Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Archeological Dig in my Garden

Yesterday when I was planting our garden, I came across a selection of broken china shards that have surfaced since we last cultivated.

It reminded me so much of when I was a child and would spend hours playing outside in the summer. One of my favourite "games" was to play with all the pieces of broken pottery and china that would turn up every time some part of the farm was tilled. This was especially true of the garden closest to our house.

I loved to play with each piece of china and imagine what it had been in its previous life - a tea cup?  a dinner plate? I would spend hours making designs with the broken pieces - temporary mosaics that changed at a whim. And then I would try to imagine the very first person who owned the china and wonder what they were like and what they served to eat on the china. I think this is probably where I started to fall in love with fine china. And now, years later, I have many lovely (and unbroken!) tea cups, plates, etc. to play with.

And yet, still, when I came across these pieces yesterday,

they caught my fancy in a way that the cherished fine pieces that fill my china cabinets don't quite do. These two pieces look like they might have come from a plate. They are fairly heavy china and remind me a bit of the kind of plates that were used in old diners. Perhaps they belonged to my mother-in-law. I wish she was still here so I could ask her, because my husband is not likely to remember. He will remember a delicious meal in complete detail but never notice the plate it is served on!

It's probably partially caused by nostalgia for my childhood, but I still think there is something special about found china pieces. I think the mystery of the broken pieces is what attracts me ... I know that they were once something of beauty, treasured by a household and if they could speak, they would tell me the story of where they have been and whose lives they have touched. Which inevitably leads me to wonder who will find my pieces of china one day down the road? Will they turn up in some garden hundreds of years from now, shiny surfaces and colourful prints hidden beneath clumps of dirt?

I hope someday that my china will give another little girl great joy. That she will find the pieces and play with them, solitary games that fill her with a sense of beauty and of history, and teach her to love vibrant colours and delicate prints they way I do.  It almost (almost, but not quite) makes me want to leave a codicil in my will, that all my china be broken into pieces and discarded rather than leaving it intact to sit unused and bored on a cabinet shelf, when it could be scattered like seed in a garden, waiting to be found.


  1. It almost sounds like you should have been an archaelogist. I can just see you going from dig site to dig site finding various treasures. Each of those sites telling a tale of a way of life long gone.

  2. Folk have lived at our house for over 100 years, so you can imagine the stuff we keep digging up in our garden. Fun, isn't it?!

  3. Funny thing Robin, I actually considered becoming an archaeologist. The classics courses I took at uni were some of my favourite.

    And yes Mrs. Brown Mouse, it is fun. Our house was built in 1876 and the house I grew up in on my parent's farm was built in the 1850's so both places have proven to be rich in "garden treasures" - everything from dog bones to arrowheads. Lots of fun. :)



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