31 Days of Kissing the Wounds :: Day 20 ~ Wabi-Sabi: How Time Came Along

damagedshellpinepoint29may2015logo31daysWelcome to Day 20 of 31 Days of Kissing the Wounds,  a month of posts about the beauty, longing, and soul inherent in our damaged selves; in the world’s brokenness; in the imperfection, incompleteness, and transience of all that we love; in our recognition of each other as the walking wounded; and in the jagged, messy, splintery, deformed, sullied, unhealed parts of me, you, the natural world, our communities, the culture. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others.


Wabi-sabi is a Japanese worldview or aesthetic directed towards acceptance of transience and impermanence. It combines ideas of being alone and mindful, noticing nature and nature’s patterns, with an appreciation that things are fragile and changing. It is interested in decay, authenticity, things damaged and imperfectly repaired, things weathered and worn, what’s ordinary and simple. It honours scars.



Wabi-sabi is an intuitive appreciation of a transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. It is an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect, or even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things. — Andrew Juniper


Western beauty is radiance, majesty, grandness and broadness.
In comparison, Eastern beauty is desolateness. Humility. Hidden beauty.” — Shozo Kato

blackwaterdambehindthedamnov2009 lichenontreebarksunsettingbehindlowplains8nov2015 shrubsvinesbehinddunesgloryboardwalkjekyll22dec2015 beachcrackedicekezarlake27feb2016 trailtangledtwistingvineschipmanhilltammiddleburyvt2nov2015 tanglevinesgrassespathwayodiornepointsp13march2016 treeshapepublicgardenboston1march2015 tangleofvinesgrassesnrtenfield28nov2015 twistedtangledvinesamphitheatrejekyll21dec2015


“Wabi sabi acknowledges three things: ‘nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, and nothing is finished.’ — Richard Powell

camperbehindbranchatmaryanns13feb2013 frogbehindlogbweftconcord4oct2015 srt22granitetableandchairbasesthrueuonymous8oct2011 interestingshapedgraveyardtreenorthbeachjekyll24dec2015 vineheartshapedleavesskyrookeryjekyll30dec2015 insectdamagedhostaleaf12oct2015 tomatoesdamagedonvines21oct2014


The 500-year-old practice of kintsugi (“golden joinery”), “a method of restoring a broken piece with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum,” is integral to wabi-sabi. Kintsugi “conveys a philosophy not of replacement, but of awe, reverence, and restoration.”



Wabi sabi can be linked to the “Three Marks of Existence,” or sanbōin, that are described in Buddhist teaching. Roughly, they describe how all things have impermanence, suffering, and emptiness or absence of self. Buddhism tells us wisdom comes from making peace with these marks, as they are intrinsic to our natures, and wabi-sabi can be seen as a way of practicing this peace and acceptance.


Some simple tableaux found in nature:

bouquetofevergreenothersnowlbt8march2015 sensitivefernmushroomsfallleavesbouquettableauwolftreewebbforesttrails14oct2016 iceandmosstableauinatreetrunkkhnp22feb2014 fungiasterfallleavesbouquettableauwolftreewebbforesttrails14oct2016 goldthreadmosstableaucpt18march2016 appleeatenbychipmunkonpatio1oct2015 whelkcasetangledinseawhipji27june2014 littlepinefernssnowtableaucpt6april2016 lavenderseavegetableandrockbeachseasideinn31dec2014



They tell how it was, and how time
came along, and how it happened
again and again. They tell
the slant life takes when it turns
and slashes your face as a friend.
Any wound is real. In church
a woman lets the sun find
her cheek, and we see the lesson:
there are years in that book; there are sorrows
a choir can’t reach when they sing.
Rows of children lift their faces of promise,
places where the scars will be.
— William Stafford



For more:
Wabi-Sabi and Understanding Japan: A philosophy and aesthetic as worldview, by Jack Richardson, 11 April 2016
Wabi-Sabi: The Beauty of Imperfection at PARALLAX: The Quester’s Companion, by Tai Carmen Woodville, 31 March 2014
WHAT IS WABI-SABI? by architect Tadao Ando, with a section titled “Wabi, Not Slobby”


“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” — Virginia Woolf


Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.





