Apostle Paul, Botox, Ede, hagi-yaki, kintsugi, lachrymatory, lacrimae rerum, lustre pottery, Milliput, mono no aware, mushin, Nigella, Perseid, Silas Marner, stretch marks, wabi sabi, wasabi
(Perseid Image by Brocken Inaglory)
Brassica and I were sipping tea in her kitchen. She’d put a
tea-bag into the mugs, but I couldn’t help noticing that she
had a rather fine teapot sitting on her dresser.
Why don’t you use that? I asked, gesturing towards it, with a
mouth full of biscuit.
Oh, I can’t. It’s only decorative. Look!
It had staples holding it together. No one surely spends the time
on such repairs now; strong adhesives probably can do the
The iron in the kettle makes it sing, they say, she remarked. Actually,
I am annoyed with Cosmo. He’s been watching the Perseid showers
for several evenings now. He barged into the kitchen in his excitement
and knocked over my favourite vase, ironically inscribed with the immortal
phrase: ‘Love is as strong as death.’ I can tell you that my affection for him
was truly tested. He’s so heavenly-minded that he’s no earthly use at times.
It’s only a pot, I observed.
Yes, but it was precious and I had great difficulty in piecing it together with
Beauty in brokenness; what’s been shattered makes it stronger… lalala,
I reminded her. Kintsugi- its life of service may not be over.
It would have been just the right size to hold his ashes, she added,
a trifle heartlessly, I considered. I could have had it re-fired and had
his remains used to make a lustre glaze. People have their loved ones’
ashes made into diamond rings. Similar principle.
No, although bone meal may be in some glazes, I think he would probably
explode in the kiln, if my chemistry recollection serves me well. Anyway, maybe
you’ll go first.
Hmm…, she mused, looking determined not to accede to that idea.
Well, it’s worthless now.
Have you heard of wabi sabi?
Emm, is that the horseradish stuff Nigella used to bang on about? Shouldn’t
think that would hold anything together- not even her marriage!
(Flickr- image by EverJean from Nishiki-ichiba, Kyoto)
No, Brassie! I expostulated, impatient with her as usual. It’s the Japanese
appreciation of transience and imperfection. Too often we seek a dead
perfection. Buddhists, as you know, believe suffering is good. Nothing
lasts; nothing is perfect; nothing is finished.
But you can see the cracks, she sighed.
Yes, but they let the light through. Its history is written into it. The
Japanese restore their damaged pots by filling the fissures with lacquer
and gold dust, paradoxically drawing attention to the repair…
Like wrinkles showing how we have lived?
You don’t believe in face lifts, or Botox then…?
It’s said we have the face we deserve by forty.
I suppose you…I mean we do, she commented, but we
are better than…
Don’t go there, I admonished.
And stretch marks!
Some people even have tattoos over their scars. But the thing
is, Candia, I don’t like losing my treasures.
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be, I said
sanctimoniously. But, you know, once I was teaching ‘Silas Marner’
to an Adult Education class and we discussed the bit where Silas has
his gold stolen and he goes into a decline. However, when he leaves
his door open and enters a kind of trance, his true treasure
You used to be able to leave your door open round here, but you can’t
now, she lamented. What a talent Brassie has for the tangential.
(She didn’t take my point that human relationships are valuable.)
Well, no one is saying that you should deliberately leave yourself
unprotected. No one is advocating hagi-yaki…
Wasn’t that a nuclear bomb?
No, it is the practice of deliberately smashing tea bowls and ceramics,
in order to liberate yourself from the material world.
Like the Greeks going in for plate smashing?
Look, I don’t know... I become exasperated sometimes. Maybe it’s like
misinterpretations of the Apostle Paul which foolishly advocate sinning
as much as you like so that grace will abound. No, you- one- has to
develop a kind of mushin, or equanimity. In the Ede period there was a
concept of ‘mono no aware’. Yes, we feel pathos at the passing of things
and yet that fits into the general sublunary…
Cosmo charged into the kitchen, carrying a box. He glanced at me
and then directed his attention to his wife: I hope I’m not interrupting,
but I just saw this in the local gallery and I thought you’d like it…
Brassie’s eyes lit up.
It was an iridescent glass bottle, with a stopper, in the shape of The Shard.
(Colin/ Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0)
It’s for storing all your tears, he announced. A lachrymatory.
Thank you, darling. It’s beautiful. Just what I always wanted.
I made an excuse and left. She seemed to have forgiven him.
I just hope she puts it in a safer place. He IS terribly clumsy.
Otherwise, there could be tears before bedtime.