Beauty Is

By | January 17, 2012

Every day a woman elder followed the path down to the stream to get water, which she brought back in two rawhide buckets on the ends of a pole she carried across her shoulders. One of the buckets had a tear in it, while the other was perfect. By the time the woman made it back to her lodge, the torn bucket would be half empty.

Four turns of the seasons passed, and each day the perfect bucket grew more proud of himself for being able to deliver a full measure of water. “I am ashamed of myself,” said the torn bucket. “I am a failure—this tear in my side lets water leak out all the way back up the trail.”

The kind elder looked over to him, laid her hand upon his damaged, water-stained skin, and smiled. “Have you noticed all the herbs and flowers that now grow on the left side of the trail?” she said. “And look at the Mice and Birds and Butterflies who have come to live there. The right side of the trail is still dry and dusty. That’s because I have always carried you on the left—my gifting side—which is closest to my heart. Rather than seeing you as flawed and arriving half empty day after day, I saw you as half full and overflowing with generosity. You trusted, you shared your gift with your hoop of relations. In the way that giving is receiving, you have made room within yourself for the beauty and nourishment that has come from your gifting. And it is not only you, but the perfect bucket, and me, and so many others we cannot know, who have been bathed in your blessings.”


Nan on February 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm.

To continue the analogy, you are in the vessel but don’t fill it completely. Energy, experience, flows in. If water continues to pour into the bucket past capacity, it will spill over the top. In that same way, if the vessel that is our body fills too fast so that we cannot process the experiences and release and share in a beneficial way, we can spill out in harmful ways with the overflow. If we try to contain it, we can spring leaks. If we turn off the flow, we can experience depression. If we release it too fast, we can deplete ourselves. And so on.

While I am unfamiliar with the term Gifting Way, I was taught that as one comes to know giving is receiving, one learns to balance the flow. If our vessel is damaged, it can be hard to see the beauty. Your bucket story is simple, elegant, thought-provoking.



Nan on January 27, 2012 at 7:32 am.

Interesting. I had not previously made that connection. The bucket analogy I used is incomplete. My training was framed more along the lines of that when we come into physical reality, receiving starts with “this is the body you have been given for the experiences you have requested” or something like that. Receiving is basic sensory data that flows in, is processed and blended with what is there (self), and then flows out into giving. The vessel (or body) starts out “empty” of experiences, but of course it isn’t really empty, because you are in it.

I can see how that could have morphed into the model practiced by early Old World agrarian folk. I am reminded of the old Aesop fable of the crow and the pitcher – you have to completely fill the vessel to reach the water.

Extending my right hand….



Nan on January 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm.

New World indigenous ways say left is the gifting side, nearest the heart.

My Old World training says left is the receiving side. One must receive before one can give, in the same way a vessel must be filled before it can share its contents. Gifts come to us from the left, pass through the heart, and flow out the right.

Whenever I sit in your circle I have to stop and process this because left palm up, right palm down is automatic for me. Thank you for helping me to gradually become more ambidextrous…


Tamarack on January 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm.

Hi Nan,

As I recall, you were apprenticed to a European-tradition healer, so I can understand why you would perceive us as empty vessels who must be filled before we have something to share. Here the sustenance model is agricultural–we start out with barren ground and must make something of it before it provides nourishment. The same with our children, who we “raise” as though they were another crop. Our society is built on this scarcity-based agricultural model.

The Old Way model is abundance-based–we live in a Garden of Eden, where all is provided and we merely need to gather it. Our children are born complete beings and have their own destinies–we are merely their caretakers. In fact, they largely raise themselves. Some of my elders refer to such a life where giving is receiving as the Gifting Way.

Nan, your ambidexterity may be the gift that helps us through these troubled times. Our culture’s scarcity-based foundation appears to be collapsing, and we will need people like you who know both ways to help us transition to the ever-sustaining Eden.

Extending my left hand,



Alex on January 17, 2012 at 11:31 am.

“There is a blaze of light
In every word,
It doesn’t matter what you heard
The holy, or the broken hallelujah.”
-Leonard Cohen


Tamarack on January 23, 2012 at 12:50 pm.


Poetic expression comes closest to the heart’s voice, which Leonard Cohen shows again in this stanza. There are storytellers, and then there are those who can hand the story back in just a few resonant words. Is there a writer who does not aspire to have his work read like poetry?

Thanks for the sharing,



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