Dawn breaks in the south east, beams of light reaching out across the valley, tinting the world in shades of red and gold. Countless flakes of snow falling gently through the air catch the light and send it sparkling across the landscape, as I stand by the warmth of the wood stove, mug of cappuccino in hand, and watch this morning’s overture through our front windows. A deep blanket of snow covers the world, the houses, the trees, the mountains, blurring the edges and sharpening the shadows. The snow shines lustrously in shades of pink and orange, glinting off the facets of innumerable crystals strewn over the garden. There is a quiet stillness in the world, even though it is full of the motion of the falling snowflakes and ever changing radiance of the sun in its inexorable journey across the sky.
Perhaps it is just another sunrise in an endless string of sunrises stretching back to the beginning of the world. A thread that will continue forward until the world ends. But today, I am standing at the fulcrum between the past and the future, in the shelter of my pillar and post, wattle and daub cave, bearing witness to this unique iteration of the cosmic dance. As my portion of the earth’s ever rotating surface slides once again beneath the event horizon between night and day, out of shadow and into light, the bubble of swirling gasses that protects my home from the vacuum of space filters and refracts the sun’s radiance like a kaleidoscope of infinite variation. The whirling eddies of the flaming sea which covers the sun will never again glow exactly as it does right now, the earth will never spin through this self same spot, nor the clouds ever billow the same way.
Maybe it’s simply another fall of featureless white, like any other day in any other winter. Yet the drifts of snow are carved by the capricious wind, an ever changing accumulation of snow flakes beyond number. Flakes which have materialized from thin air up in the clouds, water condensing on motes of dust and freezing into hexagonal crystalline structures, no two the same. Floating on the breeze or driven by the gale, the earth pulls them gradually down where they gently settle upon her face. They gather into thick, deep layers, like precious gems, each one an unrepeatable experiment in possibilities. As I drink my coffee I marvel at the limitless variety of nature’s perfection.
And to some, it’s just another mug, one of many hundreds that I have made over the years. But, if you pay attention, you will find that they are all unique. This mug is this mug. The handle is smooth within the grip of my fingers, rising from the rim and curving smoothly down to rejoin in a spiraling tendril at the base of the cup. Ash which has accumulated on the surface of the clay inside the wood kiln, much as the snow settles on the landscape outside, has melted into a rippling glass which coats the throwing rings and chattering, pooling in the hollows of the texture and running in a rivulet down the side of the mug to hang as a droplet just above the foot. Where the flow of the flame has left the surface untouched by ash, in the leeward side of the handle and the body, the clay has flashed orange and gold like the colours of the sunrise through the clouds. A few stalks of Igusa rush have left delicate strokes of dark ash where they were bound around the pot, like branches in the snow. Every touch of my fingers, every stroke of every tool, every lick of flame, is here in my hands as the coffee warms them through the walls of the mug, its fragrance filtering through the frothed milk and cinnamon sugar, its flavour thrilling my senses as it flows over my tongue.
Nature will always find a form which is in perfect harmony with the complex forces which are at work upon it. And that perfection has nothing to do with sameness or uniformity. There are no two snow flakes, no two leaves upon any tree, no two people throughout all of history, that have ever been the same. From the cosmic to the microcosmic, each and every one is a unique and unrepeatable moment in eternity, wondrous and precious. We humans, nature self aware, bear witness to that wonder, and can become part of the process which gives new form to that wonder. Even if it something as unassuming as a mug of cappuccino on a snowy morning.