important things are close by

January 22nd, 2015

rockIn the past, I thought the important things were far away from me. I worked hard and thought hard every day in order to get to those important things. But soon I realized that these were actually close by. — Lee Kang-hyo, master potter

I’ve watched a video about this man several times this week. As in some books, the first lines are unforgettable. The simplicity is brilliant. I hope you can make the time to watch it, and if you can’t see it at the bottom of this post, you can go here to watch it. You may never get a chance to meet this man or glimpse his life, and even if you met him, you might not recognize him as a master. His shirts are stained and he smokes.

Earlier this week I spent a day with the ponds in the backyard. The leaves in Southern California have finally shaken loose and there is work. Everything I do in the garden or house I do by hand, like you. I bend low over a small stream under the sycamores and lift layers of wet leaves from the slow flowing water. They smell of earth and decay, a luscious stink. I scuff my hands and crack my fingernails without knowing. I try not to fall into the deeper water, aware that no one will come and fish me out, but I straddle the rocks without fear. After a few hours I’ve built a mound of leaves and muck at the back of the yard. My shoes and pants are wet. I need a shower. I don’t give a backward glance at what I’ve done. It will be meaningless tomorrow. I feel alive.

Do you ever experience something like this? Is it possible to live like this in an everyday way, doing everyday things? The potter in this video is a master of the Korean onggi, which means large jars. They are amazing creations, these massive jars. He says that when he began working, he saw them as sculpture. He wanted to make beautiful sculpture. Now he appreciates that the clay pots, first created to store fermenting food like kimchi, chili paste and soy sauce, are inextricable from Korea’s food culture. Food that people make for their own families and eat in their own homes every day. Large jars are even more beautiful as large jars.

Important things are close by. Let this bring you peace.


  1. Beautiful post, beautiful video. It’s so easy to look past what is close. Thank You.

    Comment by Patrice Bucher — January 23, 2015 @ 6:37 am

  2. It was captivating. I am pondering how this applies to my marriage of 50 years and the aspects of it that take me out of a place of love and peace. It is certainly close by and how can I change my mind to see the beauty in it all…and accept what is with all its imperfection?

    Comment by Lana Wertz — January 23, 2015 @ 8:39 am

  3. Wonderful … full of wonder, your post and the video. Two masters here. Thank you so much, Maezen.

    Comment by Clare — January 23, 2015 @ 9:26 am

  4. Thank you for sharing this. How deeply penetrating and moving. I am open and inspired on many levels. Gratitude.

    Comment by Kissiah — January 23, 2015 @ 6:56 pm

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