Wabi-Sabi 101

A pair of handmade pottery lamps, although slightly lopsided, constituted one of my first home furnishings purchases many years ago.  Intuitively, I have always responded to the handmade and the imperfect in design.

But through the years I’ve wasted a lot of energy carrying the weight of perfectionism as it applies to myself:  fashioning non-competitive situations into competitions, berating myself for making mistakes, worrying about my appearance.

In the past couple of years, I’ve done just enough reading about the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi to get the gist of it.  It’s about rustic simplicity, authenticity, and the belief that less is more.  It’s about being willing to accept things as they are.  It’s about noticing the beauty of unadorned and aging things.

I am beginning to make peace with imperfection.

As a woman of “a certain age”,  shouldn’t I learn to  revel in what Leonard Koren calls the “beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”?

I’m not perfect; I’m not permanent; I’m not complete.

So it’s comforting to consider that, as Richard R. Powell says, “Nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, and nothing is finished, but  . . . even so, life is full of meaning.”

What makes this Texas hill country stone wall (pictured above and below) beautiful is its age and imperfection, thanks to more than a century of weather and lichen doing its work.

rock wall lichen

For me, an appealing feature of the hand-thrown bowl in the photo below, in addition to its rich red glaze and unique scalloped edge, is that it has been broken and put back together.

wabi sabi bowl

It has survived.  It remains useful.   It brings joy to my day.

It has no need to be perfect.

Writing Practice:

What imperfect things appeal to you?

Complete the following:  I am beginning to make peace with  .  .  .

10 thoughts on “Wabi-Sabi 101

  1. Chris, this may be my favorite post of all! I really love this blog. So glad you are home. Maybe we can talk this week.

  2. I love the way broken bones heal stronger than before the break. That is why it is so hard to rebreak them if the are not set right. Our hearts and souls have the same nature they have the ability to heal stronger and brighter, letting life burnish us from our blows and scrapes

    • I love the way you phrased this! The word “burnish” is really a wabi-sabi kind of term, if I have it right. It makes me think of the phrase that describes something as having developed a “patina with age.” That’s us! Hugs to you, Linda.

  3. hi, Chris, Really enjoyed your latest post – a topic I’ve been contemplating with increasing regularity lately. There is nothing like getting older, more lop-sided, repeatedly broken and put back together yourself to open one’s awareness. The sister-issue for me is resistance. Resistance to getting older, to success. to happiness, to accepting love – and on and on. Along with accepting imperfection I’m also working on accepting and acknowledging resistance – in all its many forms – and eventually allowing myself to let it go. This getting older business is an interesting affair – as we come to peace with one set of challenges, another is waiting in the wings …. xo Chris Bradley posted: “A pair of handmade pottery lamps, although slightly lopsided, constituted one of my first home furnishings purchases many years ago. Intuitively, I have always responded to the handmade and the imperfect in design. But through the years I’ve wasted a “

    • Hi, Lyndsey! Your words about resistance are so true. One of the things I heard recently and have been mulling over is that fear and guilt keep us from letting ourselves feel joy. And it seems really hard to let go of those two things, doesn’t it? You, of course, have been on my mind the past week, and I was thinking of Boston and West, Texas as well as about all of us as individuals when I wrote about being broken and put back together. It’s wonderful to hear from you; thanks so much for reading and for commenting. 🙂

  4. I am beginning to make peace with…”wrong turns” and “dead ends,” realizing they really are opportunities to try again and discover new paths. Nothing is wasted!

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