Over the hedge

The famed potter was as gracious as her work

In May 1974 I went on a tour of the native American reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. The tour was sponsored by the Save the Children Federation, and all of us on the tour were sponsors of native children.

Our last stop was San Ildefonso Pueblo, N.M. San Ildefonso was the home of Maria Martinez, the famed potter and creator of the stunning black-on-black pottery for which the pueblo is still known. After a tour of the village and a kachina dance performed by the local children, we were treated to a bountiful lunch.

Although she was elderly and couldn't see well, Ms. Martinez attended and brought some of her recent work to display. And she graciously met each one of us.

When it was my turn, I told her that I was from Maine and made some fervent statement about spirituality in the landscape. She asked if she could touch my face, and as she gently did so, she told me that my heart was good. On impulse, I asked her if I could take a picture of her pots, although I knew photography was usually forbidden. She told me that I could, that it would be her gift.

It is an unimpressive, amateur photograph of a half dozen gorgeous black pots laid out on a folding table covered with a white plastic tablecloth. To me, however, it is an indelible image of dignity and grace, and it reminds me of the hands of a caring and generous woman.

Wendy Knickerbocker

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