I dropped my favorite coffee mug from Dirty South Pottery yesterday. The hot coffee that splashed my pants – sure to leave a stain – was far less heartbreaking than the hairline crack that now decorated the glaze.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I have been doing dumb things. More than once during quarantine, I’ve fed the cat the dog’s food (and vice versa, meaning somebody invariably vomits on the kitchen floor later). I’m walking into a room and lot and wondering what I came in for. I explained the neuroscience behind why this is totally normal right now.
In addition to being a forgetful fox, I’ve also become a clumsy klutz. It’s also normal to feel a little awkward right now. Under quarantine’s spatial restrictions, many of us are struggling to be in our bodies. We are sitting more and moving less, as we read, rest, and binge Netflix. The more we are in our heads, the less we are in our corporeal bodies.
It’s funny really. In yoga, we refer to our physical meat suits as our home. In this sense, we are stuck in our homes but absent from our home.
But back to the mug. This mug and I have a storied history. Firstly, it’s a beautiful work of art, a deep cobalt blue with the outline of Kentucky on it, and a cut-out heart where Clark County lies. It’s the perfect size and heft for my hand. Many of my readers have this mug too, but since each Dirty South Pottery mug is made by hand, I’m sorry to tell you that I got the best one. This mug has been in what I call my “sidekick” rotation: my owl mug, my Namaste mug, my Hamilton mug, and my DSP Kentucky mug are the only mugs I drink coffee out of. Many days, it shifts seamlessly from holding my coffee or tea to holding my hot chocolate or bourbon. It’s in my hand as much as my phone. So the hairline crack (and a chip on the handle) was a devastating loss.
So I’m standing there in a puddle of cooling coffee, a little tearful and mad at myself for being such a klutz. Izzie picks up the mug and eyes it. “I can fix this,” she promises. “We need a blue Sharpie for the handle and some Sugru for the crack (for those of you without crafty kids, Sugru is a magical silicone repair putty).”
Of course. Kintsugi.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery by filling cracks with gold or silver. Sometime around the 15th century, the eighth shogun broke his favorite teacup. As this was the era that saw the rise of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, this was seen as both an overwhelming personal loss and a bad omen for the reign. So the shogun ordered his craftsmen to repair it. But the poor teacup was beyond fixing. Instead, the craftsmen decided to turn it into a work of art, filling the craze lines with powdered gold. The result was a teacup that was more beautiful and, oddly enough, stronger than its previous incarnation.
Kintsugi turns a scar into something lovely, transforms something broken into something better and stronger than before.
Devastation leaves us cracked and wounded. It reminds us that our history, no matter how tragic, doesn’t have to leave us broken. Our scars, both visible and invisible, are where our resilience and wisdom live.
As Leonard Cohen reminds us so eloquently,
“Ring the bells that can still ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything…
That’s how the light gets in.”
While we didn’t have any precious metals sitting around, the Sugru worked like a charm (see attached photo for proof) and I have a steaming cup of coffee sitting beside me as I write this. Every time I see the crack, I will remember that it is our past that makes us precious.