I tend to process things more deeply (some might say intensely) than many people, so it is no surprise that some of my favourite stories are of transformation. And some of my favourite stories of transformation revolve around clay.
Seeing this image of the Japanese art of Kintsukuroi for the first time struck a deep chord. Who would have thought that breakages and cracks and imperfections could make the original vessel even more beautiful? I am a recovering perfectionist: I have an eye for imperfections. I can spot a crack or a stain or a grammar mistake where most people see none. And they bother me until they are fixed or removed. The thing is, stains rarely disappear entirely and there is always another grammar mistake looming, another crack waiting to appear. To work with them in such a beautiful way seems like a much better plan to me.
The fable of Kintsukuroi can be read here: https://philipchircop.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/the-fable-of-kintsukuroi/
My other favourite clay story is that of the golden buddha. In Thailand in the 1950’s a monastery was being relocated to make way for a highway that was being constructed. There are some differences in the stories that are told about what was to unfold but it goes more or less like this. The monks were moving a clay statue of the buddha to their new monastery. It was so heavy that they had to use a crane to lift the statue and in the process a crack appeared so they gently lowered it back to the ground. It began to rain so they covered the statue with tarps. During the night a monk went out with a flashlight to check on the statue. As he was verifying that the tarps were all in place his flashlight caught a glimmer of light inside the crack that had appeared. Upon further investigation and subsequent chipping away at the clay the treasure inside was slowly revealed – an almost ten foot tall solid gold buddha had been resting inside. It is believed that years before the monks of the monastery, fearing an attack from Burmese marauders, had covered the valuable statue with clay so that it would be seen as worthless by the invaders. The monks were all killed during the attack and so their secret and the golden buddha had remained undisturbed until the time of the move.
Both stories are such powerful metaphors of the human experience. The Japanese understand that chips and cracks make vessels unique and beautiful. And the Thai’s knew that clay was a needed protective covering in desperate times.
My own transformation story involves clay as well. My formative years were lived on Clayes Avenue. The house I live in now and where we raised our children is on Claybank Road. And my newest grandson Klay just joined our family. The coincidence of this seems auspicious to me. And golden.