Thursday, March 3, 2011

Even my failures can produce something beautiful

The kids were exhausted, so I fed them early. I couldn't face either the food or the hour, so while they were eating I prepared something else, then turned off the stove. A stack of stories later, I caught a whiff of burning; extricating myself from a pile of daughters I found I had left a burner on. My adulterated beans were now a charred mess. I whisked the saucepan outside and dumped it on a table in the rain, next to a curl of chicken poo, and went back inside.

The next day, I flicked the burned beans to the hens and brought in the pot, filled it with water, and put it in the sink to soak.

Hours later, I was reading to my four year old and listening to our kitchen tap. It drips intermittently, and has for years. This is one overdesigned tap: there's no washer to replace; instead, the whole tap has to go. A new tap has been sitting in the study for months, and every time I go in there I look at the box on the desk and sigh. It reminds me that we need to get a plumber in, again; and also that we have a leak in the roof, a leak that has been around for five years three plumbers and a friend and which somehow symbolises all the things I have not done. The roof leaks; the paint is peeling; the doors stick; we have no fly screens; the trees are buggy; the backyard is covered with rotting pears; and there's chicken poo on the outside table. As the tap drips, I hear the sound of failure over and over again.

But this day, reading to my daughter and listening to the drip, I happened to glance up and see a kaleidoscope of light. With every drip, the light contracted then exploded, sending bright shards across the ceiling. The surface was alive with pure white light refracted from the filthy cooking pot.

Wedged into a chair with a daughter in my lap, the sun slanting in, I saw that even my failures have a beauty of their own. The burnt pot, the dripping tap, the leaky roof, the peeling paint, the fight with a daughter, the grief for my mum, the toes I step on, the nights when I shout: everything I do badly shrunk down to size, and for a moment I was transfixed not by my failures, but by a ceiling charged with shooting stars.


  1. I needed that reminder this morning. Thank you

  2. lovely.


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