I am one of those people who love warmth. Which is not always the case in the local climate. I live in a part of the world where, despite global warming, we still have four very different seasons in nature – budding spring, hot summer, misty autumn and cold winter. Even though their transition is sometimes very fast, sometimes we feel as if one reflected in the other.
I’m amazed by the spring nature every year again and again. I love long summer evenings in the garden. I admire the incredible colourful beauty of autumn. But since the beginning of winter, I count how many months and weeks remain until my springtime amazement.
It does not help that, unlike most of the Czech nation, I do not really enjoy winter sports either. Besides winter walks. And it is just helping me to see the winter months a little more positive. In a warm coat and wool cap, I admire the beautiful pictures of snowy or just frozen landscapes, the “artistic” creations as if sleeping nature, and the abstract paintings in the ice.
At home, when I look (in warmth next to the fireplace, and best with a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine in my hand) what the lens of my camera or just my mobile has captured, I’m surprised to see how many colourful beauties you can find outside in this seemingly monochromatic season of the year. Special beauty with a great deal of melancholy. Nevertheless, especially the ice abstract creations of nature are at least comparable with many works by famous artists, are they not?
Years ago, when I was trying to briefly introduce the principle of wabi-sabi to my friend Jana, she sighed: “What a pity that wabi-sabi way of seeing the beauty of imperfection, cannot be applied to us, to our wrinkles.”But why not? It actually calls itself for a much more positive view of our gradual loss of youth, or of our inevitable ageing.
Wabi-sabi refers to a deeper perception of inner beauty and life itself, of the beauty of imperfection, impermanence, melancholy. It is not based on youth and flourishing, but rather it believes that everything is always more beautiful when it reveals signs of the time and its individuality.
Why are we constantly dealing with the question of our ageing?
The average age is constantly prolonging, medicine is constantly making new discoveries, the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry is bombarding us with new and more effective rejuvenating agents and other anti-ageing products, awareness of the need to maintain our physical fitness level increases. Still, we are negatively pointing to our ageing increasingly early. Increasingly earlier we observe (or even search for) those small external changes on us – shortcomings and we are struggling to fight them earlier and earlier. But most of all we are worrying about them. And that even for decades before we really are close to being old.
In nature, everything is in the state of a process (and later of disintegration), and we are simply not excluded from this process. Maybe it sounds cruel, but it reminds us that everything is just temporary and we should, therefore, appreciate our life in present time. We might be struggling with the loss of youth by the end of our life, or enjoy the constant increase in the perspective we gain over time.
Written lines of the story of our life
We do not have to look at our wrinkles only as signs of loss of skin firmness and density but as a consequence of the rich story of our life. Our life story, after all, is externally reflected not only in our wrinkles but also in our other small or large external “imperfections” that we are gradually collecting during our lives. It can be scars from the injury in our favourite sport or from another type of accident, thanks to which we learned something new about ourselves or about people around us. And even the scratches from our enthusiastic gardening, perhaps even small burns on our hands, after we carelessly took something good for our loved ones out of the oven. Even these are the lines of the story of our life.
Return time, yes or no?
But despite the above mentioned, when I look in the mirror in the morning and I see that the circles under my eyes will probably never disappear, even after a good night’s sleep and those lines on the face are not just a temporary thump of the pillow… it’s a little (or big?) internal fight.
So, after that, I rather try to focus only on the reflection of my eyes. It does not seem that they bear such signs of time (look once again at the picture of the native American woman at the beginning of this article). Sometimes I see the teenage or twenty-something-year-old girl who is trying to get oriented in the world, has her dreams and ideas. But most of all, when I look in the eyes reflection, I can recall all the good things I have ever experienced in my life so far, but also even the worse and bad things that I had to manage and I had successfully survived. And I see how richer my life today is, compared to the time 10, 20, 30 years ago.
No, I´m not going to throw away my day and night creams, nor the corrector. And yes, I know I have to eat less sweet and exercise more and …. to take care of myself all the way so that I can feel good even in ten, twenty and more years from now on. But if I would have the choice – to look like in my twenties or to know what I know today? I think I know what my choice would be.
It is said that the garden reflects the nature of its owner and their view (and possible changes to their view) of the world. I agree with that completely. When you‘re out on a walk, look into other peoples‘ gardens, you‘ll see gardens growing wild and untrimmed, gardens that look like they were designed and kept up by a professional gardener, yet still feel somewhat bland and uninteresting. Perhaps that‘s the owner‘s fault or even the fault of the current garden trends. Nevertheless, sometimes you will see gardens that don‘t have a particularly perfect structure but you often see the owner in them, relaxing, trimming, making adjustments. Gardens in which there is life.
Our family definitely belongs to the last group. Our garden is a place where we spend a lot of our time „at home“, our family dinners, weekend meals, birthday parties, coffee drinking or an evening glass of wine rarely take place inside the house between April and September.
Our garden definitely shows the changes in our family life. When the children were younger, it was a place of fun, games and constant exploration. It was a place that had to be safe for them, but at the same time diverse enough to still be interesting.
