Beauty For Brokenness
Where have you travelled with brokenness this past season?
In winter it can feel like brokenness is everywhere, that healing can only begin in Spring. Recently I have been especially drawn to the words of David Whyte in his poem "Winter Grief", in which he writes:
So that you can let winter be winter.
And in this winter especially, perhaps we see the cracks of brokenness creeping across the landscape ever more clearly - like fractured twigs scattered across a frosty landscape.
Many health services in countries around the world are under pressure, Governments are struggling to decisively and compellingly govern, despite the seasonal coldness in the Northern Hemisphere right now - the planet continues to get hotter, and people are turning against one another as we are further divided ideologically - often intentionally by those who have the power to control.
Brokenness, it seems, abounds.
The title of this piece is borrowed from a hymn by Graham Kendrick - which itself contains themes from the wondrous depths of the Psalms. Regardless of your religious or spiritual association, there is much beauty to be found in these words. Each verse begins with a request, a plea:
- Beauty for brokenness,
- Shelter for fragile lives,
- Refuge from cruel wars,
- Rest for the ravaged earth,
- Light in the darkness.
It is not an easy list, and perhaps it might even seem foolish. Rather tellingly, this hymn was written in 1993 - alarmingly it appears that these pleas have gone unanswered and almost three decades later we find ourselves in much the same, if not a worse, position.
Yet winter is a necessary season, as much as any of the others. Whilst I was leading a training weekend this month, one reflection prompted by imagery of winter was not that winter is a season of silence, decay, and nothingness, but rather of busyness in preparing for a period of growth. Trees do not sit still, their roots remain hard at work, and of course there are plenty of plants that can only grow in the winter months - like snowdrops and cabbages, protected by the frost and cold.
Just before Christmas I knocked one of my handmade ceramic sake cups off of a shelf and watch it fall the short distance to the floor. Its delicate makeup meant that it fractured into a number of pieces, a couple even disappearing into that special un-mappable nexus reserved for missing items. I wasn't angry, just sad. The brokenness of my once beautiful and unique sake cup felt symptomatic of a wider brokenness I was feeling in amongst restrictions and lockdowns.
I gathered the pieces together in a small pot, put a secure lid on it and left it be. I knew of Kintsugi (金継ぎ), the practice of fixing broken pottery and ceramics with gold to highlight and not hide the fault, and so I sought out where I could find someone to fix my poor broken sake cup.
Instead, I found an at-home kit that allowed me to falteringly fix the cup. It's likely not the most authentic approach, nor is the finished product perfect (perhaps that's the point?) - but I had found beauty for this brokenness.
In winter there is a chance, an opportunity, to seek out the brokenness and not shy away from it, to tend to it - delicately with golden glue and a brush, gently brushing the sharp edges and putting them back together again, the sight of the brokenness there - twigs on the frosty ground, yet the beauty shining out from them.
Alas, not everything can be fixed with some glue and cosmetic gold dust. Grief right now, individual and societal, is monumental - we are people of grief, losing loved ones but also freedoms. In our grief, perhaps the words of David Whyte might offer something for us to nurture and eventually provide space to create beauty for brokenness:
Let the rest in this rested place rest for you.
Let the birds sing and the geese call and the sky race from west to east when you cannot raise a wing to fly.
Let evening trace your loss in the stonework against a fading sky.
So that you can give up and give in and be given back to, so that you can let winter come and live fully inside you, so that you can retrace the loving path of heartbreak that brought you here.
So you can cry alone and be alone so you can let yourself alone to be lost, so you can let the one you have lost alone, so that you can let the one you have lost have their own life and even their own death without you.
So the world and everyone who has ever lived and ever died can come and go as they please.
So you can let yourself not know, what not knowing means.
So that you can be even more generous in your letting go than they were in their leaving.
So that you can let winter be winter.
So that you can let the world alone to think of spring.
The Bell And The Blackbird
Poetry by David Whyte
April 2018 © David Whyte and Many Rivers Press