was a yin-yang stunner, flashy and perfectly-shaped with an flared, unglazed footing.

But was it the best bowl?

Another cruise through the tables and a second caught my eye. It couldn't have been more different: this one was all tan and russet browns with a pock-marked inside indicating ash from the Dragon Kiln. It seemed woven of one cloth, the same colors inside and out; calm, distinguished and elegant, with triangles of layered earth tones where the potter angle-dipped it first into one glaze, then another.

Stunner green and red versus subtle earth tones.

I took them both and set them on the edge of the convention center stage to look them over.

The Harpies Two women next to me had six bowls perched on the stage and were in heavy conversation about them. Then they looked over at mine and said, "We want that red and green bowl if you don't want it. Those are the perfect colors for my living room."

Suddenly I had something someone else wanted. Then this must be the bowl for me, I thought perversely. I looked at the brown-tone bowl - so perfect and quietly secure.

The stunner shouted, "Me, me!"

"We'll take that other one too if you don't want it," they said, ignoring the bowls they had selected.

I scrutinized, I turned my bowls over, I fingered them.

Then I handed them earth-tones, kept stunner and began immediately berating myself for my choice: stunner is a cliché, it's so obvious, it's so done-before.

After another tortured cruise through the bowl tables, I approached the two women.

"Would you mind if I traded you back for the earth-tones bowl?"

"No, we like this one. That one won't work in my living room."

Reversal The bowl not taken exists only in my imagination. It has taken on grand dimensions. It was the perfect bowl.

Thus, dear readers, we experience again the human condition, having only one body and therefore only one pathway through life. And of all the beautiful pathways one can take through our spectacular world - should one live by the ocean or in the mountains? - only one can be chosen.

One physical body means one point in time one moment at a time. Step this way and you cannot also step that way.

When I first returned to the Peninsula, my family looked at a Martha-Stewartish house in Seaview with a manicured garden and a path to the sea. We didn't choose that house; we chose a small cottage tucked away on a dead-end street in Nahcotta.

If we had bought that Seaview charmer, everything would have been different. I have no idea how, I just know that it would have been.

A friend writes that she has no regrets about her life - even once running into Jacques Cousteau in Gibraltar and saying "No thank you" to his offer of a job. "My life was already on a good path," she says. Amazing!

I wandered toward the soup providers with my head spinning and my chest burning. I had let the best bowl of all slip through my fingers. I had a bowl in my hands but the bowl not taken was the bowl for me.

As I approached a pot of Fulio's salmon chowder with my out-reaching hands, the server exclaimed, "What a beautiful bowl!"

"Good choice."

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