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Finding Golden Beauty in Daily Life
“Kintsugi” is the art of repairing broken pottery with seams of gold and, in the process, making the object even more beautiful for having been broken.
However, there is one more ingredient necessary to make this magical transformation a reality: a new perspective. One must embrace the gilded flaws.
It seems to me that kintsugi need not be limited to pottery. Looking at pieces of our everyday lives with a new perspective can bring previously unseen beauty into focus.
For example, consider a tale shared by my friend, John Watts, about a farmer who had lived on the same farm his entire life. It was a good farm, yet as the years passed the farmer began to wonder, “Is there something better for me?”
The farmer’s discontentment grew and he eventually decided to find a new and a better farm. He listed his property with a realtor who prepared a truthful ad putting an emphasis on all the good features of this particular farm:
“Ideal location, modern equipment, healthy livestock, acres of fertile ground, dependable irrigation, high yield on crops, well-kept barns, and a nice two-story house on a hill above the flat pasture.”
When the realtor called the farmer to get his approval on the ad, the farmer replied: “Hold everything! I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to sell after all because I’ve been looking for a place just like that my whole life!”
Life-instead-of-pottery kintsugi is not limited to fables.
My daughter, who lives in the Bay Area, was home last weekend to celebrate her 30th birthday. In addition to a big party that provided a reunion with dear friends and family, Dallas enjoyed something very small and routine: taking our 10-year-old boxer, Murray, for his morning and evening walks around the neighborhood.
“Every day we would walk the same one-mile loop,” Dallas shares, “yet every day I would notice new, startling details: a small bird strutting jauntily across the street, like a band leader in a parade; sprinklers watering a front yard of dead grass; a toddler shrieking with glee, running in circles in a driveway as her mother watched with a tired smile, raising a hand to us in greeting as we walked by; bushes laden with bright red berries; a father and son playing catch in the park.”
Here she adds a golden observation: “So many rich and beautiful details that would be so easy to miss if you were not paying attention and looking for them. And indeed, we would pass many other morning walkers on their phones or listening to music, rushing ahead with a glazed look in their eyes.”
Dallas was not the only one experiencing a form of kintsugi: “Meanwhile, every single day, Murray exuberantly sniffed at plants and lampposts and studied the sidewalk like it was a brand-new territory to explore – even though it was the exact same path he had taken the day before, and the month before that, and the year before that.”
Again displaying wisdom, Dallas adds: “Perhaps he is on to what it means to be happier: being open to seeing and finding in each day after day after day, new sparks of joy and wonder.
“Walking Murray was a reminder to find the extraordinary in the ordinary and see the beauty in each day because, as my brother likes to say, ‘Each day is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’ ”
Speaking of her younger brother, Greg phoned me recently after he finished an evening run in New York City. The run in itself was nothing special, a short four-miler after a long workday at a relaxed pace on a path along the Hudson River.
Indeed, the run was pretty much indistinguishable from hundreds he has done since moving to Manhattan a couple years ago. Except for this, which he shared on the phone:
“Pops, you should have seen the sky and clouds changing colors over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was so beautiful I paused mid-run to just look up and take it all in.”
My son’s voice was filled with kintsugi.
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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.
Check out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …
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