In my training to become a tea sommelier (like a wine sommelier but for tea) I’ve become intrigued by the Japanese concept of WABI-SABI [wäbē säbē].
Even the definition is beautiful:
“quietness, sober refinement, subdued taste, characterized by humility, moderation, simplicity, naturalness, depth and imperfection”.
Part of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony includes purposefully admiring the hand-made matcha bowl and its imperfections, as a work of art. This practice serves to remind us that we all have room to grow and there is beauty in our humanity and our flaws. Isn’t that a lovely way to look at life?
I can’t say that I personally am quiet and somber and I tend to like embellishments over clean, modern lines, but I definitely have an appreciation for the imperfect. One of my favorite things in life is to find a hidden treasure at a flea market or thrift shop - a piece that is time worn, weathered, once loved, previously purposeful - now discarded.
I see beauty in old books and bottles, tattered tables and tarnished silver. I see new chances and elevated statuses for objects others thought past their prime.
We can extend the same sentiment to people. There is elegance and beauty in wrinkled, work-weary hands and faces marked by many seasons of living. History and long-forgotten stories are hidden in the lines, faded colors and softened edges. Years of laughter and tears, triumph and heartache, give way to deep wisdom, rich character and great beauty.
Below is a picture of my dad with his garden bounty - his last summer, 2013.
Weeds as Flowers, Rain, Handwritten Letters, Homemade Pies, Pocket Watches, Wet Tea Leaves, Dirt Roads, Faded Fabrics, Storm Clouds, Gardens, Old Dishes, Chipped Paint, Journals, Old Photos, Wind Chimes, Rusted Cans, Quilts, Used Bricks, Blown Glass, Classic Cars, Pebbles, Old Violins, Vintage Tractors, Manhole Covers, Stained Glass… and a million other things.
Our culture is saturated with the idea of perfection - airbrushed, photoshopped, covered over, dressed up, fake perfection. But life is so much richer, more meaningful when we find beauty in the flawed, the simple, the ordinary, the authentic. As you sit to relax with a cup of tea, look for something to marvel at - something you never noticed before.
Extend grace and appreciation to the uncelebrated, the humble, the “ugly”.
In time, you’ll start to notice you’ve grown kinder and gentler even toward your own flaws, and life overall (including who you are) has become more beautiful.