The Heron's Nest Award
cracks beginning to show
in the game board
Glenn G. Coats
Although I neither own nor have ever stayed in a lakeside cottage, I have no problem entering this haiku. For me, "lakeside cottage" is a dated hotel on a barrier island just off the coast of Georgia where my family has vacationed for the past twelve years. We are creatures of habit, staying at the same place, in the same room. We know where to get the best shrimp and the largest ice cream cones. We have a favorite miniature golf course and take our family picture by the same "welcome" sign. At least once during our stay, we will eat pizza that is almost as tasty as the box it comes in. Why? Because there is only one pizza place on the island and because it's tradition. Newer, classier hotels have popped up over the years, but we always go back to this place where we shed the worries of work and school and focus on being together as a family. It's a time for long walks, listening to the water, watching birds and yes, playing games on rainy days. Glenn Coat's first line takes me, and probably other readers too, to just this sort of place.
The second line causes my heart to sink a little. "Cracks beginning to show" reminds me this hotel isn't what it used to be. There is a possibility it may be purchased by an international chain and bulldozed in order to build a more profitable hotel on this prime oceanfront property. We know the decor is outdated. There's no lazy river around the pool. What little grass there is struggles to maintain any shade of green in the intense Georgia heat and sandy ground. But when we arrive from Ohio each year, it looks perfect to us and in a small way we feel like we're home even if for only a week each year.
A bit of relief is offered in the third line when we realize the cracks are only in the game board. But that relief is short-lived when we think of the many games that have been played on that board; the conversations held, the snacks consumed, the banter thrown back and forth. After all, this isn't just any game board. It's the game board. It's the well-loved and often-used that generally show the most wear, like a favorite teddy bear with one eye and a patch where his leg used to be. Likely the box this board came in is falling apart or held together by layers of tape. At some point, one of the game pieces may have been lost and replaced with a button or shell or stone. If anyone were to offer to replace this board with a new one, it's likely everyone would refuse. This one holds memories in its brokenness. The cracks in this game board offer an excellent example of wabi-sabi; beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Beauty that comes with age, patina or wear. In the Japanese art of kintsugi, broken pottery is repaired with a lacquer mixed with powdered gold so the breakage and repair become part of the history of the object. There's no attempt to disguise the damage but rather to illuminate the repair and to ensure that the object's service does not end at the time of its damage. The cracks in this board may be taped or glued or simply left cracked. But we know this board will continue to be used and treasured as it has been in the past.
My children are older now. In the coming year we will celebrate a high school graduation, two college graduations and a wedding. There will be moves and changes. The annual trip will require more coordination around jobs and schedules. New family members will join us and others may not be able to come at all. Cracks. Glenn Coat's poem effectively registers this passage of time with strong links to the past. While certain aspects of this trip together will never be the same again, Glenn reminds me there is still beauty to be found in the cracks.