- Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, Pank, and Gargoyle #57, among others. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. Currently, I'm an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. I'm also working on two novels and a short story collection. In 2011, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Wabi-Sabi, Slowing Down, and Acceptance
Right now, I'm reading a book I orginally bought for my husband and after he read it, he told me he thought I would enjoy it. I put it down in my stack, months went by, and then, as is usually the case, I picked it up at just the right time. It's a book called The Wabi-Sabi House: the Japanese Art of Imperfect Beeauty.
I've recently returned from a trip to Paris. That trip could be labeled a trip of imperfect beauty. I felt right at home in Paris. I've always loved the language and found when I was there I could speak enough to get by very well. I loved the food, the architecture, the people, the fact that there are flower markets on nearly every street corner in some parts and that grapes hang in bunches in the sunlight. I love that the women there, of all ages, take the time to present themselves with imperfect beauty. I loved seeing the joy in my son's eyes at the city life he loves so much: the metros, the glittering, magnificent lights of the Eiffel Tower, the hustle and bustle of transportation of all kinds, and I loved seeing my world-traveler husband adapt, take charge, as he does so well in any country. My trip was marred only by the fact that what I thought was a sinus infection turned out to be an abscess, so for the whole week, I lived on Advils and an antibiotic I'd never seen before. That could have ruined it for me, but it didn't. I still went out, pain and swelling be damned. I still enjoyed. I still soaked in all the beauty that was around me. After all, I could have had the abscess anywhere, much better that it was Paris!
When I returned, I started to take stock of my own life, its balance or lack of, and my priorities. I've not written a word since August--or maybe even July. I've stopped counting. I'm not blocked. I'm letting some air in. I'm taking notes, letting the novel stew, working out some issues. (I did manage to write two outlines of stories while I was in Paris, one sketchier than the other, so I guess that counts as writing, but barely). I haven't sent out a story to a magazine in almost a year though I have a couple of stories almost ready, and three others ready to be drafted. This is a departure from my determined, driven manner of the past few years of writing and sending stories out for the end result: publication. At this point, when I think about my novels and stories there's a kind of freedom I feel, the freedom of taking my time with them, of letting them be what they will, imperfect as they are. Of protecting their imperfection against the judment of others, of myself.
Wabi-Sabi is defined in the book as: "...the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered--and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores, aged wood, not Pergo, rice paper not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, water, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet--that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came."
For the moment I've removed myself from the race. I'm accepting this is where I need to be. I'm enjoying the quiet. I'm taking note of the things for which I'm grateful. I'm drinking tea with reverence and I'm enjoying the beauty of imperfection.