Wabi Sabi – An Artful Way of Life

Our friend and neighbour, Debra Kuzbik, is an accomplished photographer; actually much more than accomplished in my opinion. It is no surprise then that Debra was attracted to “Wabi Sabi.” She has very kindly offered to explain Wabi Sabi here, in a guest blog post (while I am going to take the opportunity to insert some of Debra’s photographs – starting with this one). Much of what follows comes directly from Debra.

“The term Wabi Sabi has been called the heart of Japanese culture. Rooted in Zen Buddhism, it arose from separate words that were later combined. Originally, Wabi meant poverty, but poverty by choice, a detachment from wealth – a hermit living in harmony with nature, growing his own food, appreciating the cycle of the seasons.”

What were once ostentatious tea ceremonies in the 15th and 16th centuries, in which aristocrats would flaunt ornate tea vessels, “over time the tea ceremony was made simpler … (with) emphasis placed on relationships among the participants, the warmth of hospitality and conversation …”

“Sabi was first used to describe the muted and subtle beauty of 12th and 13th century poetry. It originally meant loneliness and evolved to mean aloneness in, and appreciation for, nature that is best described as the somber longing or melancholy ache you might feel watching a flock of geese preparing to fly south, or observing the autumn leaves as they become muted and begin to fall.”

“The Seventeenth century revered haiku poet, Matsuo Basho, is credited with combining the two words and infusing the phrase with new meaning. Wabi Sabi evolved to become a sign of humble grace, elegant simplicity and an appreciation and acceptance of the beauty in the transience of life.”

“The busyness of modern Western living often obscures or even eliminates the sense of wonder, curiosity and connection to the world that we are all born with … (as) I watch my grandson examining tiny shells on the beach, studying baby crabs as they scuttle about waving their miniature pincers at him or tracing the pathways carved in the sand by the receding tides … for him Wabi Sabi is a way of life.”

The “American author and artist, Leonard Koren, was one of the first to bring the concept of Wabi Sabi into the Western aesthetic” with this definition, “Wabi Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional.”

Debra goes on to say, “We see the influence of Wabi Sabi … (in the) shift to organic food, the farm to table movement, conservation, tiny houses, forest-bathing, electric cars … and interest in living a considered life that minimizes impact on the Earth.”

“Wabi Sabi has also had a profound influence on Western art … the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi … defines beauty through the rustic, the simple, the imperfect … and believes art to be all the more beautiful for being flawed and aged.”

“As a photographer, I have always been drawn to the visual design elements inherent to Wabi Sabi. Organic forms and shapes, asymmetry and interesting textures have always attracted me as subject matter, The colours associated with autumn – rust, pumpkin, mustard, berry, gold and the muted shades of brown as the season progresses – are my palette of choice.”

“Unlike painting, which begins with a blank canvas or paper to which subject matter and visual design elements are added, photography is a subtractive process in which all nonessential elements are eliminated to connect the observer to the observed … I attempt to create images that honour the transient beauty of the moment through simplicity, restraint and clarity.”

“ … Wabi Sabi is not something to be understood intellectually, but rather, when fully realized, it is a way of being that is lived through the heart.”

And what follows are my words, (and I thank Debra for her blog entry – which is so inspiring). I have added more of Debra’s photographs that capture Debra’s art and through her art how she has embraced Wabi Sabi.

And not to forget that winter approaches, at least in other parts of the country.