Category Archives: journeys

wabi – sabi

DSC_0314I got a little interested in the Japanese concept of wabi – sabi. I find it so comforting to submit to the acceptance and even appreciation of imperfection. After stressing myself out over things being just right for a decade or so, I have found my way back to where I was and I love being here again. It is amazing how much worry and trouble you release when you put no value in “things”, specifically the appearance of things. I am not suggesting neglect; I am referencing “character marks” – like chips on furniture and scratches on floors and a slightly slanted tooth.

I found an article by Japanese architect Tadao Ando on wabi – sabi and I wanted to share it.

“Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.”

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I think it is impossible to be happy if you think in terms of perfection since perfection does not exist in this life – let it go, celebrate the quirks and blemishes, the lines and scars, for these are reminders of living – release and breathe…

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the journey

I checked the almanac yesterday and realized that soon it will be Groundhog’s Day. I can’t seem to overcome this feeling anxiety caused by the rapidness of life. Wasn’t it just Christmas?
I love this time of year – this little pocket of time that is a teaser to spring, at least down here in the Deep South. First, there is Groundhog’s Day and then Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day capped off with St Patrick’s Day. I suppose I am fond of these days because the retailers haven’t yet found too many ways to commercialize them – they are certainly working on it but it’s still in moderation.
I, as I have mentioned before, had a wonderful mother and one of the wondrous things about her was her earthiness – her ability and desire to make do and to create from found objects. Preparing for a holiday was never about a trip to Hobby Lobby – it was a scavenger hunt through seldom used drawers and cupboards and a possible trip through the woods – gathering things to create. I try to remember the “things” she made but I cannot – I just remember the journey.
 In saying that, I think of the money spent on all of those “things” (made in China) that serve little purpose because there was no journey attached to them. It is cliché to write about the “journey” – like most things in our culture, it has become a catch phrase and becoming quickly overused and abused but I dare to use it here, for I speak of the physical journey – the walks through the woods, the rummaging through the house and never, the trip to town. I place so much value in that example – I regret to say that I have not always followed in her conservative footsteps but I have never forgotten the lesson and I use this post to share it with you.Perhaps it will motivate you to think more of your natural resources and to tap into your creativity – it’s there for you to enjoy and share. 

The Full Wolf Moon will rise this Saturday night and this cold and unhurried month of January will end soon after. The almanac is forecasting a chilly start to February in my area and as uncomfortable as cold weather is, it has purpose.
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keeping it local

As I write, Elizabeth and I have been home for two days and the suitcases are, mostly, unpacked and the laundry, mostly, is done. Whew! I remember the days of family vacations and coming home with 7 suitcases of clothes to be washed, groceries to be bought, souvenirs to sort, and five small kids to see about. This was nothing like that – only myself and one little girl, ahhh. A bit poignant but, physically much easier.

 Anyway, my thoughts are all rattling around in some incoherent pattern right now – this trip was colossal and, for me, profound.To reference my mom, travel is the best education of all. I think I have made discoveries about things that have bewildered me in the past and I know I have grown from it. I have come back as a broader thinker and with a bigger heart, and that’s always desirable. I have seen so many aspects of society on this trip – from the working poor in New York City to the “old money” in New England and all in between and along the peripheral.

a cafe
Things are very different in the Northeast than here in the South. Some of the things, I have to admit, I prefer and other situations perhaps not so much. I prefer the resistance to corporations there. Many of the people in New England towns revere their heritage and therefore continue to support their communities; they do not give their dollars to the chains, they buy services and goods from their neighbors – it is a beautiful thing to see. The local diners and cafes are crowded; they are places where you know the owners and the food, for the most part, is not trucked in from yet another corporation, it’s grown by a neighbor or purchased from a local business. It just feels right.

