Sunday, 29 March 2009

Wabi Sabi

My last three pairs of Wabi Sabi socks ...

Wabi Sabi
involves two distinct but complementary strands ...

Wabi by itself has come to mean simple, unmaterialistic, humble by choice, and in tune with nature.

Sabi means "the bloom of time". Today it means to take pleasure in things that are old and faded. Sabi things carry their age with dignity and grace.

When the two are put together we have a philosophy which embraces imperfections. "Wabi sabi is a kind of beauty that's imperfect, impermanent and incomplete," says Leonard Koren in his book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers.

One of the sources I went to said that "Wabi-Sabi is rooted in the idea that perfection is a kind of death."

What it all comes down to is taking pleasure in simple things, accepting the aging process, and recognizing beauty in the flawed nature of life.

I used to be a perfectionist, but the aging process has a way of making one realize that if all we ever seek is perfection we will forever be dissatisfied.

Without ever having heard the term I began to explore Wabi-Sabi when I retired. I decided to discover the happiness to be found in things that cost little or nothing. I sought out free entertainment in Ottawa and discovered the court house. I attended a months-long murder trial and got a free education in the law. I learned where free movies were being shown. I began to use the parkways and the canal. Nature became a primary source of joy.

I began to love puttering about in thrift stores. And then I began to make things from my woollen sweater purchases ... felted slippers and tea cozies. That in turn led to knitting.

And it was knitting that introduced me to the words "Wabi Sabi". I had decided to start knitting socks as a form of inexpensive entertainment and a way to keep arthritis at bay. It would involve a learning curve so would also be good for my brain. I went to a yarn shop on Wellington Street called Wabi Sabi. There I discovered hand spun and dyed wool that was glorious in its imperfection. The owner gave me a sock pattern and a brief introduction to the name "Wabi Sabi" and I headed back to the hills.

The first thing I learned as I made that initial pair of socks was that I loved the process ... no matter what kind of product emerged. I was luxuriating in the glories of the wool. I didn't even mind ripping things out. This was a far cry from my earlier experiences with knitting. I used to hate the doing but like the done.

That first pair of socks has ridges under the heels because I had trouble reading the pattern. The toes are not grafted and each one is different because I tried different ways of getting around my inability to graft them properly.

Each subsequent pair has fewer mistakes but I have yet to make a perfect pair. And it doesn't matter. What matters is that I am happily playing with a natural fibre that is beautiful in its imperfection. I do a lot of thinking while I knit ... it is a form of meditation. And I have learned ... truly learned ... that the socks are more than socks. They are symbols for the way I should always be living my life ... living in the moment ... thoughtfully ... enjoying the process and my part in it. Not worrying about perfection. Seeing the beauty in the natural flaws in things.

I live in an imperfect house. My dog is imperfect. I am beginning to realize that the imperfections are what give both their personality ... and that it is these imperfections that make them unique. If my house looked like something that jumped off a glossy magazine page or if my dog were a perfectly trained show dog who never thought for herself and never surprised me I would likely not love them as much as I do.

It is at least as important to accept the imperfections in people ... including myself ... especially myself. It has taken far too long for me me to understand this.


Barbara Carlson said...

The meditative aspect to making things is to "flow" -- it is those moments that give our life purpose, elevate consciousness and add complexity & richness our selves.

We reach a level of engagement that is unselfconscious, removes us from everyday worries and even alters our sense of time.

It's all in the process... not the finish.

Your socks are lovely!

Oma said...

Thanks, Barbara. I may have jinxed myself by burbling on about the beauty of flawed houses. (See today's post about flooding.)