Thursday, September 25, 2014


At the conclusion of a Toastmasters meeting, the leader said, “The theme for our next meeting will be wabi-sabi.”

Well…that theme was quite different from recent ones, such as enthusiasm, being prepared, rise and shine, etc., all of which were easily understood. But wabi-sabi????

Naturally, I made a bee-line for her after the meeting and smiled as I asked, “Just what is wabi-sabi?”

“It’s a Japanese word that means a way of seeing beauty in things that are imperfect, like a cracked vase. People who understand wabi-sabi intentionally place the vase so that the imperfection can be seen rather than hidden.”

After the meeting, I logged on to the internet to find out more about wabi-sabi. I learned that ancients Greeks once prized beauty; westerners desire perfection; but those who practice wabi-sabi value authenticity. They see beauty in things that are imperfect, impermanent, and/or incomplete. For example, they find beauty in things that are rough, irregular, natural, rustic…things with “character,” such as a table with a few dings and dongs, a chipped cup, wrinkled faces, etc. 

      My goodness! I thought. I’ve been practicing wabi-sabi for years and didn’t even know it! To prove it, I looked through my collection of digital photos and found many images I’d made of what I considered beautiful “finds.” I’d found them in unexpected places. For example: an outhouse made of rough wood standing beside acres of sunflowers in full bloom, outgrown children’s shoes being used as small planters, an old worn-out shoe providing a home to a plant in need of care, textured walls in an abandoned building, dried blooms silhouetted again a November sky…

 One of my all-time favorite wabi-sabi photos is one of my mother’s hands, taken when she was 86 years old. I liked it so much I even wrote a poem about her hands and placed those words onto the photo itself.

The more we accept the imperfect elements in our environment and consider them interesting and beautiful, the more willing we’ll be to let go of our relentless quest for perfection—not only in things but also in people—including ourselves!