Savannah Pratt is a senior majoring in Hispanic Studies and minoring in Writing. She finally listens to the words of her 3rd-grade teacher, who swore she should become a writer. After graduation, she will pursue a Masters’s in Education with a Bilingual endorsement and publish as a part-time writer.
My favorite souvenir from my travels abroad in South America is an ovejita. Ovejita means little sheep in Spanish.
My ovejita is small, black, and made of clay.
As I held the small sculpture, steady in place of my palm, I noticed it’s fuerza. I first noticed this treasure in the middle of a market of artesanía, or crafts, as I explored the depths of the capital city called Montevideo, located on the very edge of the country named Uruguay.
I said the figurine was black before, but it’s really a dark grey, like the soil you’d find deep in the tierra, or ground. It’s layered in sediment and thought. Body small, like a whisper. Material solid, like a promise. It’s worn and old. Light dust outlines the curves of its design. No eyes, but two ears, a nose, and a single white ring on it’s left hip. I ask the merchant, whose skin color was as deep as a cavern, what the ovejita is made of. Arcilla, he answers.
In Spanish, clay is arcilla, which means wet earth.
Clay is soft and fine grained. Clay is weak. Easily compressed, and easily altered. When found naturally, clay can be manually altered by impressions of fingers and skin. It has a high plasticity. In the presence of agua, or water, clay is submissive to outside forces, molding to a specific shape. That is what plasticity is. Adjustable. Changeable. Passive.
Pero, if it is subject to enough heat, it turns to rock. In fuego, or fire, it becomes solidified. With enough heat, clay becomes permanent. It metamorphosizes from a malleable material into something that resembles stone. It completely changes from soft to hard. From weak to strong. Like a fénix, it is reborn in the flames of fire. It doesn’t die in it’s hardship. It lives.
Some say clay can last for thousands of years. I can see it in my ovejita. In the worst of situations, la ovejita aguanta. The little sheep endures.
In that artesanía market in Montevideo, I noticed the ovejita, and it’s fuerza. Material that was malleable in the presence of tears became strong in the appearance of despair. The tears dried, and the ovejita thrived. Instead of ashes it turned to stone.
Aguantó todo. It endured everything. I ask the merchant how much for the ovejita.
Diez pesos, he answers. All for a small, black ovejita that will last for thousands of years.