Travel is the Kintsugi Art of Life, It’s How The Gold Gets In

Travel does more than heal the wounds, it expands you, it’s kintsugi – it’s how the gold gets in.

I have long been fascinated by Kintsugi, meaning “golden joinery”, it is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold and other precious metals. It’s a soothing philosophy of embracing damage and repair, and making something more beautiful for having been broken.

When I was asked to write a piece for Wanderlust about travelling with my children across America in response to my father dying, I thought of travel as the Kintsugi art of life.

People travel not so much to get away as to come home, to themselves. In the slipstream of the unknown you become aware of every detail, in the intense ferment of new stimulation you awaken, and in being flayed by the tumult of unfamiliar all that has made you who you have become is stripped away to reveal who you are, flaws, and defacement, and scars and all.

For us, from LA to New York over seven weeks, the gold dust added to the restorative sap of wandering, the flecks of pure ore, were the people we met; in a random, chance encounter you feel the touch of humanity, in the hand that is extended grows trust, in a stranger’s smile is acceptance.

I carried all the broken pieces of myself outside and held them out to America wordlessly, and the serendipity, generosity and kindness on the road taught us that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. And, we were still OK.

Travel does more than heal the wounds, it expands you, it’s kintsugi – it’s how the gold gets in.

Almost as if we need to break in order to expand. Then this gorgeous sculpture by British artist, Paige Bradley, whispered its message of expansion from the deep reaches of my memory. Paige Bradley broke a wax sculpture she spent 6 months making, cast the broken pieces in bronze, then reassembled them with a lighting engineer to produce this startling sculpture; with a hint of Kintsugi light shining through the cracks.

She says, “I want to advocate healing and empowerment for people around the world. I want my art to be a forceful voice to help those who suffer from illness, repression or exploitation. My sculptures express a depth and variety of the physical, emotional and spiritual that we search for as a human race. Simultaneously, I want to provoke us to feel painful truths we keep bottled up inside. I want us to remember we are all the same. And, it is this understanding that can heal us all.”

And so I wrote this month’s piece .. please go and read my article on Wanderlust here

Please see this work, Expansion, on Paige Bradley’s website

“From the moment we are born, the world tends to have a container already built for us to fit inside: A social security number, a gender, a race, a profession or an I.Q. I ponder if we are more defined by the container we are in, rather than what we are inside. Would we recognize ourselves if we could expand beyond our bodies? Would we still be able to exist if we were authentically ‘un-contained’?

“Art is not entertainment. Art is not luxury goods. Art is culture. It is you and me.”  – Paige Bradley

A Tedx Talk About An Extraordinary Journey

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. An extraordinary journey undertaken by a mother and her two sons which transformed each of them. Pilgrimage in action.

I tuned into Twitter at about 1 o’clock in the morning to find a Tweet from a professor at the University of Nevada who said he was showing my TEDx Talk to his students studying leadership that day, and that’s how I found out it was online.

I thought it was the most wonderful way to discover it was out there, and now I can tell you more about the event; I was utterly privileged to take part on a TEDx run by a school, that was only the second one to gain a TED license worldwide.

Sir William Perkins School run the event with the full inclusion of their students; the girls work on the event, presentation and technical side, recording all the video and audio and then editing every talk. I am so proud school children put my TEDx Talk video together, I hope you agree they are amazing.

For me to give my first TED Talk about the walk I led as a parent, with my sons, to an audience of parents and children was just fitting. To know the students were gaining so much experience directly involved in the production was so pertinent.

I am also incredibly proud it was first seen in a classroom all the way across the world from me, in Reno, Nevada. A class led by Bret Simmons, Nevada Management Professor, to his MBA class as an example of the book they’re working on, “Building the Bridge As You Walk On It: A Guide for Leading Change”, by Robert E. Quinn, the Margaret Elliot Tracey Collegiate Professorship at the University of Michigan.

This talk was given at a TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. An extraordinary journey undertaken by a mother and her two sons which transformed each of them. Pilgrimage in action.

The Moment You Believe

For one moment I relaxed into the air around me in wonder at the beauty of this planet, at the unmistakable presence of possibility.

The Moment You Believe
The Moment You Believe

One early May morning I found myself standing in a secret bluebell wood, in a dip in a field of a local farm. My feet were wet from the dew, still heavy on the ground even though the sun had climbed high above and was warm on my face. Breathing in the mesmerising scent of wild bluebell, I looked up through the trees and I imagined this picture.

It was beautiful following the branches up as they reached into the noumenal space beyond themselves. All sense of time and place seemed to thin out and melt away, and the moment expanded with the dizzying scale of the universe.

I relaxed into the air around me in wonder at the beauty of this planet, at the unmistakable presence of possibility.

With so much around us to make us despair, with so many things to make us feel angry, helpless, worthless or depressed to the point of losing hope, simple beauty and possibility are so necessary.

Just stopping for a moment to feel connected with the world beyond our daily lives opens up that feeling, and it’s breathtaking.

In that moment you realise you are part of that potential.

Sure, I was standing under nothing more than ordinary trees, but if you hold yourself in their space you can travel from their roots at your feet up beyond their branches, and see where the sky turns blue. You can feel an extraordinary capacity to grow into it.

Bluebell wood trees, base for The Moment You Believe, by Melanie Gow at Stand AppArtI went home with those trees from that bluebell wood and focussed on their sun gilded leaves, ushering the way through into the endless sky.

From a trip with my sons across America a few years ago, I found an Amish horse and buggy trotting over the brow of a back road through Grayling, Michigan. It captured a moment committed to simpler values, a gentle pace of another way. Taking away the road from under that buggy made it fly.

I then scooped the moon from the sky over a desert outside Pushkar, in Rajasthan, India, from a journey with my boys for my 40th birthday. They played in the dirt of the banks of an oasis after a long ride on camels into the empty land, and the same moon that hovers over them far away back in their English homes hung in the horizon above them then, like a connection point.

I added the textures from my garden to ground it and created a small story of beauty and possibility.

Often people pause to look, and as a way of gently answering the question in their eyes, I tell them how it was made. They still turn to me and say: “There’s more to the picture, there’s… ” and then they pause and normally all they can add is, “something.”

Yes, possibility; the moment you believe.



Here is a sample of some of the Walking With Angels Prints collection