They were simple bowls, smooth, white porcelain, vertical sides with rounded lip, sturdy — the stamp on the bottom said ‘1951' in black-bold numerals printed in a no-nonsense font.

The shining stack of white entranced me when I first saw it, enough that I stood there awhile, taking a bowl from the top and caressing its side absent-mindedly, lost in novel consideration of a previously un-thought-of future, one with cupboards of my own where bowls would reside. I was seventeen.

The bowls had caught my eye as I’d wandered through the store, just graduated from high school, working in retail, taking a year before deciding my future course. I’d never looked at *bowls* before. This was a new, grown-up, contemplation.

I bought two. Two, as if one had been too lonely a concept to purchase and any more than two had far too much weight for my seventeen year-old self to bear.

The two white bowls have resided in all of the homes I’ve lived in as an adult — an often vagabond life, touching down here, there, packing up and moving on, or moving back, two decades and more, the two bowls wrapped and re-wrapped in newsprint, then bubble wrap, tucked in something soft.

Ironically, it was their utilitarian virtues that eventually gave them such indestructible value, grown from their ability to shine on both standard rental kitchen shelves as well as on rough-sawn planks I turned into a cupboard in the rustic kitchen I built while living in a canvas yurt.

I lived there with my son for five or six of the warmer months, off in the Olympic rainforest in Washington State. The planks for the kitchen shelves I’d found in the back of the barn on the communal property where I rented the yurt, stacked in an old, forgotten tack room.

There were other shelves in other homes. Shelves painted white where the bowls sat for a time, in a one-room cabin with loft in the redwood rainforest of northern California. There were shelves of old, well-used, raw Douglas fir, in a two-story octagon schoolhouse tucked in the back meadow of a hundred-acre farm. The dusty shelves of the long vacant octagon, when I first saw them, clearly showed paw prints from curious raccoons that had recently traveled through.

That home, the octagon, sat on log rounds and hung over a small creek on the edge of wilderness on an old commune, deep in the Siskiyous in southern Oregon. During gatherings (which were rare during my era), Back Meadow was used for circles around bonfires with singing and chants, talks, workshops, music. It was also starting point for hiking the back country with its deer trails and hiking paths crossing pioneer tracks intersecting with old silver miners’ roads alongside Chinese-dug canals. I used to sit on the porch and dream of taking off on those trails, leaving all the difficulties behind; it was my two kids who kept me grounded and at home, who helped make anywhere we were, ‘home.’ Morning cereal in the two white bowls.

Those bowls traveled well, too, tucked deep in U-Hauls on three cross-country moves, as well as in a cardboard box in the back of a canopied pickup two of my sons and I lived in for awhile.

In that (thankfully short) era, the cardboard box would be placed each morning and evening on the picnic table bench by the fire at our campsite, the box being our kitchen cupboard at the time. Spoons, bowls, cups would be fished out, the bowls then filled with oatmeal or applesauce in the mornings, soup, canned spaghetti, or boil in bag dinners most nights, heated on the two burner propane campstove.

On nights there was no propane, Topsy Turvy dinner would be declared, and breakfast cereal with bananas served in those bowls — or maybe Pioneer Night! with trail mix and a raw carrot on the side for each boy. I’d leave the leafy carrot tops on so my three and five year-old could play, “Ehh, what’s up, Doc?” as they ate.

For two decades now, the bowls have lived mundane lives in suburban homes, faithfully serving up soups and chilis, cereals, snacks. Recently, though, small cracks have shown, tiny fissures from heat and cold, jostling and stress, over the years. The cracks had been there awhile, invisible at first or nearly so, then growing more defined, turning dark.

I sometimes noticed, sometimes ignored, those signs of retirement in my bowls, those hairline cracks, marks of time and vigorous life. My mind, now, while looking in the mirror sometimes veers toward personal parallels; I will myself to resist. I am sturdy. I am strong. For the bowls, however, it was time.

The two white bowls now sit on the dresser — my dresser, where formerly, earrings gathered in haphazard piles and necklaces handed down had hung inelegantly with pins stuck in the wall.

I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to those bowls.

They now hold jewelry. Inside the bowls, I have put pearls.

A re-post from 2014

Views: 246

Comment by Anna Herrington on June 12, 2018 at 9:24am

Catch, your comment sparked an interesting conversation over here, on the beauty some have in their words and ways of seeing that seem to produce beauty in the mind for me, period.

Then it kept going into funny areas about do Puritan descendents (or even Protestants at all, not that I have a clue about your background nor does it matter, the conversation just wandered this way... as it does, sometimes. It's our background.) lack wonder and imagination and richness thanks to all that dour and repressive way of living and seeing the world for generation after generation that might cripple entirely the more creative expressive ways in a heart and mind.... 

