Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty

I already have a love for rustic bowls, plates and baskets. I also feel that lately there is too much "noise" in my apartment. Clutter abounds. I picked up the book initially because of my want to tame the clutter factor.

What I was not prepared for, and what made me very happy about this book, is the way wabi-sabi is a method of living and not just a home decorating slash de-cluttering motif. 

Wabi-Sabi is what I am already and more. It is an idea that I might have called granola or hippie-dippie in the past. A good friend of mine's old house was made of stone and decorated with branches, pine cones, fruits pricked by cloves in the winter time and dried desert blooms in hand turned vases in the summer. My friend spun wool from her mother's sheep, made knotty wool sweaters and scarves and hats for the cold. The kitchen was full of antique, non-mechanized (and lasting!) utensils. All of these things are quite wabi-sabi, according to the book.

I have an eye for more rustic and earthy things. There is a framed Bodhi leaf on the book shelf, a large half shell to catch the ashes of my incense. One of the quilts my great grandmother made is lying on the bed. Pens and post-its and other household materials are held in chipped earthenware and baskets. My antique desk is unpolished, scuffed, worn and well-used and it is bedecked by three crumbling pine cones I found in the forests of Idaho, a long time ago. 

The book is an inspiration to further this tendency to include the rustic and unpolished in my life. It also links itself to Zen Buddhism. (All things come from nothingness or are on their way to nothingness. All things are imperfect. Observation is a key, as is living the present moment). Because of its inherent ideas, wabi-sabi becomes a way of life in general, an enjoyment of the present, an appreciation of any thing, relationship or idea in whatever state it is in at any given time. The book prompts its readers to shirk the mindset of replacing what is deteriorating (though we do not keep in our houses those things that are dilapidated. Wabi-Sabi is not slobby or ruin) and to instead appreciate the chips, cracks, folds, and wrinkles of time.

crossposted on goodreads