Monday, January 26, 2009

The Lost World

I feel like I have found the Lost World— Journey to the Old School House as written by H. G. Wells.

For months and months I have been thinking about going to a pottery shop in Small Town, but I wasn't sure where it was. I was at My Favorite Place for Joe one day, and I found a stack of postcards advertising the place and thought it would be fun. But then I never investigated and lost the card. You know how that goes. Good intentions.

Now, I have this idea that small micro-businesses like one-man operations or family shops need a boost in the local newspaper. These places don't have much money to advertise, and they are often so obscure and tucked away in corners of the county that no one knows they exist. And because they were usually started based on someone's unexpected passion for something or other—like an accountant building a horse barn—the business owners have stories to tell.

So, I thought this potter who lives in town just might have something interesting to say, something we all haven't heard before. Having lost that darned postcard, I had to scour the Internet until I found the shop's address on a website for a craft fair, and I drove north to find it.

I knew the road, Mt. Pleasant, was off of the main road in town, so I had a general direction to head, and Mapquest suggested the shop might be just off of the main road. As usual, Mapquest was a little off.

I found Mt. Pleasant, turned left onto it, and immediately thought of that great old hobo song Big Rock Candy Mountain:

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains you never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew and of whiskey too
You can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

Mt. Pleasant passed over the highway and turned into the Lost World. It was narrow and winding, and with snow on all sides, I had the idea I was headed into the wilderness and the woods. There was a deep ravene on the left and a bank on the right, and I followed the road to wherever it might lead.

I found a Holiness church, for Pete's sake, and remembered the documentary I saw in college about the Holiness movement from the south. I found horses in a barn, cars on blocks, and I started to think I was in the wrong place. And I started to think I had crossed the line from Small Town into The World Unknown. You can tell I don't explore the countryside very often.

But then there it was, the brick one-room school house up on the hill with stained glass creations displayed in all the windows and a Welcome flag by the driveway. I pulled in and had to walk up the hill because the potter's van was blocking the road.

There were fascinating clay pots attached to the barn wall for no reason, and there was a new glass door at the worn out front stoop. I peeked in through the glass and jiggled the handle, but the shop was closed—I found out later the potter was preparing for a show and had to close early. There were wonderful things to see and touch and learn about in that shop, and I was so glad I had braved the treacherous route through the Big Woods.

I drove away determined to make contact with this person, and headed back to Small Town, and get this—it took me all of three minutes and one mile to get back to the main road. Isn't it amazing how your mind can create a new world when you're in an unfamiliar setting, how you can turn a short drive down a beat-up road into an adventure?

I have an appointment to interview the potter and his wife this Wednesday afternoon, and I'm very excited. I can't wait to go back, but I suspect this time around, the journey will be much less impressive.

Here's the shop.


dive said...

Wow, what an amazing place, Robyn! Great for isolated artistic creation but not exactly a prime location for passing trade.
I can't wait to see your finished article; the place looks like a treasure trove.
With luck, your piece will send many more trekking into the Lost World and bringing their wallets with them.

lynn said...

That's so beautiful. Buy it! :)

Mark said...

I love that place, but then I'm a sucker for old school buildings and for hand thrown pottery.