past imperfect

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Kintsugi – healing with gold.

 

{I have been writing a blog for a lovely local shop, The Good Times Homestore. I generally write on living in Lewes and lifestyle type things. It’s been a real pleasure to have a reason to write, and I realise I need to make more time in my life for creative expression. With all the turmoil of what has been going on lately I have found it difficult to write. But when I actually made the time to  get pen to paper it has felt really helpful, I recommend it! Here are some thoughts…}

In Japan they revere old trees, propping up their branches, supporting their beautiful decline, respecting their extraordinary length of life, witness to ages.

They also do a wonderful thing with broken pottery called Kintsugi, which translates roughly as ‘healed with gold’ or ‘gold joinery’. It is the art of repairing the cracks with a mixture of resin and gold dust. Rather than seeing something as faulty it acknowledges the history and experience of the object, the apparent imperfection that makes it unique, as something precious, not just to be disguised but to be appreciated.

It makes me think of the oft-quoted Leonard Cohen lyrics from ‘Anthem’:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

One of the things I love about this little town is its history, its connection to the past in a way that feels relevant and alive in the present. From our beautiful castle and barbican, the plethora of tradition soaked pubs, the bookshops (often antiquarian), the Grange, Priory Park where I jog amongst the dog walkers, amongst the beautiful ruins.

This is a town of pageantry and protest, where on any given morning I wake to markets, processions (official and not) somewhat terrifying displays of Morris Dancing, not to mention the impressive site of Harvey’s drays and cart, complete with drivers in bowler hats delivering beer across town. The Downs that encircle Lewes radiate an ancient energy, crowned with the shadows of hill forts, scattered with flint arrowheads and scarred with ancient chalk quarries.

Then of course there is the bonfire celebrations. Although I am yet to experience them I have started to appreciate what a huge part of the Lewes’ yearly ritual they are. The fundraisers, fêtes, gala dinners, the heraldic signs above the pubs, the glimpses of structures, the bonfire sites in the woods. This doesn’t feel like a relic of the past, this is something alive and well, a steady beating anarchic heart which grows and changes each year as each generation takes it on.

When I tell people about the bonfire celebrations their response is generally one of delight and longing, sometimes surprisingly fervent. It has made me really consider tradition in opposition to the cult of the new, our high-speed disposable culture; particularly in this time of intense political upheaval where some elements of ‘tradition’ and the past have become laced with a dangerous negativity.

I was never great at grammar, but it feels like we need to appreciate the past imperfect at this present time.

Today I was sitting, writing from my beautifully battered wooden table, loving every mark and scar it holds.

As I watched an elderly gentleman immaculately dressed stood chatting with two teenagers one sporting blue hair, the other dreadlocks. A woman consulting her iPhone as she buys cherries from the market, a young man serenading the exchange kids with traditional folk songs. Tiny moments, but hopeful ones, bridging past and present somehow.

It got me thinking about Kintsugi. So much of the past it beautiful and valuable, there are so many lessons to be learnt, things to be appreciated, things to be valued. But to move forward we need the cracks, we need to break from the patterns that don’t serve us, we need to create space for the new, the different, as yet un-thought ways of doing things. The resin and gold dust. The light.

We probably need to actively break a few things to move forward, to allow the past, with all its imperfections to remain relevant. With all that is happening, I really hope Lewes will continue to appreciate and celebrate the past, and let it crack, or even make the cracks, when cracks are needed, so we can let the future burn brighter for all of us.

 

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Beach Fire Thormanby Island

 

 

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