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The Clay Pendant
by Leslie Sittner

It is reddish-brown clay, heavy, and maintains the ambient temperature of
     its surroundings.
It is a 2 ¼” by ½” thick flat disk curving to a point at the top.
Its face is rough with incised designs, azure color glaze accents the
     depressions.
Two symmetrically placed ¾” round clay beads, each with an azure band
     of glaze,
are knotted in position on the braided thong that supports it around my
     neck.
The designer’s name, Maria Guistina, is inscribed on the back.
It is my Clay Pendant.

Over the years the pendant accumulated different characteristics.
When I wear it now:

It’s still reddish-brown clay but is no longer heavy to me.
It gathers and holds the warmth of my heart and the tenderness of hers.
It’s still a 2 ¼” by ½” thick flat disk rising to a point at the top,
but the point is softened both to the eye and the touch.
It’s face is textured with life’s dreams, the azure color glaze reflects a
     perfect sky.
The two symmetrical ¾” beads remind me to keep life in balance.
The knotted braided thong, replaced when it tired of its support job,
encourages me to support whomever, however I can.
The designer, Maria Guistina, has brought me great joy over the years.
It is my Clay Pendant.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR/ PHOTO CAPTION: My (ex-) husband and I were strolling around Lucca, Italy, one evening in 1969. We passed a softly lit street-level studio. The door was open and a young woman was bent over a high table laboring over something small. Near the center of the space was a potter’s wheel. A small kiln resided in one corner. She turned to us with a radiant smile of welcome and bid us enter. In my halting Italian I inquired as to what she was creating and if she had items for sale. She eagerly replied yes and excitedly but shyly showed me three clay pendants. I immediately fell in love with the circular one. When I asked the price, she demurred, and quietly said the equivalent of three dollars with a questioning inflection, as if three dollars was too much. I told her no, it was worth more than that and gave her 10 dollars. She reached for me, hugged me hard, and with tear-filled eyes, whispered. “You have no idea how much this means to me. To have someone value my work, pay me for it. Italian women aren’t valued for much except cooking and caring for children and elders. Men are the craftsmen. It’s very difficult for a woman artist to be independent, to have a dream, and make a living.” ¶ Lucca is precious to me because of this piece of art-jewelry. I’ve thought of her often over the years wondering if she was successful, especially against the prevailing cultural odds. ¶I was in Lucca last summer and I took the pendant. I looked for her but had no idea where she might be after 47 years.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner has been turning to the written word as a form of self-expression and reflection. She began this journey two years ago and is just finding her voice in different formats. Two of her stories are available in print in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press, and on-line prose at 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, and 50 Word Stories. A variety of other prose and poetry can also be seen on-line at Silver Birch Press. She is finishing a book about travels with her ex-husband and hopes a publisher will find it as humorous as she and her writer-friends do.