Wabi Sabi are two Japanese words that roll easily from the tongue. They are words that feel as if they belong in a poem or a song. The term Wabi Sabi comes from two Japanese words that describe an aesthetic, a mood or a philosophy that embraces that which is imperfect, impermanent, aged, humble and authentic. Wabi Sabi embraces the true beauty of life, and acknowledges that nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.
In Japan, a flower that is just past its prime, and whose petals are beginning to turn brown at the edges, is seen as an object of beauty and grace. It is valued just like the comfort and familiarity of an old knitted sweater, with its faded colours and torn edges, which carries with it the smell and memories of a previous lover, a special trip or a beloved grandmother with a piece of knitting cradled in her lap. Having survived one too many washing machine cycles, the thinly stretched wool still tells a story we don’t want to let go of.
Finding meaning in everyday objects that become our teacher of life is part of the Wabi Sabi approach to life. For the artist, it can translate into pieces of art, or we can simply become witness to the pieces of art surrounding us, which develop naturally due to the passage of the seasons and due to being exposed to the elements. It is a way of embracing the fleetingness of life and of witnessing the passing of time, the resulting wear and tear in the physical world and also in our bodies over time, just by the mere fact of living our lives.
Wabi Sabi is a way of witnessing and honouring the stories of our lives. Then Wabi becomes our inner state as a natural state of simplicity and being present, while Sabi represents the outer decay or wear and tear that happens over time. There is a certain intrigue and mystery in that, like the patina on a sculpture that builds up over time and adds to its beauty.
As women, our bodies tell the stories of where we have been, how many children we have given birth to, and the onslaughts we have encountered, whether through injuries, trauma or the surgical knife. Our bodies become the landscape we have created through our inner wounds, our worries, the many tears we have shed, and the laughs we have shared in moments of connection, passion and joy.
Celebrating the beauty of imperfection is to find renewed balance, by accepting what is, and by looking at ourselves and at life with soft eyes. Go on a walk in nature, slow down and smell the fragrance of flowers at twilight on a summer night. Pick up the shard of an old clay pot and feel the story in the broken edges. See the dandelion with its face turned to the sun, growing courageously through the crack in the sidewalk.
And before you go to bed tonight, let your finger run lovingly across the wrinkles on your face and remember the storyline of your life. Like the layers of weather damage and the peeling plaster on your border wall, you have lived through all of it and you are still here. Close your eyes for a moment and feel a deep gratitude settle in your bones.
To find beauty in the imperfection of life, is to find peace.
In my old home
which I forsook, the cherries
are in bloom