Raku Pot by Anne Alftine

Beautiful in Its Unpredictability: Savoring What Is

I just finished a raku firing with my ceramics studio. It was beautiful in its unpredictability and rustic in its process. The clay, glaze, and firing resulted in a final piece that is not watertight, and in my mind that meant I was creating less for function and more for beauty in its own right. But not for a beauty I could control. I had not been in the studio for several months, and this return felt so welcoming with friends and clay as it was asking me to let things emerge, unfold, know my part in it, and then let it go. And to do it with a community of similar travelers on the path that is ceramics. A lovely day with a lovely community.

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US. Many times, this holiday is fraught with familial and historical challenges, asking me to examine who I am in the context of it all, yet it also brings me opportunities to come out of my regular schedule. Doing so helps me learn about myself, gain perspective, and realize what’s important, and for that I am very grateful.

With both ceramics and family home for Thanksgiving, I have so much to savor and it brings me such a feeling of open-heartedness and connection.

It reminds me of Savoring and Resilience, one in a series of classes in Nonviolent Communication that my teachers Jim and Jori Maske offer. Listen to the whole thing or skip to the slides and thoughtful process at 52:30. It is a low-production recording but free to anyone who wants to participate.

In this recording, Jim mentions the Hidden Brain Podcasts Slow Down and Make the Good Times Last. Both focus on psychologist Fred Bryant’s research on savoring and the positive impact it has on our lives.

In my own experience, savoring helps me to find joy and gratitude, and I’m learning it helps create memories and the storylines of our lives. It creates a state of rich mindfulness, and, when shared with others, a deep sense of connection and a “on the same team” feeling. As Jim points out, we can savor the celebrations and the mournings, which may seem counterintuitive in our culture and in our world as it is today, but when done by ourselves or with others it creates bridges through the richness of our shared experiences. Cumulatively, it feeds our desire to know who we are and how we fit in and that we are worthy of love and belonging. All in the space of a shared experience savored together.

Leo Lionni got it right way back in the late 1960’s when he wrote the Caldecott Honor–winning children’s book Frederick:

Winter is coming, and all the mice are gathering food … except for Frederick. But when the days grow short and the snow begins to fall, it’s Frederick’s stories that warm the hearts and spirits of his fellow field mice.

Frederick gathers the colors and abundance of the summer and harvest in his mind and heart and shares it with the community of mice when winter gets cold and rations low. Together, they savor and connect during the winter months with stories and memories of the richness of their lives, helping them make it to spring.

So my invitation to you today and through the holidays is to take time to take it all in, open up your senses and your awareness to your life exactly as it is in the little moments, for this is your life. It is our shared lives together.

Thank you for being with me today.



2 thoughts on “Beautiful in Its Unpredictability: Savoring What Is”

  1. Anne,

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. This morning, I'm savoring grapefruit juice mixed with fizzy water. Just before sitting down, I completed the workout routine I've been following for the past month or so. Today is push-up day, my weakest exercise group. Savoring the vibration in my soon-to-be-very-sore muscles, I can feel both my pride that I'm showing up for my health and physical strength and also the inner critic voice harping on the fact that I am doing the minimum number of reps suggested in the workout book I'm following, and on top of that I am modifying each exercise to make them easier. As I hold my inner junior high school self who was shamed for his "girl arms", I assure him that I am with him now, loving these arms with the push ups I can do today and also that I know many of us share this experience of body shame, and many of us share in the joy of small triumphs such as choosing to do 3 sets of 6 push ups in the morning (with my hands elevated on a step to make it easier).

    My sons were supposed to arrive in the middle of the night last night, but when I awoke, they were not here, and no messages neither. Can I savor my feelings of disappointment? of anger? Can I savor sitting in this place of not knowing what happened that they didn't show up and not knowing whether I will have them by my side as we cook our feast? Maybe.

  2. Hi David,
    I’m touched by your post and how it reflects the breadth and depth of our lives. From the simple nourishment of our bodies to the longing of our parts to be nurtured, loved and known, to the connection with our kids, to the being with the unknown future. And in being with all the emotions that arise as this all unfolds.
    One of the things I try as a form of savoring is validation of my feelings when I have them. Like it makes sense I’m feeling disappointed and angry and allowing it to be true. Recognizing these feeling are real and here for a reason (I would feel afraid they might be hurt or sad they didn’t communicate too) it seems to help me grow my heart and connect to my parts who need more attention. I’m wondering if these feelings maybe point to how much you love them, and want to stay connected to them and how important their safety and wellbeing are to you? Savoring the love, connection, and safety of your kids as this happens and how much you and your precious parts long for these might be the doorway to self connection and connection to your beloveds.
    I hope all is well today for your kids and you.
    Sending you and Monica big hugs and lots of love,

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