from One Street Shy, June 15, 2012
Rummaging through my kitchen cabinets earlier today, looking for an old antique pottery bowl to give a friend of mine as a gift, I came across another piece of pottery I had completely forgotten about. I had tucked it away in the cabinet so as not to break it. I do that sometimes; put pieces of art away to protect them, then forget where they are, and when found, regret that it wasn’t displayed or used as it should have been. It’s a beautiful bowl; Asian in style. It has the palest of green background with jade color markings smudging the outside and covered with a thick cream glaze. The quality is similar to a piece you might find at an art show, pottery house or farmers market.
I received it as a gift a while back. While I was in the middle of teaching a yoga class it was dropped at my studio door by UPS. The package had no return address, and my name and address had been handwritten on the outside. After class, I sat on my mat with my package and opened it. I found a note resting in the bowl, which was nestling protectively inside of a multi-colored quilt. It read, “Jennifer, I wanted to thank you for coming to teach us and being so kind. I have a hard time sitting and quieting my mind, but when I make things it helps me meditate. I hope you enjoy these gifts and want you to know how much your visiting and teaching us means to me. Namaste, Janet”
Janet was an inmate at the Woman’s Prison and one of my yoga students. She was also a lifer who had already served eighteen years. I had been volunteering in the prison to teach yoga to the inmates for some months and Janet had always been my most enthusiastic student. She looked like the sort of person you’d find working at a Starbucks – very polite, wholesome looking and always neat and clean. I never knew what put her in prison for life at the age of nineteen, and to be honest, I never wanted to know. I had asked the women in charge of the program to please not tell me why any of my students were there. As I saw it, I was there to teach, to help their present state of mind and to alleviate anxiety. I was afraid that if I knew what it was that put them behind bars I might judge them without meaning to…..I’m only human…