broken snowflake obsidian tumbled stone

The missing piece

A broken snowflake obsidian tumbled stone prior to kintsugi repair


I’ve always loved doing jigsaw puzzles, but there’s no frustration quite like getting one almost finished only to discover that there’s a piece missing. All that work, and the puzzle will never be complete!

My work with broken stones gives me the chance to deal directly with this frustration on a regular basis.

Most of the time, I break a stone, collect the pieces, and am able to reassemble them in a relatively straight forward manner. That’s especially so when I have one side of the stone that’s flat.

It not only allows me to rest the pieces solidly on a flat surface while I’m doing the reassembling, but it also gives me one side to use as a guide for orienting the pieces (much like doing the edge of a jigsaw puzzle first helps to orient the rest of the assembly).

In those cases, I can relatively easily do the mending to put the pieces back together again. Even in those spots where there was enough crumbling of the stone that there are larger gaps, I can still fill those in with repeated re-applications of the fill compound to build it back up to the original surface of the stone.

Other times, it’s not nearly so straight forward.

The image that comes with this post is a broken snowflake obsidian tumbled stone that I’ve been working on (off and on) for over a month to try to re-assemble.

Tumbled stones are tricky to begin with because they very seldom have any flat surface at all. For that matter, they don’t even have standardized curved surfaces to use as guides for reassembly.

To make things even more challenging, snowflake obsidian breaks with such shiny, glass-like surfaces that it’s not always even easy to tell which side of a tiny piece belongs on the polished exterior of the stone and which sides are from the center.

Added to that is the fact that not only am I dealing with a fair amount of crumbling into pieces too small to capture and work with (meaning there are gaps in the reassembly), I also seem to be missing at least one (maybe more) of the many little pieces of this stone.

Every time I try to reassemble this one, I just can’t seem to figure out how to get all of these pieces back together in a way that gives a whole stone that I could put back together again. Whatever it is that is missing is large enough or vital enough that the pieces just don’t seem to work together without it.

With a tumbled stone, this is frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world. Eventually, if I just can’t get it back together, it will become one of the ones that get thrown away as unsalvageable. I hate doing that, but I do still have ones that this is the best option because I have too many others I need to repair.

When our lives and worlds get blown apart and we encounter similar difficulties putting them back together, this is not a viable option.

When it’s some part of our lives or ourselves that is missing, it’s worth a much longer, more intense search to find the missing piece(s) than I can afford to put into something like this broken stone. Even then, however, there will be some things that are just lost that we can’t find and can’t replace.

What do we do then?

When there is a piece like of ourselves or our lives that is missing like that, it is up to us to decide what we will fill the empty space with.

In the traditional practice of kintsugi with ceramics, there are also times when a piece of the ceramic object is missing, and there are two standard ways that this is handled.

One is known as the piece method where the entire area of the missing piece is filled with the repair materials for a large area of gold fill; the other is known as the joint-call method where a broken piece from a different object is used to fill the gap. (This article from My Modern Met shows an example of each method of repair.)

Perhaps our choices of options are similar. We can leave the area of the missing piece empty and allow healing to slowly fill in the whole space with gold, or we can choose something new to add to our understanding of who we are and allow our healing to fit this new thing into ourselves.

Either way, it’s up to us to choose how we fill these empty places in our lives. We do well to choose intentionally and carefully because we are choosing who we will become.

How have you dealt with the gaps that missing pieces have left behind in your life?

Are you dealing with any missing pieces currently? What will you choose to do with those gaps?

Who do you wish to become in the wake of whatever loss has left this gap?


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