Wabi Sabi is the Japanese term that points to the perfection of imperfection, and the beauty in what’s aging and changing. It literally comes from the beauty of old tea houses, falling apart, overcome by vines and fallen leaves, but still stunningly and vividly alive. It’s a great term to wrap our arms around as we get older and hopefully even wiser.
Instead of applauding the sparkling new Broadway play with all its bells, whistles and curtain calls, wabi sabi holds out his long arm and gestures toward the bare branch in a tree that had most of its leaves yesterday. Wabi sabi lifts its eyes to the pale gray-blue clouds swimming in the cold front behind the tenderly-moving ponderosa pine. Wabi sabi says, “Look, the world is made of beauty and time pouring right past our vision all the time. Listen, look, taste, smell and touch. All you want and need is right here.” Then wabi sabi serves tea in an cup and saucer from our great aunt, and for once, we really savor the warm and flavor of the tea.
When it comes to counting our blessings, it’s easy to name what’s new and shiny: the first grandchild, the new used car, the big soup of just-made chili. Yet when we look at what sustains us through our life changes, we often see the wabi sabi world: the home where we live which, no matter how big or small, probably needs some small or big repairs; our bodies gathering new wrinkles and extra skin in all the wrong places; our weather-worn friendships and relationships.
For this month’s writing exercise, make a list of your wabi sabi gratitudes. You needn’t go anywhere for this. Just look around, and start typing or writing. From my perch at the back table in the cafe of the Community Mercantile right now, here’s what I see:
Old American flag rushed by the wind in front of the Phillips 66 station.
Last dark rust of the wavering oak trees.
Dull shimmer of three white, one blue and one red car in the parking lot.
The slow twirl of one chandeleir while the others hold stillness.
The quiet hum of two men, one old and one young, talking.
A mother and her son reading their books on high stools in front of the windows.
A gleaming photograph of radishes, reddening at their tops.
My 51-one-year-old fingers on the keyboard, writing themselves home.
Try your own wabi sabi list of observations, and you can also write about other wabi sabi moments in your life when the simple surroundings of your days and nights renewed your wonder and illuminated your vision.