Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wabi-Sabi not Wasabi

Today's post won't be about the little ball of green stuff that makes ones sinuses explode. But about an Asian philosophy that appears to describe a concept that I've embraced for a long time. I started my morning blog browsing by clicking on High Desert Diva which took me to Little Brown Sparrow, which in turn led me to Froth from Walt, who had posted on Wabi-Sabi, a very interesting philosophy related to the Japanese tea ceremony. Very cerebral and somewhat complicated by definition, but still facinating. His series of posts give a very concise and thorough explanation of this but for my feeble brain I turned to the "cowboy poet", Baxter Black to get me through the ins and outs of it. Guess he speaks not only the same language but also the same dialect as I do.

Baxter Black on Wabi-Sabi
I was at the sale barn recently and heard one farmer say to another, "Feng shui is passé." "I know," said the second, stuffing a cabbage-sized wad of Redman in his cheek, "Wabi Sabi is back."
I thought, Chinese food? Exotic cattle? Martial arts? A new Secretary of the United Nations? No...a style for decor, as in Louie the XIV, Tudor or Southwestern.
While Feng Shui represents neatness, clean lines and proper placement, Wabi Sabi embodies the idea that imperfection is beautiful; that flaws enhance rather than detract.
Imagine a new milking parlor, a new feedlot or a veal barn; shiny silver rails, painted walls, pipe fence, sparkling dials, clean floors, well-lighted, easy access, heavily financed...Feng Shui.
Now picture a rusting, one tongue manure spreader filled with flowers, your dad's old spittoon holding flowers, or a weathered old boot containing flowers...Wabi Sabi.
I can think of many examples of Feng Shui operations. The vegetable farmers in Colorado and California that farm right up to the edge of the house. In the spring it almost looks like they prune each plant so they look exactly alike...or those farms in Iowa or Tennessee where each lawn is 2 1/2 sections and they mow it right up to the highway. Or any small Mormon town in Utah; houses painted, fences tight and rose bushes trimmed, picture perfect.
So, you must be thinking, that means I'm not a too tired, too poor, too tight, too dumb farmer...I am merely practicing Wabi-Sabi. Sorry, boys, one of the rules: "If you thought the `life experience' of the '86 Plymouth up on blocks in your front yard made it more beautiful, that would be Wabi Sabi. But if you couldn't afford any better, or were too lazy to move it, that would not."
There would appear to be a fine line between Wabi-Sabi and poor facilities, i.e., a broken latch on a swingin' gate that you've been baler twining since your daughter went off to college, a box of dull drill bits that are gathering dust beside the Drill Doctor, or the tangled mane of the old horse you turned out last fall.
Maybe as one gets older the more we value Wabi Sabi; the carving knife that grows smaller every year, the dogs that get grayer, the pickup that just keeps puttering along, the fallin' down fence your dad built, the unused clothesline, all things you could easily replace but somehow, you don't. Because you look at yourself in the mirror every day and, without your glasses you can't see the wrinkles quite so easily or the hair growing out of your ears. And you like to think you've still got a lot of life left in you, like that new saddle with the leather worn smooth that you bought...however many years ago.
It dawns on me, I'm not just practicing Wabi Sabi, I'm it!

Wabi-sabi, speaks of the beauty of things that are imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.

I'll leave you with that thought and will prepare for my next post on the field trip that I took yesterday. It was lots of fun for me, but slightly embarrassing for my entourage (my daughter).


yellowdog granny said...

holy shit..for once i'm a head of the crowd...i am wabi-sabi queen...i was doing cowboy boots for vases years 10 years ago..would paint them green and gold and put baylor on the sides and fill them with green and gold flowers..or blue and silver with stars on the toes and put a dallas cowboy football in it..i have always used weird shit for vases, to hang on the wall,make stuff out of...i made my granddaughters purses out of blue jeans, cigar boxes, glad, cause that feng shui was a pain in the ass to work around...

Hey Harriet said...

I am so loving the whole idea of Wabi-Sabi, so thanks for introducing me to it (I'd never heard of it before)

What a truly wonderful post :)

High Desert Diva said...

I have a quote on my blog that (I feel) embodies Wabi Sabi:

"Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks." - Goethe

Imperfection is so much more interesting...

thanks for the plug!