Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Dance of the Teapot

Last week I found out that Beauty and the Beast may be performed locally this autumn. I fantasized out loud about what part I wished I could sing. Mrs Potts came immediately to mind, but only for her beautiful song. "But I wouldn't make a very good pot", I said to my friends. I think my vanity about appearance would have overridden the joy of singing that gorgeous love song.

Of course I have always loved teapots. If I became a collector, I think it would be of teapots. I have some of my aunt's collection, destined to be kept because most of them came across the ocean from Scotland in the mid 1800's with my great grandparents, and graced family tables, along with their oversized sugar bowls, for many years since. I proudly use them from time to time, determined that a beautiful teapot should not just be on a shelf, but part of a social experience.

My lessons on a potter's wheel have also convinced me that if I were a potter I would want to make teapots. So much grace and beauty and skill all in one item. The spout of course makes all the difference to a really usable teapot. No point having your tea dribble off the spout and on to a tablecloth. I always check that out in stores, and pass on my inherited wisdom to anyone willing to listen.

Then there was the time I visited a "kindergarten" class in Uganda and pulled something out of my head and experience with which to entertain these children. I sang the teapot song, with actions!!

I'm a little teapot, short and stout.
Here is my handle; here is my spout.
When I get all steamed up, then I shout:
"Tip me over and pour me out!"


I think I chose it because I love the actions and the tune, and the delight and silliness of the song. I didn't think about cultural relevance at the time; after all, my Ugandan friends are used to boiling their tea with milk, if you please, in a regular pot on the fire, then storing it in a thermos.

My new favourite author, Sue Monk Kidd, has now brought teapots into my vocabulary of spiritual symbolism. In her book on midlife spiritual crisis, When the Heart Waits, she takes the teapot song to new heights, with her story of a tap-dance recital at the age of five dressed up as a teapot. I am so envious. I am learning to tap dance all over again to recapture some childhood delight. That's part of my midlife crisis. Still, I don't think my silliness would drive me to do something similar on the stage of Beauty and the Beast. (I don't know how they perform it live.) I'll keep you posted on that one.

Sue says that "the dance of the teapot is the dance we all do in the dark night":

We're containers filled with an ego elixir we've brewed ourselves. When the heat is turned up inside and the old begins to burn away, we must offer God the handle and the spout of our lives. God tips us over and pours us out. The "me" is poured out: the self with a lowercase s, the old ways of being, the old ways of relating to God. We're emptied so that we can be refilled with new and living waters.

Midlife is a time of tipping over. It is a good time to learn that simple little song. It gave me a way of thinking about my experience that wasn't mysterious and threatening. I was dancing a childhood dance, that's all. And if I ever got to feeling terribly 'spiritual' about it all, I imagined myself in that ridiculous teapot costume and that took care of that.

"Tip me over and pour me out" is the underlying theme of the spiritual dark. (p. 150)


The possibilities strike me - a new movement - Teapots for Jesus!! - see the headlines - Mrs. Potts, Evangelist for our Time!!

I think I can just content myself with taking myself less seriously as I struggle with my darkness. God knows...He's with me....even in my teapot.

And for sure, if you think I've gone potty, maybe I have!!

3 comments:

Joanna Mallory said...

I must read this book.

On a less-serious but still important note, would you please share your wisdom on how to identify a non-drip teapot in the store? We're reduced to using those little metal things in the spout, and they only mostly work.

Meg said...

Hi JOanna - hmmm...I look for an end on the spout that has a kind of fine-ness to it, sort of a point, rather than a thick roundedness...I see them on finer china...and older pieces...hope that's some help...you can always google about it...or consult someone in a kitchen or china shop?!

Joanna Mallory said...

Thanks for the tip. I'd noticed the difference in shapes, but never having poured from a fine china pot I assumed they might drip too.

Blessings!