Wabi Sabi really is in the spirit of contemplative photography. It’s seeing the imperfect and appreciating its beauty and it’s loveliness. And it's the challenge for my small photography group for our April meeting..
One of the things that interested me in Wabi Sabi is the approach:
I discovered that when I had Wabi Sabi on my mind before I went photographing that thinking about imperfection and patterns that can be broken helped me to “see” differently. I looked with a quiet mind, a peaceful mind. And then the subject came to me. And how I wanted to photograph it came to me.
Often my thinking about photographing the object or the person, changed a bit once I spent time trying to “understand”. Often I tried several approaches while being very thoughtful in between. I also made some connections that were important to me…. The unicorn hand carved in Jamaica and the worn unicorn toy that Marie had when she was much younger. Seeing connections about representing an object even made it more beautiful.
There are some connections that I made, but didn’t necessary decide to show as a part of my 5 selected photos. One thing that really interested me was the aspect of time. When I walked, I saw the sundial at Lawrence, the clock between Main Hall and the Library. When I went around the house, I saw another aspect of “Time” and that was the metronome. Mechanical, with its clicking back and forth and the spring that winds it up to work. Now, we just use something digital and forget about the graceful arc of the metronome. It caused me to think of time differently and to appreciate “time” in music as opposed to “keeping time” to make sure that you are there for appointments or not.
The Carved Unicorn
My desire to even consider taking photos of the Unicorn was prompted about thinking about Easter and all the fun we used to have with gathering Easter Eggs. Instead of trying to re-create that, I started digging around my daughter's room….the things that she left behind.
I didn’t realize that she left behind certain stuffed animals. There were the animals that I insisted that she leave behind….Big Bear, The Red Bear, the Paddington Bear. But she left behind some others as well. And the one that really surprised me was her well-worn unicorn.
Well, that got me thinking. The unicorn looked a little scruffy. It could have been classified as “neglected” rather than the "well worn" characteristic of Wabi Sabi. The white looked a little darker with the dirt of being dragged from place to place. Probably a better way to describe it is that the unicorn was constantly with her: when we were traveling in the car, watching TV at night, in her bed overnight, and next to her in the kitchen when she ate breakfast. There was a long period of time when she was inseparable from her unicorn. Her affinity with the unicorn stuffed animal went way beyond well worn.
I looked around her room a bit more to search for more treasures that she left behind and became re-acquainted with her carved unicorn. It was sitting amidst all of her sporting trophies. That would be a picture in and of itself. Nothing "well worn" about the unicorn; it had stood the test of time.
As I looked at the unicorn, I realized how ugly it really is. But there is a story behind it. And going from understanding to appreciating is an aspect of Wabi Sabi that is important to me. Going over the story helps me to understand and appreciate the significance of the carved Unicorn.
The Carved Unicorn Story
I was in Jamaica with my friends for a long weekend. We were staying at a wonderful place called the Plantation Inn. We had a wonderful place overlooking the beach. And it provided a haven from the busyness of Jamaica. A haven that one person in our friend group really appreciated; she preferred staying at the Inn and ordering pizza to eat in the room while enjoying the rhythm of the surf crashing outside of our balcony.
We did go to the market and while there all of the merchants were aggressive about selling their wares. There was a wood carver that had some interesting items. I lingered at this booth, closely examining the items there, but not finding the exact thing I was looking for as a gift. I guess I missed my daughter or I had promised her something special to bring home. She loved unicorns so I thought I could get this woodcarver to make her something since nothing else seemed to suggest an appropriate gift for my daughter.
I should have realized that wood carver didn’t know anything about unicorns when we were trying to describe it. My friends and I tried desperately to draw or gesture or somehow show him what a unicorn was. It caused other "shoppers" to join in the conversation and it seemed like he was understanding what we were talking about. This whole scene lasted for about 15 minutes or so. Finally, I handed over $25 for him to carve it and then to wrap it. I wanted it wrapped so that I could carry it on board the plane, pop it in the overhead bin, and bring it home safely. We picked up this item wrapped in newspaper, sight unseen, on our way to the airport.
"Sight unseen" should have been a big clue.
My daughter couldn’t help but see the package when I got home. She unwrapped it. There were layers of newspaper and bubble wrap to rip through. And then she saw it. In all of its ugliness.
She didn’t say much. She put it in her bedroom on her chest of drawers. She was glad that I brought something back, but she wasn’t happy about it’s look.
It has been in her room over 20 years. It still sits on the chest of drawers with lots of trophies surrounding it. When friends came over for sleepovers, they would comment about the wood carving and my daughter would tell the story.
When she moved to her new home, this is one article that stayed behind. A reminder to Mom about her trip to Jamaica and the wood carving. And having such an item paid for and given as a present, sight unseen. And it is one of my treasured items and an example of an imperfect unicorn and appreciating a perfectly lovely story.
Other Photos Taken on Wabi Sabi theme and Their Connections
And, additionally, as I went through and took other photos in the spirit of Quieting my Mind, Understanding, Accepting, and Appreciating.
There are some connections that I made, but didn’t necessary decide to show as a part of my 5 Unicorn Story but was a part of the photos that I took during the month. One thing that really interested me was the aspect of time. When I walked, I saw the sundial at Lawrence, the clock between Main Hall and the Library. When I went around the house, I saw another aspect of “Time” and that was the metronome. Mechanical, with its clicking back and forth and the spring that winds it up to work. Now, we just use something digital and forget about the graceful arc of the metronome. It caused me to think of time differently and to appreciate “time” in music as opposed to “keeping time” to make sure that you are there for appointments or not.