  1. Thanks for introducing me this Japanese philosophy. I had heard of it but never knew what it was until I read your post.

  2. First, your photographs are FUCKING amazing.

    “Wabi sabi acknowledges three things: ‘nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, and nothing is finished.’ — Richard Powell

    Even though I’ve never considered myself an overt perfectionist AND have spent many years seeking to integrate a more Buddhist approach—non~grasping, non~attachment, present vs. outcome orientation, and becoming responsive and allowing vs. reactionary with all kinds of survival behaviors popping out; reading that quote illuminated a quick reflections about myself.

    I was very young when I began assessing what perfection would look like. In my Barbie apartment house, and in many other instances that flipped through my mind: I would think, ” I like this, but it would be really perfect if I had the _______.” (In this case it was the dream pool) However that sneaky little assessment would show up over and over around everything in my life, my body, my living space, my love relationship, my job, my clothes, artwork, and lots of experiences too: a meal, a concert, a trip, a holiday, a season, a movie….

    The many, many subtle and sometimes desperate wishes that IF (my current habit, lack of a possession , condition or situation–whatever it might be) was different then I could be happy—reinforced an amorphous sense of perfection just out of reach. I certainly cultivated a make the best of it, appreciate what you have kind of attitude, all along with a quiet underlying impression of the question of longing–why don’t I ever get what I want? Deeper, what’s wrong with me?

    After years of trying to untangle this complex woven underlay, I’ve found that to get hold of and change that lens takes real focus and discipline.

    Nothing is perfect. Seeking it creates unnecessary suffering. I believe that. It’s a battle a lot of the time to hold that perspective. My strong desires (activated mimetic rivalry) , and my sensitivity/receptivity to sensory pleasure can easily reset a sense of ecstatic perfection-the experience of some amazing bites of food, to yogic bliss, a connecting and thrilling conversation, absorbing a powerful piece of artwork, an exquisite flower arrangement…many many moments come to mind. Ones that feel absolutely perfectly perfect. When I get to feel happily happy. Then comes a slight dullness and a subtle craving to experience the intense beauty again.

    Somewhere between these cycles, I touch contentment with what is. Allowing without resistance—sometimes even in shit circumstances. I find that in those moments my vision is more clear and decision making process is easier. And the acceptance of life as it is increases. It’s okay. I’m okay. I’m okay with the knowing that nothing lasts and nothing is finished.

  3. Love your reflections, as always, Renee. Your imperfect perfectness, too. I can see in your history some of what you describe — wanting experiences, especially, to attain perfection, again and again, and to stay there, and our sort of let-down feeling when they don’t — I wonder if you notice the same in your sister or remember it from your upbringing somehow, that drive to make this Christmas even better than last, or for this dinner’s ecstatic experience to carry over into everything else, forever and ever, amen (easy to think of ecstatic food experiences, taking this food and film course, where so far we’ve seen two orgasms caused simply by eating).

    It’s funny, in a way, because when I think of you and another friend who I think has a similar pattern of wanting and almost expecting everything to be amazingly amazing, a peak experience, I don’t think as much of the disappointments, though I recognise them, but instead of your (and her) resiliency and ability to bounce back to expecting greatness in the next moment or next experience. It’s something I admire. And when I am planning something with you or her, I know that even if it’s not great, you’ll remember the great parts (whereas lots of people I know seem to mostly remember the bad parts of good times).

    I get that you feel or notice “a slight dullness and subtle craving” after a great experience, when the high feels over, and that both the let-down feeling and the craving interfere with being in the present, completely enjoying the moment, because you are waiting for the net big (or fabulous small) thing — which reminds me of how well AbFab treats this topic! (eg, “I don’t want more choice; I just want nice things”). On the other hand, the CS Lewis idea of “our best havings are wantings” comes to mind, too … the idea that yearning, and putting off pleasure for a bit, is pleasurable. Not sure how that fits in with the Buddhist idea of yearning and craving suffering. Maybe yearning has a little more patience in it that craving, more of a willingness to wait? idk.

    Anyway — your Barbie dream pool! The pinnacle of happiness and satisfaction! xoxo

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