Tunes for a Monday Morning
Finding the door

The beauty of brokenness

Kintsugi Bowl

Artist Lunar Hine, who lives up the street from me, has recently discussed the concept of beauty that comes from brokenness, quoting Billie Mobayad:

"When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damaged and has a history it becomes more beautiful."  What Mobayad is referring to is the ancient art of Kintsugi.

Related to this, as Tai Carmen explains, is the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, representing an "aesthetic philosophy that embraces authenticity over perfection. Characterized by asymmetry, irregularity, simplicity, economy, austerity — modesty & intimacy — wabi-sabi values natural objects & processes as emblems of our transitory existence."


I am often astonished by the beauty and strength that can arise from our own brokeness -- from wounds, and scars, and the scratch of the brambles as we journey through the deep, dark forest.

"The beauty that emerges from woundedness is a beauty infused with feeling," wrote the Irish philosopher John O'Donohue, "a beauty different from the beauty of landscape and the cold perfect form. This is a beauty that has suffered its way through the ache of desolation until the words or music emerged to equal the hunger and desperation at its heart.

Buried Moon by Edmund Dulac

"It must also be said," O'Donohue continued, "that not all woundedness succeeds in finding its way through to beauty of form. Most woundedness remains hidden, lost inside forgotten silence. Indeed, in every life there is some wound that continues to weep secretly, even after years of attempted healing. Where woundedness can be refined into beauty a wonderful transfiguration takes place."

It seems to me that this is precisely what so many traditional fairy tales are all about: the transformation of a wounded soul into a hero, the transfiguration of great calamity (a spell, a curse, the loss of home or fortune) into a new life of potential and promise.

Donkeyskin by Nadezhda Illarionova

We emerge from the fairy tale woods (if we emerge at all) with the "magic" of strength,  fortitude, and compassion; we're broken and then mended with gold.

Beautiful not despite the scars we bear, but because of them. And all they represent.

Kintsugi bowl Illustrations above: "Buried Moon' by Edmund Dulac (1882 - 1953), and "Donkeyskin" by the contemporary Russian illustrator Nadezhda Illarionova. If you're new to this blog, you'll find additional quotes by running your cursor over the pictures. Today's post is for Lunar.


This is a beautiful post and it hits hard with its truths. Some people pity me for the tragedies I've survived, but I remind these same people that I wouldn't trade those times for a lighter past. My ex-husband put me through true terror and years filled with fear and pain, but I survived and through these trial discovered the core of who I really am. In a way, it was a gift. I like myself better now than I ever have -- scars and all.

Hi Terri

This is an extraordinarily beautiful post with its gathered philosophies and pictures. I can relate to the wisdom of the Japanese and that of one of my favorite authors, John O'Donahue. We are enriched by what wounds us because it allows us to confront our humanity. And from that, we hopefully unearth those natural resources of the spirit: compassion, humility, grace and resilience. And I also think you are so correct about the transformative power of fairytales. They help us to see and define what matters and what is possible in the realm of change and endurance. This wonderful post has brought to mind one of my favorite poems by Jane Hirshfield --

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:

strong forces, weak forces.

Look around, you can see them:

the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,

nails rusting into the places they join,

joints dovetailed on their own weight.

The way things stay so solidly

wherever they've been set down—

and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back

across a wound, with a great vehemence,

more strong

than the simple, untested surface before.

There's a name for it on horses,

when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh,

is proud of its wounds, wears them

as honors given out after battle,

small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other

see how it is like a

scar between their bodies,

stronger, darker, and proud;

how the black cord makes of them a single fabric

that nothing can tear or mend.
I hope some of "The Big Life Stuff" has eased for you and life can offer you more relaxation. Again, thank you so much for this post. It holds deep meaning for me!

