Slow Down, Don't Worry, Leave Something
Ojai, California has many treasures: sunset and the pink moment over the Topa Topa Mountains, Meditation Mount, the Arcade, Bart's Books, and more. There is no treasure so great, however, as Finnish artist Otto Heino. When Pablo Picasso went looking for the greatest ceramic artists in the world, he found Otto.
At ninety four, Otto still works fifteen hour days and sleeps only four hours per night. This summer when I met Otto at his home and studio, he shared that he wakes every day at four. I couldn't help thinking of George Washington Carver, who awoke every day at four, went out into nature, and had a talk with God. I wondered if all creative souls got their inspiration at four in the morning.
Otto's bright eyes twinkled as he described clients who have flown in from Texas to purchase plates he created valued at twenty thousand dollars each. He smiled and his voice showed that even he is astounded that people pay so much money for a plate.
Otto's work is so valuable because it is beautiful and because he works without an apprentice even at ninety four. Everything displayed in his studio was made by his own hands. It's hard to imagine, yet true nonetheless, that the same hands that make these beautiful ceramic works of art also flew planes and dropped bombs in World War II.
Whenever we meet someone who has lived as long as Otto has we always want to know what the secret of a long, well-lived life really is. Otto's advice has three parts. First, he says to slow down. This advice is easy to take to heart when you consider that it took Otto ten years of experimentation to recreate a yellow Chinese ceramic glaze popular during the Chin Dynasty. Second, Otto says not to worry about things. A challenge, given the news reports of hard times in the economy and predictions of a recession. However, given Otto's long life and experience, we can learn from him that "this too shall pass". Finally, Otto says to leave something behind for your country. Otto speaks of legacy and of being a contribution. I took from this that we are not here to merely reap benefits for ourselves, but we must also be conscious of using our unique talents to somehow make the world a better place just because we were here.
When my friend Denise and I left Otto, I felt expanded and I could see the immense possibilities life has to offer if we slow down and are fully present to each moment. I smiled as I remembered that I almost didn't get to meet Otto because I'd wanted to take an aerobics class at the spa where we were staying. As I took an expanded breath, I thought, "slow down, don't worry, leave something."