The other morning, our favorite 50’s coffee cup slipped off the counter and into the sink SLAM, right into a delicate glass: a double whammy of perfect breakage.

It was an early morning wakeup call reminder that this beautiful stuff we have is just that: NOT what’s essential, like our life and health and friends. It’s lovely to have while it lasts but fleeting.

The thing about beautiful things is: THERE’S MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM!

ted muehling vase 1 394. 226 px

Ted Muehling 'concave' cup Nymphenurg Porcelain
Sally Schneider

Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei

Ode to Broken Things

Things get broken
at home
like they were pushed
by an invisible, deliberate smasher.
It’s not my hands
or yours
It wasn’t the girls
with their hard fingernails
or the motion of the planet.
It wasn’t anything or anybody
It wasn’t the wind
It wasn’t the orange-colored noontime
Or night over the earth
It wasn’t even the nose or the elbow
Or the hips getting bigger
or the ankle
or the air.
The plate broke, the lamp fell
All the flower pots tumbled over
one by one. That pot
which overflowed with scarlet
in the middle of October,
it got tired from all the violets
and another empty one
rolled round and round and round
all through winter
until it was only the powder
of a flowerpot,
a broken memory, shining dust.

And that clock
whose sound
the voice of our lives,
the secret
thread of our weeks,
which released
one by one, so many hours
for honey and silence
for so many births and jobs,
that clock also
and its delicate blue guts
among the broken glass
its wide heart

Life goes on grinding up 
glass, wearing out clothes 
making fragments 
breaking down 
and what lasts through time 
is like an island on a ship in the sea, 
surrounded by dangerous fragility 
by merciless waters and threats. 

Let’s put all our treasures together
— the clocks, plates, cups cracked by the cold —
into a sack and carry them
to the sea
and let our possessions sink
into one alarming breaker
that sounds like a river.
May whatever breaks 
be reconstructed by the sea 
with the long labor of its tides. 
So many useless things 
which nobody broke 
but which got broken anyway.

—Pablo Neruda

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8 replies on “Dept of Impermanence: Ode to Broken Things


    Ah, but fixing broken things can be lovely too. This post reminded me of the Japanese art of kintsugi – fixing broken pottery with lacquer or gold. When pottery breaks it does so in a beautiful organic way – kintsugi captures a moment in time and celebrates the random.

  2. Are you familiar with the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi, seeing the beauty in change and the humble mundane things of life?
    The artist Andy Goldsworthy (film: Rivers and Tides) uses that concept in some of his art. Once when our children began to grow up, the piano tuner said the old upright piano was so old it could never hold a tuning again. So the children and I took off the wooden outside to reveal a gleaming interior, which was splendid, magnificent – a surprising piece of sculpture, It stayed in the dining room for years.

  3. Are you familiar with the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi, the appreciation of the beauty of change and humble, daily things? The artist Andy Goldsworthy uses that approach in some of his work.

    When our children were growing up, the piano tuner told us the 40’s upright piano couldn’t hold a tuning any longer – it was too old. We took off the wooden outside of it and revealed the surprising, gleaming interior – splendid sculpture. It graced the dining room for years.

  4. One should not posess things that one cannot afford to lose or break.

  5. Thank you for mentioning wabi sabi. We did a post on it some time back and have referenced it many times. The perfect of imperfection (which oversimplifies). I love the piano sculpture. The insides of pianos are wondrous. Brilliant idea!

  6. My brother suggested I might like this blog. He was once totally right.

    This post actually made my day. You cann’t consider simply how a lot time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

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