Monday, November 01, 2010

Wabi Sabi ...

My first thought was of wasabi. And of sushi, I am no fan.

But wasabi is not a hybrid of wabi sabi. Wabi sabi is amorphous, but its essence is this: "... the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental," as defined by Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.

That definition comes from an article in Whole Living, an article that Doreen included in one of her recent Doreen-o-grams.

And surely, I am the kind of person who can stand to read an article about taking things down a notch. Perfectionism is a bitch, an immobilizing bitch.

Wabi sabi came to me this weekend, though I had not yet read the article and so I did not yet know the phrase. I was making pumpkin cookies for the first time, a recipe a Twitterpal had posted that had me intrigued.

The recipe called for heaping tablespoonsful of dough, the idea being to use two spoons to plop little dough piles onto cookie sheets, as so many cookies are made.

But not mine. Oh, no. Never mind that this cookie dough is sticky. Never mind that, at room temperature anyway, it will not be rolled without ending up like pumpkin-colored burrs. Oh, no, I know my way around that peskiness. So I wet my hands and blotted off most of the moisture and proceeded to roll tidy balls of dough that proceeded to bake into perfect mounds.

And they looked entirely wrong.

Because these cookies are rustic cookies. They are meant to be irregular in shape. They are not meant to conform to my snickerdoodle standard of uniformity. They are meant to be blobs.

I had already bent three cookie sheets worth of cookies to my will, but for the remaining three, I used two spoons to portion dough and the cookies baked up just like the picture online. I think they tasted better, too.

Unwittingly, I've been embracing wabi sabi in my home all along. "A wabi sabi home is full of rustic character, charm, and things that are uniquely yours, says Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, to be published next spring," the article reads. That's my home. Which isn't to say that I never buy anything new. But I like that most everything I own has a story behind it, and that story is not, "Everything in this room is from Pottery Barn."

Come to think of it, I don't think I own anything from Pottery Barn. I am like Phoebe that way, with her apothecary-table disdain once she discovers that the piece Rachel bought was modern and mass-market, not from "yore," which she discovers because Ross has one, too.

I like the mirror by my front door. I like that the finish is worn, that the silver has darkened, that the joints are no longer pristine. I like that this mirror had a life before it came to me. It hung in someone's home. It reflected someone's story. And now it reflects mine. And I spent all of $15 on it.

"Think about a color palette that mimics what's found in nature: greens, grays, earth tones, and rusts," the article suggests. Check, check, check, and check.

I'm staring at a green throw pillow right now, a few feet away from rust-colored curtains, though I like to think of them as the color of cinnamon instead.

I feel uneasy in primary-colored homes. They don't feel real to me. They feel like someone's interpretation of what an "artful" home should be. To each his own, certainly. Perhaps those colors energize those who live there. Perhaps my affinity for muted colors and worn finishes would strike others as boring and old. Perhaps they are more wasabi, the spicy, green condiment, and I am more wabi sabi, the imperfect and impermanent.

The same goes for my face. I wasn't raised with makeup. In fact, I had to fight for the right to wear any. Mom was right in not allowing me to wear it just because my friends were allowed. But we learn by example and mom never wore much, so I didn't grow up with the inclination to paint my face. Even now, I'm hopeless when it comes to applying eye shadow. So I don't. I've had my makeup done, and I've bought some of the products, because that's what you're supposed to do, but I don't use most of them. I think I've plopped down close to $100 for the two foundations in my closet. One is far too orange, if you ask me. I'd end up looking like John Boehner. And the other one is more sheer and appropriately colored, but I don't use it because, well, because I don't use it. I've never used foundation. And I'm 40 (nearly 41). So why start now? I think I look fake when I wear it. So I don't.

I'm very glad to now know the phrase. There is such ease in wabi sabi, such appreciation, such acceptance. I need to practice it more.


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