Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Wabi-Sabi Life

"The notion is called Wabi-Sabi life, like the cherry blossom, it is beautiful because of its impermanence, not in spite of it, more exquisite for the inevitability of loss."
-- Peggy Orenstein

We don't consider our impermanence too often...unless we are forced to.
Having it thrust upon us.

Third graders virtually never do.

About a month ago I saw this article

It startled me. 
It wowed me.
It made me see everything that was laying on the ground outside as an object of beauty
a piece of a puzzle
a gift.

An artist named Ja Soon Kim who lives in New Mexico 
collects things...
leaves, petals, twigs, stones, crabapples, feathers, sea shells
and carefully, 
selects a spot on a square of white or black
and creates art

Exhibit A

These happen to be little red leaves...but it could be

Exhibit B


These works of art of hers aren't glued down or shellacked or in some way made permanent.
She takes a photo.
She posts it to Instagram.
She moves on...
and leaves the rest of us wanting more...
pondering about what else could be selected so carefully and placed so meticulously.

Exhibit C

Fallen crabapples.


When I saw her work, I wanted to see what third graders might think.
I wanted to take them on a walk and watch them look at the discards of our natural world and ponder a white space and where it might find a place.

I wondered if they would think it was weird...
or dumb...
or pointless...

I wondered if they could possibly understand impermanence.

Savor the fleeting.

Turns out they could.

I've done art with many classes of many ages over many years.
For me, this lesson was very likely my most successful.

They understood.

They made the most of their walk...their freedom to pick and choose 
and delight in something nature no longer needed.

When it came time to place the objects, none wanted to glue it down.
Maybe the knowledge that there was a photo to commemorate it helped.

They were eager to design and savor and click a photo and start again.
Here is a sampling of their designs...

Exhibit A

 Kate: "In everything there is a swirl of light."

Exhibit B

Kerrigan: "Every day you bloom to be a new person."

Exhibit C

Lauren: "Everything is flowerful."

There is a whimsy, a lightness, a generosity in their quotes...
the impermanence is beautiful and they relish it.

Maybe it's their distance from big loss.
Maybe it's their childish wonder.
Maybe it's the purity and grace of childhood.

Exhibit D

Gabby: "Nothing lasts forever."

And Gabby states it so clearly, so simply, that it gives me pause.
Those dandelion fluffs already disintegrating...
so fragile that with any movement, a seed is lost.

She knows what we all know...time is passing...things fall apart...people must leave...
but she stops.
She creates.
She leaves her mark.

We all must.
We are called to create.
To love.
To sing, dance, write, wonder, experiment...

And from all of these beautiful impermanent moments maybe that's what matters most.

I do know it's a Wabi-Sabi life and somehow having a name for it helps.

Thank you Ja Soon Kim.

Thank you third graders.
Thank you for spotting the beauty in the gutter...
in the cracks and crevices...
in the hidden places.

Just look what you did.

Here, for good measure, is Caroline's...Exhibit  E

Her quote: "You wish it, you want it, you make it happen."

Lastly, my darling niece Lizzy reminds us of what really matters...

Exhibit F

Lizzy: "Smile."

It's a Wabi-Sabi life...there's nothing to lose (or maybe there's everything to lose)...
let's push the pause button...and smile.

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