Since my daughter was two she has amazed me…shamed me… in her innocent appreciation of the world–a world I hadn’t truly seen in years with my mature eyes. Now almost nine, she continues to notice the simple beauty, imperfect beauty, impermanent beauty around her. Through her, I have come to walk slower so she can remind me how to see like a child, breathe deeper so I can notice the many different smells, and to pause along our walks to marvel at the intricate work in a fallen bird’s nest or appreciate the determination of a dandelion, thriving between a crack in the sidewalk.
I remind myself often that the best way to see is to forget the names of everything around me. I like to pretend I don’t know what something is made of, what it feels like to my touch, and what it smells like. This is how children approach everything shortly after they are born. A whole new world awaits them. My daughter’s favorite question, once she learned to speak, was, “What’s that? What’s that? What’s that?” I used to answer that question all day for her.
“What’s that?” She ran her fingers around the rim of a cup.
“That’s a cup.” I said.
“What’s that?” she asked again, still touching the cup.
“It’s still a cup,” I said, taking a closer look at what she was pointing to. A hairline crack ran down the side of my favorite teacup. I can’t drink from it anymore, there’s no point in keeping it in the cupboard with the other perfect cups, but still, I couldn’t throw it away. Too many memories lingered in it.
My daughter studied the meandering crack, nearly meditating over its path with greater interest than she took in the spray of flowers decorating the cup.
This appreciation of beauty in all things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete is something I never knew had a name. I figured it was one of those gifts some might call a quirk but for which I felt lucky to have since my daughter awakened it in me. I used to be this way when I was a child, and somewhere along the road to adulthood, school, work, and grownup responsibilities squeezed it into a smaller place inside of me.
A year ago as I browsed through the stacks at the library, I came across a display of recommended books for writers. Many of them I already had at home on my well-stocked, dedicated shelf. But one little book caught my eye…Wabi Sabi for Writers by Richard R. Powell. What is wabi sabi? At first I wondered if somebody thought up those catchy little words which are so nice to say and hear, but as I began reading, I discovered an entire world behind those words. I discovered that the appreciation for all things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete is wabi-sabi.
To quote Richard R. Powell, the author of Wabi Sabi for Writers, “Part of the job of a writer who knows and loves wabi sabi is to remind others of what they already know but have forgotten…”
These words are special to me because without knowing it, my daughter, since the age of two, has lived a wabi sabi life and thankfully has reawakened it in me.