This is the story of a bowl, a wedding and the love of many hands.
By Alexsondra Tomasulo
It all began in Ireland, in the workshop of one fine Benedictine monk, Brother Ciaran Forbes. He is a master in his trade, though I knew nothing of him before my wedding.
This lovely, hand-turned sycamore bowl traveled from his workshop in Glenstal Abbey and passed through the usual fine art galleries here in the states. It was there that my sister in law, having a keen eye for restful beauty, purchased it as a wedding gift for us.
The woodturner’s spirit was truly infused within the form of this creation. Her (the bowl) curve is perfect in its rise to the rim, where it speaks of her strength and stability. Her inner arc swoops for the perfect salad, allowing dressing to reach through all the ingredients. And may I say, she graced our table for over twenty years. Her voice was gentle and reassuring, whether she held a gathering of fruit, a sumptuous salad, or even the temporary collection thingamajigs left lying around. Her color changed gradually over the years, highlighting the variations in thickness. Truthfully, I should say, thinness, for there are spots so thin as to allow the light through her wall.
As nothing remains the same, and all living things show the signs of their purposed life, she, too, gave way, surrendering a small piece of herself. I was sad that day, as I looked at my precious bowl, now unable to hold a salad. And though I tried to comfort myself in designating her only to fruit, it seemed unacceptable. My loving husband offered to fix it; as he was always willing to fix anything that caused pain and sorrow. I knew he would be more than capable of sealing the hole, but this was a job for a woodturner.
She sat patiently with her open wound for a couple of years as life demanded other priorities. And no salad tasted quite the same in any other bowl.
It was during this passage that I too, lost a piece of myself – my husband, my friend, my most significant other; he left this world without warning, leaving me with a new awareness of our wedding bowl with the hole in it. How imperfectly perfect that it didn’t get mended before his passing. Now she and I became new comrades in our grief. Somehow her voice grew louder and more comforting. There were days when looking upon her wound gave me solace. On other days I wanted to frantically cover the wound from the outside world. It would be our secret.
But secrets are to be shared. And holes, though the home of sorrow, are also the home of new birth. The healing process was set in motion. Who would mend my bowl? Could it even be mended? That thought lasted for only a day or so. Jacques Vesery, artist and sculptor, lives one town away. The phone call was made. Of course, he wasn’t home, as he travels a lot. So I left my bowl story and request with his wife. It would be sometime before I heard from him, which mattered little since grief takes away all sense of urgency.
Enter Facebook messaging. There he is, back from Turkey, or was it France? Hard to keep track of this traveling artist, who often has his hand in a collaborative work on making peace and building bridges amongst nations.
” Yes, it can be mended. ” His words offered new breath. He simply wanted to know what aesthetic imagery I wanted. My choice was to have him blend the wood to disguise it or to shine a new light on a significant event. I obviously chose the latter. For those of you who don’t know, it is customary to repair a broken tea bowl with pure gold, raising it to a higher level of importance. No need to hide our scars. They declare our secrets proudly.
He soon called to announce the mission accomplished. I could pick it up at my convenience, whether he was home or not. It would be left in the mud room, “just let yourself in.” That’s the way things are done in my town.
Fortunately for me, he was home. As he handed me the bowl, I felt new life beginning, along with the sting of sorrowful remembrances. There before me was the celebrated wound, now transformed. And I swear I could hear her voice of loving gratitude. Jacques was quiet as I took in his fine craftsmanship. He’s a humble man, much like my beloved husband.When I calmed down a bit, he shared the back story of his “mending.” He knew the Benedictine craftsman as well as the workshop where my blessed bowl was created. So it only seemed fitting that the “mend” should somehow reflect that. He also knew my deep love for Ireland. The wood he chose was, in my mind, beyond thoughtful. It was spirit moving. The wood he chose was oak. Oak, as he explained, is usually blonde. “But your oak is a bit special.” It’s deep brown color comes from time, a very long time. Thousands of years old, the beautifully embedded bow mend comes from the peat bogs of Ireland.
I inhaled those words as I did the very scent of the bog on our honeymoon years ago, wanting it to linger in my being forever. And I knew, without a doubt, that my beloved husband, from an unseen world, had his hand in this mending.
I have been writing about my personal and intimate journeys for a few decades. My scope includes grief, depression, forgiveness, transformation, and redemption. I love poetry, short stories, and essays.I have been working as a ceramic artist and teacher for a bit over forty years. It is through my meditative art process that I have found a quiet space from which I am able to create my stories. Now, after the loss of my beloved husband, I have found a new rhythm in the art of play as it relates to each artistic endeavor. I live on the coast of Maine, where the winters are majestic and the summers intoxicating.
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