My Best
Take care,

Thank you x

Hello Terri, a few years ago Marcel Theroux produced a documentary for the BBC about the concept of wabi-sabi. It was complex and beautiful and one of my favourite pieces of television ever. At several points during his journey through Japan Theroux asked people to define the concept of wabi-sabi and with each explanation came a deeper complexity and beauty. At the end of the documentary I was no nearer to understanding precisely what was meant by the term, but I was deeply moved and overawed by the art and ancient culture of Japan.

As for scars...


'Bye' I called from the door
before setting out for school,
and when you didn't reply
I repeated the word
until you returned enough to yourself
to answer.

Now looking back
over forty years of life lived
without you,
I'm glad we had time
to share that small word
of farewell.

A great post,love the ideas.

Thank you for sharing the poem Wendy. It's lovely.

Beautiful, all of it, and I especially love the Linda Hogan quote for the 1st picture caption. Oh my.

My own offering: not my own poem, but one I've always loved...

Small Prayer
by Weldon Kees, 1914-1955

Change, move, dead clock, that this fresh day
May break with dazzling light to these sick eyes.
Burn, glare, old sun, so long unseen,
That time may find its sound again, and cleanse
Whatever it is that a wound remembers
After the healing ends.

Thank you Terri. This is an honour.
I am doing great and feeling content with my new streamlined shape. I have been looking at some beautiful mastectomy tattoos but feeling reluctant to cover my scars. Maybe they need nothing added to be beautiful. Maybe - just slightly one-day maybe - none of us need anything added to be beautiful.

Very moved by this post as I work with memoir writing turning some painful life experiences over and over like compost to feed new growth.

Thank you

Just posted:

Stuart, Thank you for posting the poem - and knowing I'm not alone in the coming to terms with 'wabi- sabi' even after viewing the same program and reading 3 books on the concept and practise throughout the years. Your post & the words of the late and singular John O'Donohue truly resonated + as always Thank you Terri for your gifted mind & this blog. As many of us have scars I've mine listed upon my frame from early childhood to a severe assault- from a mastectomy to several open heart surgeries and, yet, it's the invisible scars that smart in the quiet hours the most - like a shared small word forever echoing in twilight. Anyway, Thank You.

Golden Threads

From falling off old brown horse,
A golden crack in right collarbone
From falling on stage as the wife
Of Noah, the fourth left toe.

Some golden string to
Pull together the back of my eye.
Sprinkle of gold for all
The gravel in my knees

A glob of gold in my knee
Which became less and less
Bone. Which has led me to
Bend my knees in thanks.

When we lose words as
Age sometime hides them,
Are they somewhere as
Golden leaves, near winter?

When we meet some-one
Grouchy or screaming
With rage, send light to
Their unknown golden places.

All in all, it is all gold
And not for sale, only
What we bring along
On this lighted path.

Succinct, beautiful and heart breaking.

Kind of a novel wrapped in a lyrical poem. I like it.

Thank you James and Phyllis. And thank you too Terri; this is one of your brilliant posts that resonate! Hope you are safe and well.

I often feel the same thing, that I wouldn't be me without my history. I would have preferred an easier journey, but not at the cost of not being who I am. Sending you all my best wishes this morning, brave lady.

Thank you for this, Wendy, I *love* Hirshfield's poem. She's an amazing poet, and I often find inspiration in her books -- with "Given Sugar, Given Salt" being my favorite. (I think you're pretty damn good too, by the way.)

Life Stuff is still going strong, I'm afraid, and will be for a little while longer. And then, I pray, a positive outcome, because anything else is unthinkable. But meanwhile, we carry on...bramble scratches and all. The Dartmoor countryside is good medicine, a tonic of beauty during the long June days.

Stuart, your poem is simply heartbreaking. And perfectly lovely.

There are so many of us, it seems, who carry our life stories literally written on the skin. I was once asked, back in my late 20s, to model for a photography show about scarring (I have a history not entirely dissimilar to yours), and though I summoned the courage to say yes, I somehow didn't have also the courage to go see the show itself. Now, of course, I wish that I had.

My pleasure, dear. Much love to you and Andy and the little one.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, Phyllis.

