"Wabi-sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional...
It is also two separate words, with related but different meanings. 'Wabi' is the kind of perfect beauty that is seemingly-paradoxically caused by just the right kind of imperfection, such as an asymmetry in a ceramic bowl which reflects the handmade craftsmanship, as opposed to another bowl which is perfect, but soul-less and machine-made.
'Sabi' is the kind of beauty that can come only with age, such as the patina on a very old bronze statue."
~o~ From Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, by Leonard Koren ~o~
More than a decade ago, before 'wabi-sabi' had entered the popular lexicon of words and ideas, I was teaching a writing class I called "Wabi-Sabi Writing." I had the website, my license place said "WabiSabi" and I was writing two companion books. "Wabi-Sabi Writing," and "Living Wabi Sabi." The second book, when almost finished with a number of short chapters on my website, had found a small audience and I was asked to read some of the chapters on the local public radio station. I was featured in The Utne Reader for my wabi-sabi work and then, before I could finish and publish the book, a book showed up at amazon called Living Wabi-Sabi. I was absolutely crushed. The book was nothing like mine, and you can't copyright titles, only content, but having 2 books out in the same time-frame with the same title seemed untenable, too confusing for those finding them.
I stopped teaching the writing classes after over thirty years. I stopped working on the book, and what I realized the other day was that that was the last book I had completed (very nearly) and it was as though my heart was broken. It wasn't just one more book a writer writes and tries to sell, it was my whole life, every aspect was involved in this work, it so completely fit my life down to being lopsided and cattywompus from a severe case of Bell's Palsy that has never completely gone away, that the whole experience just deflated me on every level. Soon you heard wabi-sabi everywhere and there have been countless books and businesses using the term. For me it was deeply spiritual and I had attached to an idea so deeply that it felt like having part of my body ripped off when I walked away from it.
And this, too, was wabi-sabi.
This, too was perfect, the imperfect-perfect.
This, too, has become, as Wallace Stevens wrote, my paradise.
I believe that the hardest thing for us, as humans, is to let go of an idea, a thing, a relationship, anything we have attached to because we can't see beyond it, we can't believe that there is anything else around the corner, we can't believe that there is life beyond the life that we know, and yet there is. We have to be broken down to be rebuilt, made stronger. When a bone breaks the place where it heals is even stronger. In Sue Bender's book (one of my favorite all-time books) Everyday Sacred, she tells a story of how a prized, expensive bowl in Japan, when broken, was pieced back together with sterling silver, making the bowl more precious and valuable than it had been before it was broken.
We can break and heal and become stronger than we ever were before.
I have been going through a very hard time these last months, and suddenly, in the middle of a two hour session with my cherished and most important spiritual teacher over the last weekend, and telling her how it was odd because even though I have suffered from clinical depression and am in fact medicated for it (and seldom experience these bouts of depression any more) I had at first felt that I was depressed but then realized that I wasn't depressed but was, well, feeling lost. Further, I realized that I had finally come to the place where I was letting go of so much of my past life, and who I was, to make ready for who I believe I was meant to be, that I was experiencing a kind of grief, especially in a relationship that I'd thought would last forever. It was the last vestige of truly letting go of one of the most important things, perhaps, better put, most difficult things for me to let go of, among many other things. All of a sudden the stream of trickling changes in my life has moved into a fast flowing river and I have barely been able to catch my breath the changes have been coming so quickly, but in the middle of my weekend session with my teacher, I had the shocking realization that it wasn't holding on to these things anymore, afraid to let go, that was paralyzing me with a kind of fear, it was, truly, a stage of grief knowing that I was ready to let go, letting things and people I'd thought would be in my life forever slip through my fingers and out of my hands, and I was, I have been, in a very real way, going through Kubler-Ross's stages of grief...
I had moved, for the most part, through the first four. I was stuck in the inability to accept the changes, some very deep and painful, that had and were coming about. Some time, over the weekend, in fact in the middle of the session with my teacher, I said, in shock, "Oh my gosh, I have let go, I have finally let go, and it has been the sadness around knowing that I was about to, and then finally letting go of, a person and a life I thought I would have, and the myriad things connected to the life I had dreamt of having for years that caused me to lose myself in the deep sadness of those stages of grief. Somewhere inside of me I knew I had to let go, and finally I have. Saturday night as I realized it was time, I let go of the branch I had been clinging to and let myself be swept downstream, and now I am sitting on a bank on the side of the stream with wildflowers all around me and I have slipped into a space of such deep peace I cannot even convey it in words. I have been set free, and it couldn't happen until I let go.
Too, I have let go of an enormous amount of pressure to produce work that I've thought I was supposed to, and decided that this summer I would do what came easily, with no pressure, and take very good care of myself, and quietly and gently let the table rise. I will do the things that I want to do (like write more often here, on the blog), and I will let this be a time of healing. I have come through the winter, spring set in and little shoots of green have started to appear, and this summer I will glory in the changes that bloom inside of me and flow outwards into my life and work and the world around me.
I am ready.
It has, just now, made me remember one of my favorite quotes, in fact one that has been very important in my life. It is something that Albert Camus wrote in his book, The Stranger...
"In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
I think I knew, I think I have always known, but now I am ready. Someone very dear to me once said, "You are so much stronger than you know," and I finally know that yes, I am. In a few short days we move from spring into summer. It is time to allow the radiant light inside of me to grow and spill over, not just in the midst of winter, but inside me, always. What a glorious thing to feel, to open my eyes and heart to, what a relief to finally have reached the shore instead of toppling headlong down the fast moving current. I am here, I am ready, it is now.
My teacher also told me about a book that she was reading that she felt I would both enjoy and benefit from at this juncture in my life. That night I downloaded it from my audible account and began listening to it and it is just blowing me away. It is Dr. Wayne Dyer's newest book, Wishes Fulfilled. I cannot stop listening to it and I know I will listen to it multiple times. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
And so I will stop here. It's time to put together the "Love From Dragonfly Cottage" newsletter that I send out every Monday. I hope you will sign up for it. It is free and the sign up form is in the right column here near the top. The newsletter is my way of staying in touch with you more often, sharing the life here with the pugs, the parrots, the garden, to share books and quotes and the lessons I'm learning along the way that I want to share with you, and letting you know when the e-courses and e-books that I am planning are ready. I would so love for you to be part of the Dragonfly Cottage extended family. I am working at building a community for women who need a safe place to find solace, support, inspiration, encouragement, community, and more. I have done this online since 1999 when I started the first Dragonfly Cottage website that ran for 7 years and had over 1500 members and 15 mailing lists. Mailing lists seem to be, very nearly, a thing of the past, so eventually there will be a forum. Dear women, please join the list and allow me to share from my heart, to yours, all that I have dedicated my life to for over 30 years. It is time for me to begin again. There is so much that I want to give to you, share with you, and celebrate with the growing numbers that join us.
We are all wabi-sabi. Imperfect-Perfect. It is our paradise.
Warm Regards & Deepest Blessings to All,