• Eric O'Dell

Broken Mug

It was pure happenstance involving a power cord and a rolling cart. Filled with fresh brewed coffee, fired clay scraped over powder coated metal as my favorite mug was dragged over the edge of a shelf. It landed face down on the entirety of its rim. It made a beautiful sound, a perfect eggshell crunch followed by an exhalation of hot fluid. I stood in silence while the steam from spilled coffee rose from the floor.


Helluva thing. I had that mug for many years.

It was made by a great potter, Roger Jamison. Check him out.


I teach full time, the fall semester had emptied me. COVID, protocols, grading, planning, adjusting… a semester that kept me from doing any painting had me out of whack.

My attempt to re-whack myself was scattered in steaming pieces on the floor.


I gathered those pieces, cursed the fates, and pressed on. I opened some pots of paint, put the brushes in some water, set up some surfaces and commenced. Only a couple of days before, in some epic tragic Greek irony, I had purchased a new mug from the same potter with the purpose of having a backup at the studio. Little did I know.


Disoriented, new cup in hand, I painted. Maybe I had my own fractures from pent up pressures, maybe I had hit some surface with a beautiful thud. I kept thinking about that cup, the soul cleat I had tied myself to for years. I placed its remains nearby, like some ancient ruins, the handle still intact.


There’s something about the sound that mug made. It was satisfying, like the muscle and sinew bone-crunch of a lower back realigning. Maybe I was getting a mojo adjustment.


The painting is going well.


The broken mug is a reminder, for me, of painting. The handle is now attached to a shattered mystery, a mystery that can be gathered ‘round, arranged, stared at in quiet wonder as the heat of its contents rise. Every now and again I can go over and put my fingers on it, around it, hold it up to the light. It is patient, and it persists.


And I still can’t believe I broke the damn thing.

© 2023 by Eric O'Dell