On Wabi-Sabi Wednesdays, I feature excerpts from my book, Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, which was just released.
Honing our sense of subtle beauty has nothing to do with our household budget and everything to do with learning to appreciate. In the early 1960s, House Beautiful editor Elizabeth Gordon wrote, “If you can’t find beauty—for free—when you are poor, you won’t be likely to have it when you are rich … even though you may have bought and paid for it.” Gordon urged her readers to look at everything with a “pure eye,” letting go of all associations about its price, its age, its social context and its prestige value. “You have to wipe away all judgments made by others, and merely respond to the object as you do to those things in nature that are moving: trees, sunsets, clouds, mountains,” she stated.
Most of us don’t equate the sight of waving grasses in a field or the sun landing on the horizon with money (which brings up work, stress and all sorts of other distractions). Natural beauty is priceless. We can take in and appreciate a great view because we don’t have any hope of owning it, and we can’t manipulate it (positively or negatively) to match our will. We don’t think we can improve on nature, so we witness it with the innocence of someone who’s powerless. With our egos out of the way, we can simply observe. Nature is wabi-sabi’s mistress.
Change Your Vision: 4 Ways to See Differently
1. Give yourself five minutes of quiet time each day. (Great if you can meditate, but you don’t have to. Just sitting on the porch is nice.) If you like it, work up to 20 minutes, adding a minute to each sitting.
2. Visit flea markets and junk shops without the intention of buying anything. Just walk around and note what you like. (If you see something you must have, take it home—the beauty and challenge of flea markets is that it truly might not be there tomorrow.)
3. Take a daily or weekly walk outdoors. Keep a mental or actual log of seasonal changes (color, light and nature’s mood). To make yourself do this, get a dog who must be walked.
4. Create a treasure alcove. Place something you love (whether an heirloom or a stone picked up yesterday) in a special place. Replace it every season, then every month, and eventually every day.
Nature is the best muse.