An Artist's Quest

Wabi sabi: finding comfort in the dark

I have been sitting with this idea of wabi-sabi this week.  Looking at the beauty in the fading, drying garden. Often I’ll spend time dead heading my roses and other flowers to encourage more blooms, a last bit of autumn color and growth, but this week I thought perhaps it time to let each thing move along in it’s journey.  To let the roses dry up and move on to rose hips, let the plants in the yard be withered, let them push the last of their energy into seeds, let the stalks turn black and stand as sentries until spring.  And what about we humans?  Our culture does not abide such withering, does not encourage introspection in the dark places of our life.  When grieving our society has stripped down many of the rituals that so many religions put in place for this grief.  Even on the playground we demand stoicism from our children.  As a preschool teacher I witnessed many a tumble with a parent responding with a “you’re OK, shake it off” response, instead of acknowledging the hurt, surprise or fear the child has experienced.  We are not encouraged to acknowledge the dark side of life.  We know that day begins in dawns arrival, every day we are given proof that the darkest night ends and the day begins again.  Each year we are taught the lesson that spring follows winter.  What are we afraid of?

The little ladybug taking refuge in the prickles of the fading Yarrow inspired me this week.  I wanted to express the esthetic of wabi-sabi in my piece, the beauty in the sharp edges and broken bits.  I also wanted to translate the perfection of the ladybug at rest amongst the thorny seeds of the yarrow; a surprising juxtaposition between the drying, dying plant and the tiny red jewel inside.  I choose to portray the red center as a circle.  I wanted to evoke the idea of perfection in the circle, the Alpha and Omega, the OM of Hindu tradition. This perfect, gleaming, red beginning and ending; resting and content nestled in the broken glass and sharp metal edges.


6 responses

  1. Pat

    Thanks Lisa, for the words and the mandala. Just yesterday I was talking with a friend about how dismissive our culture is of death. I had just received a poem sent to people grieving the death of a friend, the poem ended with the words “I did not die.” But, of course, she did die. And that needs to be grieved. The loss is real, no matter the enduring-ness of relationship. Let the roses die back. Thanksgivings for the autumn that surrounds us.

    October 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    • Thanks Pat for that response. It reminds me of one of my favorite poems. The poem is by Jane Kenyon addressing this theme, with the repeated refrain “let evening come”

      October 15, 2010 at 4:12 pm

  2. GpaI

    Lisa, I think your prose is as beautiful as your art. luv Gpa

    October 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm

  3. Laura Thorpe

    Lisa–I read this post just after volunteering to help out with your niece’s school’s gardening project, which is being run by one of Francesca’s school’s young English teachers. Why am I mentioning that, you ask? Well, as I have followed your Mandala project these last several weeks, I keep being struck by the way in which you observe the natural world … and then capture those keen perceptions into language pictures so rich and compelling as to catch my breath. You call yourself a visual artist and don’t always think of yourself as a wordsmith. I beg to differ. I look forward to watching the Mandala wheel turn and turn again.

    October 17, 2010 at 3:14 am

  4. Sarah McGowan

    What an inspirational blog! Are you selling these pieces?

    October 17, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    • I think I will sell them eventually, but I’m not sure through what means, maybe my website. I was also thinking of having the pieces in some sort of show after a time, but it’s becoming clear that the writing would need to be a part of the show so…. if anyone has any ideas let me know

      October 18, 2010 at 4:42 am

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