I have a shard of pottery that is very old, an unevenly proportioned quadrilateral, about 3/8 of an inch thick, curved, with two stripes. I like to look at it now and again, to hold it in my hand. Life could not have been easy back in that potter’s day. so I wonder as I hold that shard what stirred the potter to go to the extra effort of putting those decorative stripes on it.

We all do this. We all occasionally have a yearning to do something beyond the call of duty. For some of us, that yearning results in extra chocolate chips in this week’s batch of cookies. For others, the result is an extra fearsome gargoyle face on a medieval cathedral, an imaginatively designed bridge, a symphony or even an especially clean bathroom at a highway rest stop.

It doesn’t really matter whether the stripes on this particular pot shard came from a moment of exuberance, I will certainly never know. But for a time, when the clay warms in my hand I think about that hand long ago that touched it too.


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