Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Blue Bottle

The Blue Bottle is a haunting little story Ray Bradbury wrote in 1950 (during the classic era in SF) in which roving bands of treasure seekers are scouring the dead cities of a vanished civilization on Mars (yes, yes, I know) looking for treasure, and the fabled Blue Bottle of Mars. The bottle is reputed to “hold anything,” including one’s wildest dreams. Everyone is crazed to find it, except Craig. He’s hunting with Beck, but he’s just along for the ride, and he doesn’t care anything at all about the Blue Bottle. Eventually, though, Beck and Craig do find the Blue Bottle. For Craig, it contains bourbon whisky. And for Beck? Well, I won’t say anything more, wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone. At any rate, I came by my own blue bottle, which is quite a bit bigger than the one described in the story, in a more mundane way. I rewarded myself for working very hard and bought it. I have a weakness for blue-glazed pottery. The pieces in my small collection (some cups, small plates, a small bowl) made by the former wife of the former dentist for the former coffee shop they opened. Her kiln and her wheel were set up in an upstairs area of the dental office. I cleaned the dentist’s office for a number of years, and when the marriage broke up and the coffee shop was closed, these items ended up in the ofice trash. I fished them out and brought them home and I use them daily. Then, some pieces with that same blue glaze appeared in the display case of a local shop. I bought a hand-lotion dispenser. For several years, the large blue bottle sat in the window, gathering dust. But it is sitting there no longer, because it now is sitting in my kitchen and has been filled with balsamic vinegar. Did I NEED the blue bottle? No, probably not. But I did need it. It is a thing of beauty, and as Doris J Longacre wrote in her book Living More With Less, “Everywhere in the world, people arrange for some beauty... the plainest cooking area behind a hut in Somalia boasts an intricately carved stool or a colorful basket.... across Asia, cooks encourage their fires with attractively woven fans.” My house needs all the beauty it can get.