The maple tree in the backyard has just now started to drop its leaves. I love this tree. It’s at least 50 years old (give or take), with thick bark and a chipmunk hole at its base. It’s a little lopsided from where some dead branches had to be removed a few years back.
Looking up, the tree looks absolutely perfect, covered in a mix of gold and orange leaves. But if I look closer at each leaf, I see flaws. A torn edge here. Brown splotches there. The perfect leaf is elusive. But together, up in the lopsided tree, they look gorgeous. Not perfect, but absolutely beautiful nonetheless.
Wabi-sabi is the Japanese concept of finding beauty in imperfection. It recognizes that not only is perfection an illusion, but imperfection has its own beauty that is to be valued and cherished for its own sake. My maple tree is without a doubt a wabi-sabi tree. Nature is like that: imperfect by exacting technological standards that measure the world to the nanometer, but with fierce beauty and wildness that renders human abstractions irrelevant.
The whole idea of wabi-sabi really resonates with me (aside from it being just a fun word to say). It encourages me to not only accept the so-called imperfections of life, but to revel in them, and hold onto them, turning them over and over in my mind until I see the beauty that is already there, unrecognized.
The hours that make our days may seem filled with frustration, disappointment and minor annoyances when we look at them with an eye for every detail, but take a step back, and look at the years, the decades… Like my lopsided wabi-sabi tree laden with splotchy leaves, the beauty comes when we look at the whole, and take in the picture of amber leaves against a clear blue sky, take in the entirety of a life. See the big picture.