I’ve picked up this peculiar habit lately here on the farm. I’ve become addicted to wandering around the old, abandoned houses and cottages, scouring the paddocks and the sheep ruts, my eyes fixed on the dirt and silvery stubble and grass, looking for – well – stuff.
It started a couple of weeks ago when I noticed a few pieces of broken pottery in the field next to our cottage. Blue and white china, the edge of a smashed plate. And glass; thousands of pieces of broken bottles, glasses and other household sundries. Blue, green, brown, clear, and some the tint of amethyst.
We’ve lived here almost a year, and I’ve never seen it before. But now, I see it everywhere.
Every little fragment speaks to me. They are like treasures. They hold the story of the whole they once were. A piece of plate, once part of a valuable dinner set stacked in a cupboard. Probably saved up for, in pennies and pounds. Carted out in a crate, out back of a horse. Brought out for guests and washed with care, lest it be chipped or broken. Now laying in a million pieces in the dirt. Forgotten.
I shard of broken glass, half an inch thick, the same minty colour of the sea. Once a bottle? Medicine? Wine? Champagne? Some tincture, ointment, perfume? A vessel discarded once the contents were emptied? Or did it spend months, years on a shelf, guarding whatever was once within, keeping it safe, suspended in time? How did the beautiful whole come to be smashed in the grass, it’s fragments frosted by weather and years? How was it shifted from the gaze of a proud owner to the grasp of the slow, reclaiming earth?
Wine glasses for joy, for celebrations. Dinner plates for family reunions and end-of-day meals by fireside. Medicine bottles for fervent prayers at a beside. Liquor vessels and beer bottles for raucousness, ignorance, addictions and violence, sorrow, loss, stoic perseverance, repentance, forgiveness. Scent and cosmetic for luxury. Milk bottles for sustenance. Coffee and teacups for conversation. Sit a while. Pass the cup. Share with me.
They think it’s funny, my family. Whatcha want with all that busted stuff? I brought my treasures home in bags and the apron of my shirt front, and washed them carefully in the kitchen sink. Scrubbed off the dirt and washed out the pond scum. I held each one up to the light and enjoyed it, gave it a story, blessed it, placed it with all the others.
I put them all in bowls and sat them where I can see them. Owned.
No longer invisible.
Went out again yesterday and walked in the pre-twilight across the dirty common where the sheep scour the ground like a shallow plough on their way down to the creek. And there was more again. Bits of plates and bowls and bottles. Every little piece a postage stamp sized snapshot of an era in human taste and fashion. The leaf-shaped scallop of a plate edge. The crazed blue and white brushstrokes on a teacup fragment. The smooth, clear bevel of a bottle base. The story of us, and the story of the ones who lived here. Stories; love, loss, joy, growth, riches, poverty, prosperity, lack, life, death. Owned, they were once. Whole they were once. Like us.
Treasures, they are. Treasures to me.
Once invisible. I see, I see.
I lay last night in a half sleep, after two weeks of increasing low, grey skies and cold winds both out there on the farm, and in my head. We haven’t had a summer, and I feel trapped by seasons that refuse to turn, refuse to give. It’s too long we’ve been not knowing. And I’ve felt stuck here; not home, and not travelling, just biding our time in three month increments of wait-and-see. I love the farm, but this is not my home, and may never be. I am ready to move on. I feel like I’m slipping into obscurity here. Like the world is forgetting about me. I write my stories and think my thoughts, and wonder if a person exists of nobody is there to see them, hear them. If a tree falls, and all that. Day after day, out here miles away from anyone, surrounded by a hundred and fifty years of attempts people made not to be forgotten. And yet, here I am, and I know them only by the broken things they’ve left behind.
I closed my eyes and thought about how a thousand years ago all I wanted in this world was to be famous. Known. Seen. I taught myself to sing because people see you when you do that. But I don’t sing any more. I am too honest for that any more. I write instead, which is like drawing a different naked picture of yourself from different angles every day and posting it on a telegraph pole. And yet, even though I get out the paste and post my bill as a habit, I feel unseen, unknown.
I wanted for so long to be free. I did not want to be owned by others, to need to sell what I could do for money and approval. I wanted to be allowed to be broken. Because I was, and I couldn’t help it. And I wanted to tell my story, to anyone, everyone, and not care what they thought.
And I was broken, and was not owned, and told my story. I was free.
And something happened, so slow I didn’t see it. I found out what happens to things that get broken, to things that are disowned and unowned, to things that get themselves lost or misplaces, things that are allowed to fall back into the earth, that have nothing left to prove, that are unfashioned from their utility, allowed to chip, to break, to fall into the ground, to be honest, to be untied from their apportioned function. I felt in me the process of what a piece of earth endures when it stops being a thing of value to people because of it’s use, it’s beauty, it’s colour, it’s use, it’s imbued value, it’s transferable status.
They end up in a thousand pieces in a sheep paddock. Forgotten. Untied. Free.
Then God said something to me.
“Are you willing to be invisible?”
Me? No! Who would want to be invisible?
“Are you willing?”
Is that even a question? Seriously?
“What if this is what it takes for the ones who need you, who need what you are, to find you?
“For you to be hidden?
“For you to be secreted away?
“For you to be needing to be found?
“You go seeking treasures in the field. You want them because they are hidden, unseen, unknown, forgotten, rejected, abandoned, unwanted.
“But you want them.
“Those who need what you have are also seeking a treasure in a field.
“Think on this; they seek what they themselves are, not what they are not.
“Are you willing to allow yourself to be what it is they seek?
“Are you willing to be invisible?
“Are you willing?
“You need only let go. Like those broken pieces in the field, you must yield.
“Yield to the brokenness, to the breaking.
“Yield to the rejection, to being abandoned.
“Yield to being and becoming forgotten.
“Yield to being covered, subject to the seasons, trampled into the ground.
“Yield to rain, to feet, yield to weight, to dirt. Yield to becoming a part of where you fell.
“Yield to anonymity, invisibility.
“Yield to the discovery. Because they will find you.
“If you wish to be treasured, you must be willing to be lost, then discovered.
“Your work is to be the treasure.
“You are already worthy. Worthy is who and what you are.
“The losing is not for you. It’s not because of you, or anything you’ve done. The losing is because seekers need to seek.
“Seekers need the seeking.
“Let it all be broken, lost and forgotten.
“Let it be and become invisible.
“Let the treasure be buried out there in the field.
“Your your treasure be buried in the field.
“Seekers need to seek, and they need to find.”
I trust you may also find a comfort in the season you’re in at the moment. A rest, and a letting go. God bless.
– (c) Jo Hilder 2015