Friday, November 22, 2013

Sleeping Gardens, Teapots, and Acceptance

Kintsugi: Golden Joinery, photo by tschorda, used with permission, cc license

Over the past few weekends, my husband has been busy in our small yard, clearing out the raised beds and raking leaves. No matter that I know late Autumn and its drab browns and grays come to my part of the world every year, it still brings with it a particular kind of sadness.

I often wonder if my moods would be more even and tempered if I lived in a place that didn't have such a stark change of seasons.

But then I think about how much the monochrome of winter soothes me and how much a snowfall can make my heart light, and I can't imagine living somewhere without it.

Perhaps it's not such a bad thing to be in tune with the shift of light and weather. This is the soil I was rooted in, after all. I need the fallow times as much as the intensity of the short growing season.


I'm working hard at acceptance. It's something I can usually do in the ceramics studio. Just yesterday, I trashed a teapot I had made after studying it and learning what it was I didn't like about it. (Handle didn't balance the weight of the pot well, spout dribbled, lid didn't seat well.) While I was disappointed that I had yet again made a poor teapot, I didn't beat myself up about it. It was just clay and time. I have more of both. And failing to master a teapot didn't make me a terrible person or a failure. It just meant I have more to learn. And teapots are hard.


I don't blame the garden because tomatoes don't grow all year round.

Yet, I still blame myself for so much that is outside of my control.


It's so easy to put impossible standards on ourselves. The messages are everywhere in subtle and overt ways, and I'm not even talking about visual standards of beauty that no one - not even the supermodels themselves who are in the photographs - really match. No, I'm talking about the nagging sense of never being good enough to match some impossible always-just-out-of-reach goal.

Don't get me wrong - goals are not the problem. It's the way we choose goals that make who we are right now feel like a failure. 


One of these things is not like the other. 

I remember watching that game on Sesame Street with my kids when they were little and realizing how hard wired we are to see differences.

Yesterday, I retrieved 4 small bowls I had made from the kiln. My teacher was thrilled at how they had come out and hoped that I was also pleased. She said she was really proud of me and all the work I'd put in to creating a consistent shape and elegant glazing.

After the brief flush of pride, I immediately latched on to all the flaws in the pieces.

We are so damned expert at seeing the differences and labeling them as wrong. As failure.


I recently read about the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold resin, called kintsugi.  It is thought that the repaired vessel is even more beautiful because of the cracks.

I wept when I saw that.


There is a difference between inflated ego/false pride and acceptance.

Acceptance isn't self-deprecation or resignation.

How can we see ourselves as we are and apply the same acceptance and gentleness we offer to others?

How can we see our broken places as part of our beauty?

That's what I'm working on in this fallow season.

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