I always liked a certain wildness in my garden. I never minded the flowers that the wind blew in, especially if they blossomed in a nice way, overgrown oregano plants that attract a huge amount of butterflies as well as big, spread out lavender plants that are surrounded by bumblebees during their blossom, during which they release a strong scent that covers the whole garden in a wonderful aroma. I don‘t mind the flowers that were planted accidentally by birds during their flight over our land. Actually, I think that in a part of our garden the birds were the best gardeners, as years ago they planted three trees with an almost perfect spacing – a cherry tree, a walnut tree and a Salix lucida willow, all of which currently have over three meters in height and are towering over the northern border of our land above flowers that grow underneath them. However, it remains true that the wildness was also part of the reason why we couldn‘t spend more time on perfecting the garden.
Nowadays, when our children are almost grown up and are exploring the world in different places and without our assistance, the garden continues to change. It‘s ceasing to be a place for games and beginning to be more of a place for relaxing, an island of tranquillity to return to after a day in the noisy and hectic city of Prague. That‘s when I like to take a moment to sit down in the garden to listen and watch the slow and quiet workings of the nature around me. It enables me to find a feeling of calmness and happiness within me without an obvious reason, to forget the everyday errands, that often catch us into the chronical feeling that we “do not have time”.
Partly consciously, partly unconsciously, our garden is beginning to approach my idea of a wabi-sabi garden. Slightly tamed, slightly subdued but nevertheless gracefully calm. A garden that still looks barely touched by humanity in some parts, even though we spend a lot of time enthusiastically working on it. The daybeds in a covered part of the garden with an excellent view of the grown trees and constantly growing flowers are my favourite spot, and not just for a summer laziness. The old hammock located under a full-grown walnut tree is a great spot for some quality time spent reading a book. A previously not-so-used corner of our garden has become, after the construction of a pond with fish, a sought out a place for contemplation, and not just by myself.
Hopefully, one day all of the individual parts of our garden come together to form a path, after which if any of us go through, will remain connected with nature through sounds, smells, sight, touch and taste. Though short, a journey through a variety of sensorial experiences.
And yes, I do believe a garden reflects the nature of its owner and their view of the world.
Almost twenty years ago, I and my husband moved, in anticipation of our eldest son, to the countryside not far from Prague, to a more than a hundred-year-old house. A lot of friends and relatives didn‘t understand why so far away (the boom of building and moving beyond the boundaries of Prague at that time hadn‘t started yet). But mainly, why such an old and thus imperfect, and even a little rusty house when “… After all, it would be better and easier to build a new house…”
I don’t know why, but somehow I always liked old houses more. Despite their imperfections. Houses that already have a certain patina of history that they‘ve “experienced“. Houses that have a particular spirit, atmosphere, something that isn‘t expressible in words.
We were founding a family and wanted a home. And in our cottage house, we just felt good right away. Even with all those irregular angles between the walls, exposed wooden beams with engraved markings from the carpenters in the attic and despite a few minor cracks in the walls, collapsing plaster and a lot of work that was obviously waiting for us…
Well, maybe it wasn’t as challenging as it was for Tom Hanks and Shelley Long in the movie The Money Pit from the year 1986. However, for a comfortable living, we had to gradually and sometimes with some difficulties take care of it both physically and financially.
Everyone knows old houses have their flies, so you can imagine the hundred-year-old one. But in some of those “errors of the beauty”, a certain poetry could be seen in those.
It is true that as probably every owner of such old real estate, even I had my weak moments. When you constantly keep changing and modifying your list of priorities for the reconstruction because of your spare time and finances, and then you visit friends in their perfectly finished new house. It does make you feel a bit of self-awareness. At least in the sense that your house will probably never be as perfectly and beautifully finished and never ever be looking so flawlessly. But then you realize neither their bright new house won‘t stay flawless forever. Over time even there is going to be “something” that is not as it should be, “something” that doesn’t work properly. It will take a while for their house to be properly tested over time.
I once accidentally stumbled into this text on the internet while researching something:
I have to say that, even though I had previously stayed in China for several months, I was never too deeply interested in Eastern philosophy. I had never heard of wabi-sabi before, but when I did, it sounded kind of nice. I had the feeling that the ideas are somehow kind of characterizing my view of the world around (for somebody maybe not contemporary).
Maybe initially I’ve associated it with the inner beauty of our imperfect building, which could be seen sometimes only by us – who are living here. Why should we forever worry about any imperfections, tiny cracks and all those other signs that time, weather, and loving use of the house by our predecessors left behind?
But the more I learn about the concept of wabi-sabi philosophy, the more I have this very inner feeling of happiness and peace, that everything is as it should be. It inspires me to more intensely perceive the beauty of everyday things.
I have printed, framed and mounted this picture on the wall. After some time a tiny, tiny crack appeared on the wall.
That was the beginning of my interest in the philosophy of wabi-sabi.