I watched as my son, Alex, carefully undid the wrapping, opened the wooden box, and lifted a corner of the quilted cloth. On his face, I saw a strange look of disbelief. “It’s broken,” he said. Now it was my turn to be stunned. The beautiful ceramic bowl sat in broken shards on its rose-colored cloth. I was crushed and horrified. It felt like a betrayal.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about Kintsugi — the Japanese art of repairing a broken bowl with gold. For Christmas, I offered a Japanese tea bowl that had been repaired using this method, to Alex and my daughter-in-law, Connie. I felt it would be a meaningful gift as they embarked on married life together. With baby Vita now a hear and half, a new baby on the way, and the opening of a store in Asheville, North Carolina, East Fork Pottery, their life is full. I thought of the Kintsugi bowl with its veins of gold as a symbol of creatively and beautifully overcoming challenges.
A week later, I was still feeling badly about how my gift turned out. I thought to myself, I should make something with these shards — a sculpture — and give it to them. I mentioned my idea to Alex and he seemed a little put off — then he said, “Yes, um, we should do a repair.” And I understood that he wanted to repair the bowl himself. I had kept it anticipating that I would return the broken shards to the gallery, but they graciously refunded the price I had paid. We decided to talk about it in early January when we will next be together.
Everything in our world is impermanent. Wood turns to ash and fallen leaves to compost. The broken pot shards can become something else. Accepting change is about no longer being stuck in what was, but moving on. This moving on is the awakening of our creative heart.
I know that my well-being depends on feeling that I have connected to that place of creativity inside my heart. With days of less meaningful doing, I begin to fall into this dark abyss of my own mind. I become disjointed, my body altogether not my body, my limbs connected like a puppet. I don’t act with spontaneity and wholeness. I can be in the most beautiful place and if I don’t feel connected to it, I can’t appreciate it because I block the beauty from entering my bones. I can be in the most loving relationship and not allow this love to enter.
Each creative act makes use of something that is unresolved in our hearts. Each creative act makes the world whole. In this new year, let’s make whatever is broken whole again. We don’t, in fact, can’t know what it will look like. Who would ever imagine that a river carved a canyon that enthralls millions of people thousands of years later. I can’t imagine what will possibly come out of this box of pot shards, but this is precisely the process that heals broken places and turns them into art.
In this new year, I’d like to remember that broken bowl when I find myself slipping away from my creative heart, when I feel alone and cut off. For I know that in doing the work I will find my way back. We all share this longing that is deeply human, that beseeches us to be fully our own life, to belong completely to the entirety. Our longing is the gift we can offer.
When I started this weekly blog, Apples, Art, and Spirit, one year ago, I thought it would be a one-year project and I would be using the orchard as a springboard to write. With 2016 being a year of no apples, they have been a very silent partner. I’ve decided to commit to another year, and hopefully with some good winter chill, we will have an apple crop and there will be more apple-inspired writing. Please join me, share the blog with your friends, and together let’s lift the corner of the new year, white, and pure, and unknown. It’s ours to create for the very first time.