Summer is about the ordinary, it’s often the time we rediscover our playful selfs as we encourage children (and maybe ourselves) to run through the lawn sprinklers, lick popsicles from the ice cream truck, and spit watermelon seeds as we sit on the front porch. We roll up our sleeves, walk barefoot, and sip glass after glass of iced tea in tall frosted glasses that drip, almost crying with the pleasing coolness on a hot, summer day.
I first heard of Wabi Sabi from my friend Susan a few years ago when she asked her students to focus on the ordinary in research projects they were doing in her middle school English class. I remember how excited she was that they were discovering the beauty in the “old school”—typewriters, rotary dial phones, handwriting…and so much more than I can’t even begin to remember now.
Wikipedia offers us this definition:
Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.
My photography has heightened my awareness of the complexities of beauty in the ordinary as I have learned to tune my eye to seek out the familiar in new ways. So when Margit gifted me with the picture book, Wabi Sabi by Mark Weibstein, I found myself thinking about the Wabi Sabi around me. Weibstein pairs his story of a cat named Wabi Sabi with Haiku, following the Americanized three-line, 5-7-5 syllable pattern, that helps the definition-seeking cat understand its name…and adds this definition, for us slower to understand folks, as well:
Wabi Sabi: a way of seeing the world. It finds beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest, and mysterious. It can be a little dark, but it is also warm and comfortable. It may best be understood as a feeling rather than as an idea.
The more I have been thinking about this concept of Wabi Sabi, the more I want to explore it more intentionally through my lens.
Here’s a few of my ideas…along with a Haiku attempt with each. Each of these represents my interpretation of Wabi Sabi, an appreciation of the imperfect, often fleeting beauty I find through my lens. Letting 17 syllables speak for me is a challenge, but an interesting one, creating another layer of Wabi Sabi for me.
A flurry and munch!
Time for posing and sunning
Purple mountains stand
Off in the distance watching
Both desert and beach
It’s a hard knock life
Reflecting privilege’s promise
Strong enough to thrive
Kegs and art mingle
Chatting on a street corner
Exchanging cultural news
And to stretch my exploration (and yours too) I have come up with a list of potential prompts or categories to consider. (I notice that I tend toward nature for my photographic exploration of beauty–these prompts are meant to push my thinking and seeing in new ways.)
1. On the corner
15. Looking up
16. Sitting down
17. Looking down
So now it’s your turn. Explore what Wabi Sabi means to you as you examine the ordinary in your life this summer. After you shoot, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts. Try your hand at an accompanying Haiku and explore how it expands, defines, or changes the meaning of the image you share. You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!
With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time for some playfulness and experimentation…look for beauty and the unexpected in the ordinary–let it surprise and delight you! You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can play this game by posting your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it. You get to make your own rules! Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!