Wabi Sabi – A Different Kind of Beauty

What is *wabi sabi? My mother became enamored of this concept a while ago, and I too fell in love with it. Simply speaking, wabi sabi is this:

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.”

What a concept–embracing time’s passage with no fear, only appreciation! I have a lovely old round wooden bread board my grandmother owned. Carved around the edge reads “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” in German. It is thin, cracked and has a chunk missing on one side, and I love it just as it is. It’s too fragile to use, but I appreciate each day and remember my grandmother when I see it.

Wabi sabi also applies to people. Are we less a person because we are older, not pretty, not charming, disabled, blind, deaf or mute? We are as we are, and how wonderful that all humans are different. What an empty, boring world it would be if we all looked and sounded alike and never changed from year to year.

Again, through my mother, I met a wonderful woman, Joan Belcher, innkeeper of **Wabi Sabi Cottage in Alna, ME. Going to Wabi Sabi for an overnight is a refreshment to the soul, a rebirth of spirit. When I met Joan for the first time, there was a soul recognition; I felt I’d known her for years. Time stands still and graceful at Wabi Sabi. The kitchen is filled with what I fondly call “kitchenaria” from many years ago–all in use, all appreciated, all displayed with loving care. It’s a place where humans relax and rejuvenate, and where angels are free to come and go–and Joan may be one of them.

Also in the spirit of wabi sabi, there is another Japanese word, kintsugi, which celebrates the differences and imperfections. Kintsugi is the practice of repairing ceramics with gold lacquer to illuminate the breakage. To quote from ***My Kintsugi Life: Finding the Treasure in Life’s Scars:

“We all get broken in one way or another in this life. It’s an unavoidable part of living.

But we do have a choice about how we handle those breaks. Sometimes we get stuck in the brokenness and never heal. Or we try to pretend the brokenness is not there, driving it into our shadow where we act it out toward others without knowing why.

Sometimes we give ourselves the time and resources we need to heal those broken places, but the resulting scars remain tender and reactive.

And then there are the times when we do the hard work that’s required to not only heal the broken places, but to make those places stronger than they were before. It is then that our scars become beautiful in the way they allow us to bring healing to the world around us.

The Japanese art of Kintsugi (also known as kintsukuroi) repairs broken pottery with seams of gold and is a fitting metaphor for this last way of dealing with the broken places that life gives all of us. Kintsugi repairs the brokenness in a way that makes the container even more beautiful and valuable than it was prior to being broken.”

Isn’t this a wonderful way to look at ourselves and our lives? I am thinking of the time when I will be an old, old woman who has become a bent figure of lines and wrinkles. I pray that by that time, each one of my imperfections will be limned in gold, shining brightly for the world to see–than I will truly have become wabi sabi myself.




***http://akintsugilife.com/ for more information

Kintsugi or the Art of "Golden Joinery"  Kintsugi 金継ぎ Kintsugi

The pottery bowls shown above were mended with gold lacquer, making the previously broken pieces whole and beautiful.


3 thoughts on “Wabi Sabi – A Different Kind of Beauty

  1. diane kirkup says:

    A wonderful sharing, thank you so much Jane.
    Indeed the brokenness of life which brings the opportunity to
    find wholeness put into such a wonderful perspective in this writing.

  2. Linda Neubauer says:

    You captured the wabi sabi idea beautifully. I, too, love the Wabi Sabi Cottage. Joan is uniquely kind and with such an aura of peacefulness.

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