Wabi-Sabi: Embracing Imperfection

wabi-sabi: a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. 
 

    So what is "wabi-sabi"? It sounds a lot like a fancy appetizer at a sushi restaurant, but it's actually a Japanese concept centered around embracing imperfection and the unknown.
 

    Lauren and I first heard of the concept of "wabi-sabi" while listening to "Bucolic Plague" by Josh Kilmer-Purcell of Beekman 1802 fame. Josh talked about how they hit a breaking point while restoring their home and building their brand at the Beekman farm. They wanted everything to be perfect; a weedless garden bearing unblemished produce, flawless blog post photography, no single detail missed in their interior decor. They became exhausted in their endless quest of perfection; forgetting why they wanted to start their business and move to the country in the first place. It struck a chord as we listened on a recent road trip to Northern Wisconsin.


    Very similar to Lauren, I have always pushed myself in everything I do, to be perfect.  Until just a few years ago we held a much different outlook on our lives.  The idea of wabi-sabi really resonated with us and our philosophy. For too long, we've found ourselves caught up in trying to get to the finish line and not enjoying the journey to get there. I'm sure we're not alone in this either (at least we hope not!).

balancing rocks on the shores of Lake Michigan

balancing rocks on the shores of Lake Michigan

   For us, perfection definitely does not equal happiness.  Of course, I want a solid & long-lasting foundation for our farmhouse build,  but finding a balance is key to a happy and less stressful life.  We still get worked up if things don't go as planned or we make a mistake, but acknowledging up front that everything won't go as planned removes half the stress.  As we near breaking ground on our farmhouse we know that there will be hiccups along the way...in fact there have been many hiccups so far in the project. We had hopes and dreams of renovating our beloved family farmhouse, but due to a reality check about expenses we were forced to pivot and make new plans (more on that story here)
 

    The lesson here is, no matter how hard you try to plan for that perfect outcome, things won't always go as intended.  Rather than fixate on those things that didn't go perfectly as planned we will be choosing to embrace the uncertain seasons of life and know that all will work out in the end. Also, choosing to be grateful for the things that have worked out.

embracing the adventure ahead

embracing the adventure ahead

   The other half of wabi-sabi involves the idea of aesthetic imperfection.  There is a sense of beauty in asymmetrical and unbalanced elements.  Not every piece of wood or every apple in the grocery needs to look identical.  One of our fall traditions is picking our heirloom apples from the original homestead apple trees from the early 1900's.  These apples definitely don't look like the glossy red apples of the grocery store, but they taste so much better.  These apple trees were planted by my family generations ago in hopes of creating a welcoming and nourished home.  Each imperfection reminds me of the history each apple tree has and its connection to the past.  
 

   As we continue to re-purpose each barn board for rustic modern accent walls and woodworking projects, we think about the hands that each piece has been touched by in the past.  Each crack, each layer of paint, every nail hole...has a story behind it.  Simply appreciating the imperfections in each piece brings a sense of comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our imperfect journey.  Thanks for being there with us too.