I had the opportunity to be part of a large collaborative project called the Rothshank Sharing Intention Project with Justin and Brooke Rothshank, two artists based in South Bend, Indiana. Justin is a ceramic artist and Brooke is an illustrator.
Here is some background on the project:
During the 2019 calendar year, Brooke and Justin spent time together at the beginning of each week setting an intention. It was a way for them to connect and focus together as partners. Each week they wrote, talked, and focused on a word that represented their intention.
Brooke created a drawing following in the tradition of the fractur, that illustrated the weekly theme. Justin created a ceramic vessel, or jug, traditionally meant to hold liquid meant to be shared. The fraktur was used to decorate or adorn the ceramic vessel, applied as a gold luster decal, and carrying the emblem of the weeks shared intention.
There were 52 jugs and drawings. The Rothshanks found one person from each of the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC to mail mugs to. Each person who received the mug was asked to reflect on the word associated with the vessel and then share their own story. The Rothshanks hoped to collect their own stories from the course of the year and stories from across the country into a published work at the culmination of this project.
I received a mug for the state of Delaware, and my mug had the word “FOCUS” on it. The mug also came with the following reflection by the Rothshanks:
“This fall it has been hard to focus. Part of this project has been about focus, but part has also been just going through the motions to perpetuate a good idea and continue even when difficult. The week of focus is a reminder that doing big, difficult things takes time, isn’t always pretty, and requires focus.
I’m bringing myself back time and time again to what truly matters, what is beautiful and good. The narrative where I allow the positive strands I weave to be strong patterns, not weak accents.”
Here is my reflection after receiving the mug:
The night I received this mug was special for me. I had just returned from a weekend-long backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail with a guy I had only known for about 3 weeks. During the trip, I fell in love with that guy, whose name is Cody, and we officially decided to commit to being in a relationship with each other.
After the trip, I said goodbye to him and drove back to my apartment where I found the beautiful mug in my mailbox with the word FOCUS on it in shiny gold letters. At first, I didn’t know how FOCUS could relate to me. But as I sat on my kitchen floor and read the reflection enclosed with the mug, I felt tears welling up in my eyes.
The reflection said “…Focus is a reminder that doing big, difficult things takes time, isn’t always pretty, and requires focus. I’m bringing myself back time and time again to what truly matters, what is beautiful and good. The narrative where I allow the positive strands I weave to be strong patterns, not weak accents.”
This reflection really hit me hard. The prior nine months had been really hard and painful for me. I had broken up with my fiancé who I had been dating for 4.5 years. I blamed myself for the breakup. I could never commit to marriage and I had prioritized other things above the relationship. Following the breakup, I was sad, hurt, angry, and full of guilt and regret. I saw a therapist, which helped immensely. I had to do a lot of internal work to come to terms with why the previous relationship didn’t work and figure out what I wanted to focus on moving forward.
Meeting Cody felt like discovering the thing I had been working towards for the previous nine months. He is brilliant, hard-working, passionate about his work, adventurous, kind, thoughtful, supportive, and just fun to be around. Receiving the FOCUS mug less than 24 hours after we officially started dating felt like affirmation that I was doing the right thing and that this new relationship was worthy of my focus.
Since receiving the mug, it has sat as a decoration by my kitchen sink to remind me to focus on the good things in my life. Relationships are big things that take focus. They’re hard and messy and take time, dedication, and sacrifice. I know that I want to give this relationship my focus. I also want to mention that I received this mug during the COVID-19 pandemic, and thus I have a lot more free time in my life than I usually would. I’ve found that having more free time allowed me to make more space in my life for relationships. Even after COVID-19 stops forcing me to have free time in my life, I want to intentionally leave space for building relationships and investing in the ones I have.
Being with Cody is one of those beautiful and good things that truly matters. I want to continue to intentionally focus on this positive strand in my life and weave strong patterns with him going forward. This mug will forever remind me to focus on and pursue what really matters in life.
For the photos, it felt fitting to photograph the mug with Cody. He took the photo of me and then we took some selfies together.
I'm Abby, a traveling photographer and writer, and I'm most passionate about connecting people with the outdoors, and I started this blog because I believe in the power of visual communication to move people from awareness of the outdoors all the way to stewardship of natural resources.