SNAP: Stories for Living

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2008 Story #9 – What’s in Your Bowl?

“Clay is molded into vessels, and because of the space where there is nothing, you can carry water. Space is carved out from a wall, and because of the place where there is nothing, you can receive light. Be empty, and you will remain full….” -Lao Tsu

Usually empty spaces can mean sadness, fear, and the loss of connection to ones we love, but most of all, a loss of connection to ourselves. I found a way to embraces those spaces not knowing at the time what I was doing. And in those spaces, I found my creativity.

It came as a slow fever when I started making bowls as a way to express myself artistically at home. It was a strange obsession that seemed to take a hold of me. I had a never ending supply of old newspapers and brown paper sacks, so I started layering paste and paper over balloons and old glass bowls I used for molds.

When I started making the bowls, I felt so alive. Each night I went to bed thinking about the next bowl. It is almost embarrassing now to think how I seemed so completely taken over, but all I could think about was how to shape them, color, and decorate them. It was almost as though I was on a mission. However, I never really understood what was going on in me. What was it about the bowls that compelled me? What was I finding in their empty shapes?

As I started to think about what the bowls had meant to me in my life, I remembered the blue of the bowls that held the hot white milk steaming over sweetened bread on cold mornings before school. The bowls my mother used to put our Christmas candies and Easter eggs in on those few special days when there was peace in the house. I thought about my sisters, how they sat with their friends and told their stories with old stained bowls filled with purple globs of goop. That purple pasty substance then faded black on their heads only to magically transform their brown hair into golden blond. There were bowls to hold straight pins and safety pins, buttons, and thread when mom made us new dresses. There were large yellow bowls that were filled with icing and cake batter that I used to scrape with my fingers while I sat quietly on a square of news paper on the floor.

Then it came to me that these bowls were nourishing me in a special way. In a way I never anticipated. One day I thought I would fill my bowls with all my tears and sadness and offer them to God. What a release! Once the tears were gone, an artist was waiting in the bottom of my bowls who is still creating bowls.

I don’t know what you would find in your empty bowls, or empty spaces, but maybe you would find the beauty of yourself?

Note: this story is from 2008. View other 2008 stories and 2008 voting results. View current stories.