It was the perfect Orit mug. Large, robust, but light in weight, earthy and pleasant on the lips, round and shapely for my hand to wrap around and bring closer to me. The woman I bought it from and I chatted before I selected it from among the others, which were all similar in style, but varied in hue and height, roundness and thickness of body and handle. I asked about her practice as a ceramicist. And I told her a little of my musical life before everything got stopped. I told her I hadn’t had a mug of my own in eleven years. She recommended I perform at the market, and we exchanged contact information. I sent her a link to my music, and a photo of myself drinking from the mug, the next day. She replied with great warmth.
And from that day on, I didn’t have to make a choice between all the mugs in the cabinet. I knew which one was mine. It had a ceremonial solemnity to it. As if I was silently chanting, “this is my mug,” each morning that I reached for it and filled it with thick, strong coffee, carried it with me from room to room as I flitted between creative tasks, sipped from it as I floated between reflective tasks. It was my mug. I had a mug.
In time, though, and not too long, at that, I began noticing that I wanted variety again, and on certain mornings, I would choose a mug not my own, but not without something I can only describe as moral hesitation. It felt disloyal on some vague and admittedly slightly crazy level. I mean, it is an inanimate object I was worried I was betraying. But I also knew that I knew what I wanted each day, and that the morning ‘choosing of the mug’ was part of my nomadic life ritual that used to connect me to myself: My hand hovering over the choices was like a divining rod, as if I was trying to feel some sacred energy, let pure intuition guide my choice, while my mind offered cerebral justifications.
There were considerations of feel, touch, mood, colour, style, and sometimes message, if there happened to be writing on it, or a particular image. Sometimes the mugs evoked memories of other mugs from previous life chapters. It was rarely an immediate choice, or if it was, it was a slow enjoyment of the intentionality of the choice, and the lingering over them was like a meditation on my inner state.
Now that I had my own mug but still chose another on some days, there was a whole new layer of unfamiliar meaning. Like I was choosing between two philosophies. Still, there was something in the self-given permission to choose authentically each day, something in the self-forgiveness and the wondering if forgiveness was an appropriate concept here, an acceptance maybe, of my fickleness, or maybe a consideration of celebration of my love for more than one mug. There was also humour in the ridiculousness of seeing myself put this much thought into the meaning of choosing a drinking vessel. All I can say is that that mug meant something. It meant a bunch of things. It meant choice, ownership, ritual, aesthetic, loyalty, identity. And the new mug – it meant all those things, but added a new meaning I hadn’t known for so long: I am staying. There is consistency. There is stability.
A couple of days ago, the kid who lives where I’ve been staying knocked it over with her elbow while I was standing beside her. We were cooking supper together, an activity we’ve taken to doing together, which seems to delight us both. She loves using her creativity by suggesting ingredients. I love seeing her excited creativity, and I love showing her the tips and techniques I’ve learned from my mother and grandmother, and a few really-good-cook boyfriends that I’ve had over the years. I love feeling like I have acquired wisdom, and a love of teaching. I love that I’m helping, and not just receiving help.
To be fair, the counter was rather cluttered, and the mug was too close to the edge of it. When it happened, in my own perception, there wasn’t an iota of drama to it. There were a million other things happening as it was, pots bubbling on the stove, things to stir, taps to turn on and off, the fan whirring, and it didn’t make a particularly loud noise, though it made enough of one to look down, and there it was. My mug. Broken. And wet coffee grinds splattered out in a star-pattern all around it, next to the blue-sneakered feet of a very sweet kid.
I’ve always said that there are two types of people in this world. The type that gets mad at you when you break something of theirs, (or at least visibly express their annoyance, disappointment, and disapproval), and there are the types that will go out of their way to make sure you don’t feel bad about it, because they know you already do. I’ve always said I would never want to have kids with the first type, because kids spill and break things and knowingly making them feel bad for it is terrible. I remember being a kid and breaking a glass. It felt terrible. Even when my mother told me it’s no big deal, I still felt terrible. So when I saw my broken mug on the floor, my immediate concern and attention was to put my hand on the kid’s arm gently and say, “no big deal,” in a calm, nonchalant and sincere-sounding way, and just get to the mopping of it up. Not to overplay the “don’t feel bad,” no need for a big educational speech about material things and transitory reality and non-attachment, and certainly not to say, “that was my mug.” I didn’t know if she knew and I preferred she didn’t.
Those quick calculations of empathy aside, the truth of the matter is that other than recognising that that was the mug that fell and broke – I felt nothing. It didn’t matter to me at all that it broke. I had it for a bit, and now I don’t.
And if it symbolised stability, consistency, I am staying, the fact that it now symbolised "ya never know," was fine by me. It's always been that way. I have long preferred what comes with the not knowing. The current global situation has made me consider quitting the road, and if that mug was supposed to be some icon of domesticity, the fact that it broke is more of a reassurance than anything, that I still have plenty of road ahead. Besides, it was far more interesting, visually, with all its new unpredicted edges.
I’m moving in nine days. I’ve been here for four months, longer than I’ve stayed anywhere in eleven years of touring full-time. I’m going to be in the new place for a month and a half, and after that, I’m not sure. I could have brought the mug with me to the new place. I would have. And if I really want to have my own mug in the new place, then I can go and buy a new one. Or maybe I should wait and see what kind of mugs are at the new place. Maybe they’re all the same in shape and size and colour. Wouldn’t that be crazy? Maybe there’ll be all sorts of variety, and I’ll have my top three favourites. Or maybe instead of buying a mug to bring with me wherever the road will next take me, maybe if my stays are going to be more substantial in length, maybe I should buy a new one each time I arrive somewhere, and leave it behind when I leave, as a gift, and get another new one for the next place.
I don’t know. I don’t know anything. Nobody knows anything anymore. But I don’t mind that it’s broken. Look. It’s still beautiful.