Beauty In The Broken

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beauty In The Broken

Staggering into the kitchen on a morning last week, still sleepy from too late a hour with an absorbing book, I lifted the domed lid off the china biscuit jar that houses Edward’s morning treats, and it slipped from my hands like sand - falling onto the floor and breaking apart not unlike Mr. Dumpty himself.  Edward and I stared - me stunned, him sorrowful - at the wreckage that lay at our feet.  I carefully gathered up the pieces and carried them like a supplicant to the one person I knew who could, like magic, return them to their original state.

You see, The Songwriter has an amazing talent, apart from his storied ability with lyric and song.  He can glue anything back together.  This astonishing knack was no doubt forged in the fires of childhood when he, being a boy, had the unfortunate, but typical, tendency to break decorative objects with a high degree of regularity.  One such item, an antique transferware plate, was shattered one afternoon - perhaps the victim of a wayward guitar neck - but so expertly was it glued back together - each tiny shard fitted in with the finesse of an artist - that his mother didn’t even notice until years and years later.
“Hey, who broke this plate?”
“Mother!  That happened twenty-five years ago!”
Decidedly too late for punishment.

As I sit here now looking at this newly, and meticulously, glued biscuit jar dome, marveling at the remarkable resemblance to its perfect former self, it occurs to me how often I consider something broken to be of little use and what an obvious mistake that is.  Oh, the monetary value may have decreased somewhat.  Antiques Roadshow teaches us that.  But is the beauty really so diminished?   

Several years ago, on a bright autumn afternoon, I stood in Lady Chapel at Wells Cathedral.  The sun poured through the fabled stained glass windows like wine, splashing rich colour all over the stone floors at my feet.  I stood with my head thrown back, awestruck by the massive magnificence of those windows, with a myriad of iridescent jewels reflected in my eyes.  
I had never seen windows so beautiful.
Gradually, I became aware of a tiny, tweed-suited gentleman standing quietly at my elbow.  I turned to meet his smiling face and he began to tell me the story of the windows.   All save one had been destroyed centuries before by Puritan soldiers on a window smashing rage.  Their hideous rampage had reduced the brilliant Holy pictures to smithereens, as though a giantess had spilled her entire jewelry box on the dusty floor of the earth.  In acknowledgment of their limitations, the craftsmen who restored the windows did not even attempt to recreate them in their original form, instead constructing new windows from the jagged shards of what had been.  
And I had not even noticed.  
Such was the beauty of the windows before me. 

And I now understood why I felt such wonder standing beneath those glorious windows.   In the loss of their ancient narratives, with only fragments of ecclesiastical colour left behind, I was now free to see myself within them.  They had become more personal somehow.  Through them, my own imperfect life, with all its blessings and mysteries, seemed to shine back at me.  These windows welcomed me, included me, in this consecrated place as the others, unbroken and pristine, could never have done. 
A little bit of wisdom was carried home in my pocket that day.

From stained glass to biscuit jars, broken lives to broken hearts. 
 I always wish for the imagination to see beyond what used to be.
 To wait for, to anticipate, the beauty that just may come.