Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken things with gold, pottery in particular. Instead of bemoaning the chips and cracks, kintsugi accepts these imperfections and mends them with precious metal, highlighting those places where – perhaps – a thing fell apart.
Kintsugi says, this is not damaged beyond repair. It’s actually more beautiful for the wear and tear of not only usefulness, but love.
Often the hardest way back is the path that will take you home, not to a physical address, but to that incontrovertible place inside you know is true.
I’ve spent the last nine months trying to find that way.
I won’t get too deeply into how I strayed from such knowing. It’s easy enough to do. In a life, I suppose, it’s something we forget – and remember – over and over again.
My kids are grown – or mostly grown – and I don’t know what to do with myself newly arrived on the other side of the parenting grind to realize I’m not that old and likely have a decade or two before I settle into the sort of grandmothering I hope I am lucky enough to do one day.
I had the best grandmothers and when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say, “A nana,” without hesitation and with all sincerity.
I’m going through the transformation women experience to leave behind those childbearing years and become … what exactly? It’s as life-changing as it’s supposed to be, and I’m not moving through it swiftly or with any kind of grace. I feel clumsy and awkward and every bit as unsure as I did in sixth grade, the last time my body betrayed me.
And, of course, I’m living like everyone else through a global pandemic that has informed every aspect of my daily life for two years. I didn’t know it at the time because economists had yet to give it a name, but when I left adult education last summer, I was part of the Great Resignation of 2021.
Since that spring, one NPR statistic indicates that about 33 million Americans quit their jobs. Some sources say it was collective burnout. Others that people awakened to their life’s true purpose with so much time on their hands (endless Zoom meetings not included). And then there are those that say it was all the free government money that made people want to just stay home and do nothing.
For me, it was that “life’s true purpose” theory. Maybe some educator burnout. But I was not trying to teach kindergarteners on Google Meets, and I really can’t complain too much about working from home for the better part of a year with adults who wanted to continue their art classes or keep doing Zumba.
All of which is to say that I arrived in Lincoln County last summer a little bit broken.
OK. Maybe a lot.
“There’s a crack in everything,” Leonard Cohen wrote. “That’s how the light gets in.”
For me, the light comes from Lincoln County, pouring into all the dents and nicks of the immediate past, filling them with the gold of new experiences.
I am lucky that I work at the newspaper because I always know what’s going on. Sometimes when you’re trying to figure out who to be, it’s fine to start by finding something to do.
Since January, I hiked to a yurt in freezing rain to do yoga in Jefferson, needle-felted a fairy in Whitefield, learned about the feminist roots of Japanese anime in Damariscotta, made a mess of a couple take-home art projects from Waldoboro, Zoomed into a virtual supper club in Newcastle, and ate a ramen lunch fireside at a picnic table in Bristol.
I tried new things – or did things I’ve always loved in new ways – some alone and others with a grown kid or two. I am thankful for Maine Outdoor Yoga and Hidden Valley Nature Center, Sheepscot General Store, Cupacity, the Waldoboro Public Library, Veggies to Table, and Broad Arrow Farm for holding space for all these creative and inspiring events.
One experience stands out as particularly special – the only one that didn’t come to me through The Lincoln County News. My uncle organized a family dinner – table for 10 – at the River House in Damariscotta. The chef, Jon Merry, was once, many, many years ago, a student in the Bath Tech culinary program with my cousin. In addition to serving one of the best prime rib dinners I’ve ever eaten, he stopped by to chat at length, impressing my kid who is in the culinary program now. Merry’s conversation was as generous as the portions on the plate.
In between, I crisscrossed the county – Dresden, Jefferson, Somerville, Waldoboro – covering municipal meetings.
It all makes me happy. Such a humble word. But you have to start somewhere to repair your heart and find a way back home. Might as well begin with what makes you smile, laugh, learn, and sigh with a belly full of good food.
I am beginning to remember who I was before my name was Mom. And who I might be now that the one-act play festival hoodies are packed in a box in the attic, the blue-and-white baseball cleats hung from a nail in the basement, the shepherding of my third kid through a pandemic high school experience (mostly) on track for graduation next year.
And every week a new adventure awaits in The Lincoln County News.
Kintsugi is a practical process. It literally means “filled with gold.” It’s a metaphorical one, too. For the inevitable – and often ugly – ruts and ruptures of life once mended by time and new experiences can also be what makes it beautiful.
Margery Williams’ Velveteen Rabbit said, “Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
What makes us breaks us.
Or is it the other way around?
What breaks you makes you, over and over again, filled with the gold of finding new ways back home.
(The Way Back is a monthly column by LCN Editor Raye S. Leonard. Did you find something in The Lincoln County News that inspired you to try something new, learn a skill, or even change your life? Please share your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)