The sounds I heard earlier sharpen as we approach. I can hear metal strike metal, hammer drive nail into wood and the whoosh of fire being stoked. I try to focus on these sounds rather than those that accompany them: voices, voices, and more voices. Some singing, some talking, some rising and falling in heated conversation.
What will these people think of me? Will they know I don’t belong? Will they be able to see on my face that I have no gift worth sharing? Should I just turn back the way I came and not face the rejection that surely awaits me?
The stream of questions my mind throws at me grind to a screeching halt as the woods end and I find myself standing on a cliff. The height of this cliff and the distance from one side to the other make my journeys from the crevice to the meadow seem like a walk in the park compared to the high wire marathon that awaits me. And I do mean high wire.
A literal high wire stretches tautly from one side of the cliff to the other. My body and mind stop at the edge of the cliff and I look around.
A huge Greek style amphora sits over to my right, filled with long poles. Trying hard to keep my eyes away from the cliff and what awaits me, I walk over to the amphora. It is the largest vase of its kind I’ve ever seen. The top of it comes to just above my waist and the designs are intricate. Someone studied Greek pottery very closely to be able to create a replica this authentic. Looking closer, I wonder whether this is actually a replica – the scene encircling the amphora’s neck is classic Greek subject matter and even the slip is faded, as it surely would be after centuries of use. Where exactly am I?
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Irene says quietly as I continue to crouch by the vase to examine it.
“Yes, I love pottery. I took a class in it years ago and fell in love with the fact that beauty is only part of the reason for pots. I think the blend of beauty and utility strikes a chord with me. There's no question of whether it's art worth making since it can be used immediately. And it’s amazing what people were able to make, long before electric wheels, gas fired kilns and metallic glazes. What are these poles in it?”
“They help you balance on the high wire. There’s always an assortment, so every traveler can choose the one that feels best. Does one look appealing to you?”
Wondering whether there is another vase somewhere containing safety harnesses instead of guide poles, I lift a pole out. I immediately know this is not the pole for me. Even standing on solid ground, I nearly topple over as I try to compensate for the heavy weight on the left and extreme lightness on the right. I try a few others that range from too heavy to insubstantial until I find one that feels just right. It sits perfectly in my hands and seems to anchor me to the ground.
Having found my guide, I walk to the edge of the cliff and look at the high wire. I thought the plank was thin, but that was nothing compared to this.