Archive for September, 2012

We’re All Cracked Pots!

September 26, 2012

Recently, I decided to take the plunge and clean out my collection closet. I like to call it that, because it sounds a lot more elegant than what it really is; which is a place where I throw stuff that has no other place to live in my crowded house!  It is also a hotbed of memories. Boxes of old greeting cards, dried up prom corsages, pictures in black and white of times gone by, macaroni necklaces that my children made for me years ago, oddly shaped pieces of old Christmas wrapping paper and things that I cleaned out of my mother’s house after she died, had all found their way into the place where things go when there is nowhere else for them to be. I had lost control of it, and realized that the occupants of that closet were beginning to colonize and multiply.

So, I armed myself with a shovel and proceeded to sort through it all. After opening a few boxes, I realized that carnations from forty years ago tend to take the form of crunchy particles and that I couldn’t really remember just why I had saved scraps of paper or ribbons that had apparently meant something to me at one time.

And then I saw it…the cracked pot. When I was a little girl, my mother had that little porcelain pot on a shelf in the kitchen.  It was a teapot that was shaped like a cat and I loved it. Every now and then, she would let me take it down and hold it but since it was very old, it had to go right back up onto that shelf. One day, I dropped it and created a cracked cat pot. I was horrified and began to cry while picking up the chipped tail, broken ears and a cat body that was no longer in one piece. I headed over to the trash can to throw away the pieces, but my father stopped me, comforted me and scooped me up along with the cat fragments. Out to the garage we went, where he sat me down and got out the glue. As he patiently worked and pieced that pot back together, he explained to me that by the time the pieces were fitted together, the glue was dry and it was polished, it would once more look like a cat. All it needed was a little attention and it might just be stronger than it was before, because it had been reinforced! Even if one of the ears was a little shorter than the other, the tea-cat would be just fine and just as special.  Although it could no longer be used to serve hot tea, it found a new function as a beautiful vessel for fresh flowers. That day, I learned that it isn’t always necessary to throw things away when they are broken because often, they can be restored and renewed.

In later years, I learned about kintsugi…which means “golden joinery” in Japanese. It refers to the art of fixing broken ceramics with a lacquer resin made to look like solid gold. Often, a vessel mended by kintsugi will look more beautiful, and more precious, than before it was fractured.  That reminded me of my cat pot.

There is a parable about a water bearer in China who had two large pots; each one hanging on either end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, which allowed some of the water to leak out. The other pot was perfect; always retaining a full portion of water.  The water bearer walked with his pots every day from the stream to his house; and always, the cracked pot arrived only half full. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishment but the cracked pot was ashamed of its performance, which was not what it perceived it was made to do.

One day, the cracked pot said to its owner, “I am ashamed of myself because of this crack in my side which allows water to leak out all the way back to your house.”

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path. Every day while we walked back, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”

Most of us are cracked pots. We’ve had experiences that have left us broken and we might even have considered ourselves as failures or useless. Ding dong, that is wrong! No matter what has happened to us; physically or emotionally, we can always be restored and often we will be stronger and more beautiful than before!  If our destiny is altered and we take a different path…it can be more rewarding than the one we originally thought we should walk.

I still have my cat teapot and I love it today more than ever because when I look at it, I am reminded that I was quick to think it needed to be thrown away.  How wrong I was! After all of these years, it still gives me joy.  It was designed to be a teapot, but like the water pot in the Chinese parable, it found a new use and now my grandchildren love to look at it and hold it, just like I did.

Just as the Japanese technique of kintsugi strengthens and enhances; so can our temporary brokenness, if we understand that every experience we have has a purpose greater than we can see.