of brokenness and beauty

“It’s wrong,” he said, “to take away the story a pot can tell.”

A pot should tell about the passing of time. It should speak of the woman with swirls on her fingertips, who smoothed the inside surface with a piece of gourd. It should raise a prickle of wonder at the artist who looked at a lizard and saw the geometry of its back limbs, right angles framing the curve of its tail. It should lay bare the disaster of its breaking and what else might have been broken with it. If it has empty space in its skin, that emptiness is part of what it is.

Clay that holds a story of human creative power holds also a story of the fragmenting power of time and weather and irretrievable loss. The beauty in a bowl is the truth of it. If part of its truth is the wounds it has endured, then those wounds are part of its beauty.

From Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore

~ /// ~


She messaged me in mild panic: my granddog had broken my son’s favorite bowl. “Send it to me,” I told her, and I spent months mending it. Not because it took that long, but because I enjoyed the process. He assured me he didn’t want it, my son, so I’ve adopted it, and for some unfathomable reason, I can’t bear to finish mending it.

~ /// ~


I bought two bags filled with shards of broken dishes – five dollars a bag – and years later, I am still tickled with my treasure. “What will you do with them?” my husband asks in a chuckle. That was a long time ago, and the shards still just sit in a dish, treating my imagination to stories untold.

~ /// ~




We visited Nancy last week, my friend Angela and I. After she finished her brownie sundae with strawberry milkshake, I put paper in front of her and a pen in her hand, and our Nancy drew like a woman possessed. She doesn’t have the fine motor skills to turn a single page at a time, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. She drew then stopped, waiting on me to find her a fresh page. She filled the remaining pages in my pocketbook notebook then Angela’s notebook then a few bits of paper I happened to have tucked to the side. That night I bought her a 6-pack of composition books and a side of pens, and the next day when we took her to lunch, I opened them in front of her. Though she didn’t draw with quite the same intensity as the day before, she was nevertheless focused, and filled the better part of three of those six books.

Yesterday and the day before, I scanned those images, and purchased several yards of white fabric – some broadcloth and some white textured fabric purchased at a thrift shop. (I’ll explain my choice of fabrics another day in another post.) Today I cut the fabric into pieces, and tomorrow I’ll set about stitching each of Nancy’s 163 drawings – one image to one piece of cloth – using purple thread because purple is her favorite color and Angela’s purple pen is the one she obviously preferred. I’ll be posting occasional updates here where I do my long form writing, but mostly I’ll be documenting this journey at my new blog, Gone with the Thread, specially created for such inexplicable but necessary pursuits of my heart.

~ /// ~

I keep the shards without so much as an idea of making a wailing wall like the one in The Secret Life of Bees or the mosaic wall in How to Make an American Quilt. I don’t want to remake them into something they once were, and I don’t want to make them into something else entirely. I keep the shards and the pieces of the bowl just as they are because even in their (so called) brokenness, they speak. Because even in their (so called) brokenness, their possibilities are limited only by my limitations. Because even in their (so called) brokenness, they are beautiful.


  1. Merry ME

    There is so much brokenness in this world. If only there was enough love like yours to sit with and see the beauty in the pieces – of people, places and things. 

    Have you see or heard of Katrina crosses? A woman who I would love to meet one day, collects broken pieces of peoples’ lives left in the wake of Hurrican Katrina. Then glues them at random to wooden crosses. I haven’t seen one I didn’t fall in love with. My favorite, however, had pieces of batriz potter china and a baby spoon. The crosses speak to me of how God’s love can mend our brokenness. As keeper of the china shards of some past life, I think you must be a specially appointed angel. 

    • Tammy Gray

      That is beautiful and powerful!

      • whollyjeanne

        It is beautiful and powerful, isn’t it? I’m so delighted and grateful taht Merry ME told us about the Katrina crosses. What a lovely, powerful thing to do with what might otherwise be overlooked or swept aside or hauled off to some landfill.

    • whollyjeanne

      Oh I would love to meet this woman, too. Thank you for telling me about the Katrina crosses . . . and me as keeper of china shards of some past life/specially appointed angel? My eyes overflow with gratitude.

  2. Merry ME

    P.S. I cannot wait to see the purple stitcheries. 

    • whollyjeanne

      me either;) i’m kinda’ excited about this. with 163 images, it will be a rather large cloth. if i join them together, that is. right now, i haven’t the faintest idea how they will be joined. i just know i have to stitch them. have to, i tell you.

  3. Merry ME

    Something to do with an old suitcase! 

    • whollyjeanne

      WOW – isn’t that GREAT? Thanks for sending the link. Have you thought any more about what to do with your space, how to altarize it?

  4. ☆little light☆

    bits and pieces..
    some have stuck to my soul and others fill my footsteps as I go.
    bits and pieces, a trail of becoming whole.
    You are a magical weaver of bits and pieces of peoples dreams and lives…

    • whollyjeanne

      your words sparkle on my heart, sugar, you being such a magical weaver of words and cloth and clay and bedtime stories and so much more. xo

  5. Kathyleigh_wojcik

    Oh Jeanne, this is just beautiful.  It brings tears of joys to my eyes.  I saw sweet Nancy yesterday and she told me to tell you hello.  She expressed to me your adventures last week…I simply love it.  Thank you for loving Nancy the way that you do and thank you for thinking enough of me to share!

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you for all you do to take care of Nancy. It’s gonna’ be a fun project – I’m almost ready to start stitching. (Things always take longer than I think they’re gonna’ take.) Sure do hope I’ll see you around the end of July.

  6. angelakelsey

    It was an honor and a pleasure to share a purple pen, notebooks, and ice cream with Jeanne and Nancy. Can’t wait to see the cloth. xo

    • whollyjeanne

      It warms my heart to remember that weekend – not just being with Nancy, but working on your manuscript, laughing and crying and nonstop talking with you. It was a magical time for me, and I hope we do it again soon.

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