One Sunflower

soup starter

on September 19, 2010

Administrators in our school district read the book, Soup, as a part of their collections of shared reading over the summer.  Different chapters from the book were shared at various staff gatherings at the beginning of the year.  I liked exploring the metaphors of the story, (as usual, if you’ve read my art pages), and decided to give my principal a present – because of us being in AYP jail – as a symbol of my solidarity in the upcoming work. I gave him a ceramic bowl and a rock that had the word “sincerity” on it – like the stone in the story of Stone Soup, it’s a “soup starter”. Here’s the story I shared about the bowl and the rock:

Yes, the book, Soup, is a bit schmaltzy. But the messages of the modern day fable ring true to us because we’ve witnessed them throughout our lives.

We are going to need to pour our hearts and souls into this work we will jokingly call “soup.” I like metaphors – obviously – and I love to turn them about in my mind and add to them.

So – soup, leads to bowls and I have a thing about bowls:

They are found in every culture and can be made from almost anything
They are like cupped hands
Children eat from bowls
They are made for catching, holding, presenting

A bowl symbolizes hospitality.

So, …..,  soup demands a bowl – and good soup is better in a beautiful bowl.

About 10 years ago I visited a glass blower on the Oregon coast.  I watched while he made me a small bowl.  I loved watching the blower fill the glass ball at the end of his torch with air and then cut into the globe and “throw” the bowl open.  It has a flaw in it because the cut from the torch wasn’t very clean.  But that is a part of the story of that bowl.

I wish I knew the story of the bowl I’ve presented to you, but since I don’t, I’ve created my own story about it.  It’s blue and green – calming, earthy colors.  It’s unique because it’s handcrafted.  The spiral at the center is a symbol of creativity.  The chopsticks were a bonus – included by the shopkeeper – but I think that’s great since you spent time in Japan.  (And there’s the story of Buddha’s bowl.)

About the Sincerity rock – the rock has been in my thrown glass bowl for a long time – it’s a message I like to remember especially when I make mistakes and assumptions, undertake new tasks, am reflecting and setting goals.  So I thought I’d share it with you – and like in “stone soup,” the word can be a soup starter!

There are also two other writings about bowls that I like.  One is an essay written by Jan Richardson in her book, Night Visions.  She writes:

“I hold the bowl, the new bowl I bought today.  Midnight blue on the outside, white on the inside, it fits into the palms of my two hands.  A good weight.  Its size will accommodate food enough to sustain me through the evening, through sleep, through dreams.

Washing it by hand late that night, I remember a shred from a D. Patrick Miller poem.

There is no dying of the light –
Just the washing of a bowl,
And overturning it for night.

I rinse the new bowl, turn it over in the drainer, and sink into the night.”

The other essay is from Everyday Sacred, by Sue Bender: (I can’t find my book so I can’t check on the exact words but I know they are mostly hers)

I heard a story about three bowls.
The first bowl is inverted, upside down, so that nothing can go into it. Anything poured into this bowl spills off.
The second bowl is right-side up, but stained and cracked and filled with debris. Anything put into this bowl gets polluted by the residue or leaks out through the cracks.
The third bowl is clean. Without cracks or holes, this bowl represents a state of mind ready to receive and hold whatever is poured into it.
Sometimes I am that first bowl, so busy being “productive” that I don’t notice when the very thing I want presents itself.
Sometimes I am the second bowl, with such a fierce judging voice focusing on what’s not working that I’m unable to see or appreciate all the things that are going well.
And sometimes, wonderful times, I am the third bowl, able to be present and absorbed in what I am doing, whatever it is.

I wanted to present you with a symbol of “soup” – I really wanted to symbolize the cupping of hands and the hospitality offered by the bowl.  And I wanted to present you with a centering object to focus thinking about the work – so, hence, the bowl, the rock, the story.


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