You can not walk in this world without being wounded.
I am reminded of that this week as I feel the cracks from my own childhood stretch their long and broken fingers across the vessel of my body.
I am reminded of the story of the water carrier who carried a whole vessel and a cracked vessel. The cracked vessel, leaking along the path, watered flowers. It’s a parable to see the beauty in our brokenness, and it it does not necessarily comfort me.
But I am not even looking for comfort, or beauty; I am looking for understanding. I want to know how my childhood experiences have shaped me or hobbled me or strengthened me. Don’t we all do that? Look backwards into that time when we were children and wonder about the hands that shaped us? What exactly is the shape we have taken, and why?
No, not always, I think. Through most of life I am stepping forward on the path. This is what we do. But when we are tripped by a root we didn’t even see and find ourselves thrown headlong into the brush—then we turn around, peering in the shadows for something we will never see clearly, if ever. We are mysteries, even unto ourselves.
I am reminded of this after pulling myself out of the brush, throughly disoriented for a day.
I cannot go back into my childhood and study the moments of it. Even as I feel I have gained a rather thorough understanding of the hands that shaped me, there is so much we don’t know about ourselves. Just yesterday my mother called. She had learned something new about herself: that she was named after her grandmother. Bones laid long in the ground speak through headstones and in a name, a mystery is solved, and another stirs.
I go to the garden and sketch a showy evening primrose. I didn’t even know the name of this bloom until this year, and it has been growing, voraciously, along the edges of my garden path for years. An old-fashioned buttercup is what I called it. How did this escape my attention? I pride myself on my knowledge of plants and follow specifically the people who know more than me, so I can know more.
And yet, who can know a plant, a flower? The botanists and herbalists will tell me names and stories about showy evening primrose, they will give me information, but that is not the same as knowing the plant. The plant is a mystery, even unto itself, as it gazes back at me, pink and smiling, the pink veins stretching their long fingers to the edges of the petal, as the summer Sun blinks through the forest, as the wood thrush braids her tongue with the air.