This beautiful bowl was a gift from a friend about 20 years ago. All my dishes were mass produced, made in China reproductions of Fiestaware or odd plates and bowls collected for no particular reason over the years. My friend's husband is a noted ceramicist and all their dishes were made with love by this favorite potter or that. Unthinkable that a carefully thought-out and prepared meal should be served on an ordinary dish, or that one should eat soup from an unbreakable melamine bowl left over from a time when children prevented the use of anything else!
And so my friend took me to visit one of her friends, a potter. First we had a meal. The potter and his wife served us scrambled eggs and freshly baked muffins and home-made jam. There was also butter, and I will never forget it. That butter was served on a slab of wood, and placed very carefully on a bright yellow leaf from a Bigleaf Maple (it was fall) which had been freshly chosen and picked exactly for that purpose. The entire meal was an artwork. Nothing had been neglected. It was elevated from the ordinariness of scrambled eggs to a banquet fit for royalty not only by the care with which it was cooked and served, but by the amazing style that went into serving it.
After the meal, we went into the potter's studio, which was attached to the house. Shelf upon shelf of beautiful plates and bowls and vessels were on display there. My friend told the potter that I was to choose whatever I liked and it would be her gift.
The bowl in the picture is what I chose. It is small and beautiful, and decorated with maple leaves. The glaze is rough, textured, unlike anything you can buy at Target or BuyMart, where I got the dishes I was using. Every time I see it, I remember that beautiful breakfast and the butter so beautifully plated on a leaf. And my friend Cynthia Kokis, with whom I have lost contact since moving.
For a long time, this bowl sat on a shelf, unused, because it is too beautiful for ordinary use, or so I was thinking. I missed the lesson of the scrambled eggs and the butter on a leaf. Now I am using it as often as I can. I want all the beauty in my life that I can find. I want to feel the roughness of that glaze and see the thought that went into the placement of the colors.
We can bring a lot of beauty into our lives by intentionality, by thinking about each act before we do it, by taking the time to serve the butter on a beautiful leaf, by taking the time to see the beauty of the leaf in the first place, and recognizing the value of ordinary time and ordinary acts. We can choose to make a beautiful life or to sleepwalk through it.
What we choose to serve our butter on can make all the difference in the world.
Photo credit: MaryAnn Jackman