just someone’s house along the sidewalk of Concord
part of Thoreau’s heirloom garden at The Old Manse
 As we traveled further north into Vermont, this phenomenon became even more apparent, these guys are serious about keeping it local. Elizabeth and I never saw a bill board splattered with propaganda, golden arches, Wally Worlds or anything “big box”. Instead we ate at Helen’s Place in Concord MA and met Helen and sat amongst the locals and absorbed their culture and understood the value of “heritage” a bit more. We bought our books at the local bookstore and shopped for (locally grown) produce at a Main Street market – it’s what everyone did and was able to do because of the choices they have made. I was so fascinated with their efforts to keep it local and so stunned with the extreme and somewhat exclusive presence of corporate as I drove home – hundreds of billboards telling me what to do while taking my money out of my community.

flowers in Woodstock, Vermont
just someone’s garden
a revolution
 As an observer, I have drawn a bit of a conclusion as to why this works “up there”. First, they seem to be committed to preserving their heritage and secondly, they don’t seem as driven to consume. They do not tear down old structures and build bigger ones, they reuse what history has left and redo with character and craftsmanship and creativity. I did not see signs with “land for sale” littering the towns .Actually, one of the locals in Concord told us of the efforts made by the state of Massachusetts to reforest. This was told to us as we were touring the Old Manse and looking out the window towards the old bridge where the shot was fired that began the American Revolution – it was explained to us that then, the landscape was clear and you could see into town, but since the reforesting, trees have grown and altered the landscape. What a wonderful thing to do – paths through the woods to walk and run on and green spaces to enjoy and share with your community (a community of both humans and small animals) right in the middle of town.  

Enough of this free flow of words. I don’t want to sound negative towards other places in the country but I did want to express how in awe I was of communities sticking by one another and supporting each other. Keeping it local is nothing but a win. I am as guilty as you, I have tags that do not say “Made in the USA” but this trip has raised my awareness level and proved to me that communities do not have to succumb to the big box stores and national chains – they can keep their money in house. I would be fooling myself to think I could immediately be 100% on board with “local” but I do know I can do better, one shop at a time.

Strawberry Fields Central Park NYC

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a journey

Today is day 10 of Elizabeth and I’s road trip, a trip to look at colleges for Elizabeth and to look at life for me. We began in south Louisiana and are now at the pinnacle, Woodstock, Vermont. I never imagined I would get here. This trip is surreal for me – New York City, Boston, New Haven, Cambridge, Salem, Concord, and now Woodstock, Vermont. Most of today was spent in Concord, MA amongst the transcendentalists – Emerson, Thoreau, and their little tag along, Louisa Mae. Just this morning, I stood in Louisa Mae Alcott’s bedroom and saw the desk her father made for her where she wrote Little Women and just after that I was at The Manse and saw the garden that Henry David Thoreau planted for his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Hawthorne’s 1843 window etching – “Man’s accidents are God’s purposes”.

 Yesterday Elizabeth and I walked around Walden Pond and through the woods at Walden where Thoreau went to “live deliberately”. I am having a bit of trouble absorbing all of this; that’s why I am writing. The list continues with Boston and Paul Revere’s midnight ride and Salem and its witches, New Haven and Yale, Cambridge and Harvard and NYC and its everything. The history here in New England is seemingly infinite!

 We have met some extraordinary people along the way. Someone I will always remember was a young mother on the NYC subway late one night. Elizabeth and I were a bit lost and she showed us the way, and as we rode the N train, she shared her story with us. It was a story that, had someone written, it would have been a bit too extreme to believe but it was real and it was her life. It was very dark and I suppose depressing but she was not either; she was doing what she had to do to move forward – against all odds. I was and am still humbled by this young woman.

 Another person we met and actually got to know was the concierge at the apartment we rented, Michael. He is a native New Yorker and he was one of the warmest, if not the warmest, people we have met on our trip – someone beautiful.

While I hope to remember all of the enchanting places we have been so fortunate to see, it is the people that are the most incredible, and it is the people that I feel most affected by.

 Anyway, tomorrow we will begin our trek towards home and we will take with us beautiful memories of the states we have seen and more importantly, the people we have met along the way. Elizabeth and I will forever be affected by this trip we took, this mother/daughter journey of adventure and exploration that we will both hold in our hearts hopefully, always. I am not able to express the gratitude I feel for this huge experience I am having with my daughter. As I said earlier, I am so humbled by it all. I hope to write more when I finally get home; I hope to go beneath.





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Miriam Beard

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