What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Lately I’ve been catching myself in a really bad habit. It happened again yesterday, when I stopped to admire this beautiful Virginia Creeper vine just beginning to turn colors for autumn.

I stood for a moment enjoying the colorful array, but no sooner had my spirits been lifted when my eyes traveled to the broken gate next to the vine:

The post needs to be replaced, and because it’s a gate we don’t use much I’ve been procrastinating and postponing the repair. As in, this is probably somewhere around #697 on my ‘Things That Need Fixing’ list.

Immediately I noticed that my focus shifted from gratitude to negativity as my mind registered another home repair that needs to be dealt with. I don’t know about your house, but around here there are imperfections at every turn. So the question is — am I going to enjoy and appreciate the beauty around me and be grateful for what we have, or get caught up in the things that aren’t perfect?

Robyn Griggs Lawrence, editor of Natural Home magazine, is the author of an inspiring and perspective-changing book, ‘The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty.’ In an article for Natural Home, Robyn writes,

“Wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all. …It celebrates cracks and crevices and rot and all the other marks that time and weather and use leave behind. To discover wabi-sabi is to see the singular beauty in something that may first look decrepit and ugly.

Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.”

I love Robyn’s gentle reassurance and the concept of wabi-sabi. From now on, when I catch myself seeing the imperfections around me with critical eyes — even if it’s Home Repair #698 — I’m going to whisper the phrase “wabi-sabi,” try to stay grounded in gratitude, and celebrate beauty in all its myriad forms.

P.S. A newly updated paperback edition of Robyn’s book ‘Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House,’ will be released this spring by New Society Publishers.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

  • An important piece of philosophy indeed, and I should have known the Japanese would have a term for it!

    • eliza_cross

      Thanks, Kevin! I just visited your website (http://www.kevinkossowan.com) and love everything you’re doing. Readers, you’ll enjoy Kevin’s honest observations about his family’s efforts to live and eat more sustainably from their home in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

  • I love this idea of embracing imperfection. But I do the same thing: allow myself to see, for example, how the birds throw birdseed out of the feeder, causing weeds to grow underneath, instead of just enjoying the birds. Unfortunately, suburban neighborhoods (and their HOAs) demand a certain level of perfection, and we’ve all been brainwashed to fret about every little maintenance issue.

    We are in the process of painting the exterior of our house, which has been delayed because of rain. So, parts of the house are painted, while some are scraped and some are primed. Two neighbors, one of whom is our HOA president, have asked, “when are they going to finish painting your house?” Obviously, neither one of them are familiar with the term “wabi-sabi”.

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