"When we lose words as / Age sometime hides them, / Are they somewhere as / Golden leaves, near winter?"

Oh, I very much hope so.

I've not read Kees before. That's a remarkably strong poem packed into six short lines. I particularly love the last three -- wow. Thank you so much for this, Chris.

Angela, Sara, and everyone else above, thank you for your kind comments. It's nice to be back on Myth & Moor. I don't know how regular posting will be while the Life Stuff I'm dealing with continues...but I'll try to post as I can.

Whatever you decide -- tattoes, no tattoes -- will be, I'm sure, just right.

Did you see this piece, "The Camouflaged Woman," on Aleah Sato's blog?

And the music video for Laura Mvula's song "That's Alright"? It's the fourth (and last) video in this post:

So many, many ways to be beautiful.

(I'm partial to the "Horned Woman" in Aleah's essay, myself.)

Thank you, Terri. Praise from the praiseworthy is praise indeed.

Amazing poems, notions all. Mine is a small offering:


“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold.”_ Billie Mobayad

When he died, the cracks of my life
showed—jagged, crazed shards.
The pieces knifed into me.
I could not hold them in my broken hands.

If you had seen me then: no longer granite,
but shattered bowl of dark clay
more fragile than I knew,
than you could have guessed.

It is eight years now, and those cracks,
though not disguised, are filled with beauty,
brokenness even more precious
than the filling gold.

©2014 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

This is a very moving post. I like the concept of wabi-sabi - something I explored in a blog post two weeks ago. I was in an abusive relationship 2004-2007. When I finally started dating again, and found the guts to tell him about my past, he said: "I don't want broken goods." Haunted by his words, I fell into a pattern of needing to be perfect all the time, to cover my "cracks." So I changed perspectives.

such a beautiful post ands all the responses

Thanks so much Terri

For the kind thoughts and perspective on Jane Hirshfield. She is amazing and I always find something new in her work when I read and re-read her poems. I send you my prayers and positive/best wishes for the strength, grace and understanding to deal with the challenges ahead. Take solace in your surroundings, nature has a way of helping us heal and cope. Even here in the high desert of Southern California, where we are plagued by one of its worst droughts, I find beauty and a sense of kinship with the species and terrain around me.

Take care
my best

How true, how beautiful, how human, how healing. Thank you, Terri, and all who added wisdom in responses.

Oh, thank you!

Once more, truth and passion in a golden poem.

Another one for my door, Jane!

Breaking away from abuse is a Hero's Journey (in fairy tale terms): breaking out of a spell, escaping from the sorcerer's tower, emerging at last from the dark of the woods. So any woman, man, or child who succeeds in doing so (and sadly, all too many are lost in that forest) is a hero in my opinion, not "broken goods" -- except in the kintsugi sense, a once-broken artwork made whole with veins of gold.

Breaking away from abuse as a Hero's Journey - what an interesting concept. My maternal grandmother called me her "little wild selkie." She told me tales about the seal-maiden and the fisherman who stole her skin in an attempt to find something missing within his own life, thus condemning both to an empty existence. I found my skin, akin to a soul, and got out of the relationship.

Alicia, I just read your lovely blog, "Wild Heart Rhythms," for the first time, and I want to recommend it to readers here interested in the intersection of myth, storytelling, and the healing journey:

We seem to be thinking about some of the same things at the moment (wabi-sabi, etc.) -- as though our two blogs have been in dialogue, without our even knowing it...a lovely bit of serendipity.

And in a similar vein, I hope everyone here has read "The Armless Maiden and the Hero's Journey," a brilliant essay by my dear friend Midori Snyder:

I also did a related post called "The Handless Maiden and Forest Sanctuary" a little while back, quoting passages from Midori's essay, as well as from other sources (some of which overlap Midori's):

(And for everyone who enjoyed the video of Jeannie Tomanek's art on Monday, both pieces are illustrated with her beautiful work.)

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