All from:  Looking inside, we see starlight.

Loved it! Thank you. And also for understanding my symbolism of pearls, for lack of a better way to express my own reasoning/desire in marking my arcs in adulthood, my wandering and footloose and living on the edge eras. It was a beautiful, priceless time, for all the anxiety of day to day, sometimes.

On re-reading this post, this line struck me this time around, perhaps due to the thoughts above:  For two decades now, the bowls have lived mundane lives in suburban homes.

And I now think it's time to re-phrase this more settled era as it's hardly been mundane, just to a naturally at heart wanderer, maybe, but these past two decades have had their own thrills and joys, just more internal wanderings and deeper, more still, growing and exploration.

As always, thank you for coming by, always insightful and a joy to read your poetic take on things  : )

Comment by catch-22 on June 12, 2018 at 5:08pm

Wandering conversations are my favorite. I think you are right about the effect of generations that fear and control and refuse to enjoy creative, primordial, organic creativity and expression...thankfully, no matter how stiff one’s heritage might be (I was raised in the most beautiful part of the planet, the Great Plains, by and among lefty-thinking Catholics who took very little of the church-going seriously until most of them just gave up on all that incense burning and sin categorizing) our natural inclinations are always available to us. 

I think I understand your line about the ‘mundane’ lives and your reinterpretation of it...a settled life after living wanderlust is such a contrast of energy. You’re right again, though, once I wandered into my own settled era, the inner growth that comes from roots established rather late in life has been more exhilarating than all my time twirling on the edge of not normal. It’s very special to have the space and time and experience, and utter lack of dourness, to create a profoundly wild inner garden. 

I’m hoping the words will come back soon...I’d love to pick up the writing again...there were days it was so easy, although not necessarily painless, thanks to folks like you and that old crowd that used to hang around these parts. I know I didn’t “know” the coolest kids but I sure read y’all.

In the meantime, here’s to the light from Pleiades, so young, so close, so bright.  

Comment by Rita Shibr on June 13, 2018 at 1:22am

Love this thread... just magic... Hi Catch22,   oh you were the Kool Kids alright...

Comment by catch-22 on June 13, 2018 at 7:23am

Hey rita! Okay, if you say so : )

Are you breaking curfew or just making curfew? So great to see you.

Comment by J.P. Hart on June 13, 2018 at 9:55am

Hey Ladies!

Just don't know if I ought proceed with my ginseng derivatives equation, powerwash the shingles or laugh at all of your jokes. Or simply promise to go wandering.
Maybe just concoct what's left of the Geritol with a splash of Flashback vino? Just wash-tubbed Sunlight and Shadow (they're lookin' for their fun) and repositioned the birdbaths --- the shepherds yelp and spook the thirsty cardinals and blue jays --- synergism --- faster than summer. Maybe I'll plant the Korean lilac amidst the tiger lillies and Columbine. Maybe then set brunch with Celine's Journey to the End of the Night. Then shuttle over to the Rescue Mission with a few cases of B&J's Rocky Road

Comment by Anna Herrington on Sunday

Hi Foolish Monkey, after all these days, a long week. Did I say I started a new job? It's demanding and challenging and interesting and a good opposite to the at home research stuff I do.... but it's taken all my mental energywhile I'm learning. Sorry it's taken so long.

But I did want to reply to you because I've been really relating to your thoughts on it not getting easier with age and more deaths happening but harder and yes, more personal. In a way it was this thread that got me to sign up for this all day writing workshop up in the high country today....or what I thought was a writing workshop but turned out to be a lifestory sharing retreat with 24 strangers all hanging out in a circle and (some) revealing their deepest selves.....surprise! but also some lovely humans and deep moments. I did want to run, though, at first. Been a long time since I sat in pseudo-sangha in a hippie (ish) circle and emoted (ha!). I love Oregon  : )   

I definitely have felt some loved ones near who've died, and with one person even felt after a time I couldn't 'call' on them anymore, that they'd moved on to some other more pure consciousness realm, not needing to be called to anymore from/with our heavy old dense on-the-planet vibes.....

but I'm perfectly happy considering nothing of the sort is happening and it's a coping fantasy that gives the pleasure of even a second that the one so missed might be just around the corner, beyond the veil, hanging out with me again. Or they do show up - sometimes the difference in how and why it feels that way, that they really do, having to do with me feeling 'they' have done the initiating. Same so-glad-to-be-with-you-again, though, either way. 

Comment by Anna Herrington on Sunday

J.P., promise to go wandering. and come back and tell tales  : )

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