Kona coffee harvest time on the Big Island can feel overwhelming and tedious. Remember, we pick each and every cherry by hand - one at at time. Yet, it does provide the opportunity to contemplate the subtle messages that one finds throughout one’s day if one is willing to look close enough.
It is in those quiet moments that I contemplated the phrase: Wabi-sabi - the Japanese art of embracing the beauty of imperfection. Wabi means humble and simple, and sabi, denotes beauty in the natural progression of time. When joined together, the words invite us to set aside our demand for perfection and learn to appreciate the beauty of simple things. The emphasis always placed on authenticity.
Wabi-sabi can be found everywhere on my farm. I must admit, I am not always quick to embrace the concept. There are plenty of projects I would like to take beyond “imperfection” and bring them more into the light of “completion.” One project is my chicken coop. I haven’t convinced my “girls” that their wabi-sabi place of rest is a good thing. They require more comfort. The roosting pole is too high or too low. The mongoose get to their food before they can. The sun doesn’t hit their feathers just right in the morning. The nesting boxes aren’t as soft as my laundry basket. Still more work to do before they are ready to enjoy their new home. The coop is too wabi-sabi for their tastes. I can understand their feelings.
I didn’t attempt to introduce wabi-sabi elements into my farm; it just happened - all too easily. Wabi-sabi is more about chance and what unfolds organically. It's hard to plan and force into place. The challenge is making the mental shift from wanting things to be “just so” and "now" to seeing things as part of the welcoming and evolving comfort of our place. It is not easy for me to slow down and recognize the beauty in what may appear as unfinished or ordinary. I have to work on it. Like my chickens have to work on accepting their new sleep spot. But I am beginning to learn that you have to be patient and discover the undeclared beauty of an object or a place over time. This is when you feel most at home.
The best way to describe my wabi-sabi farm in Hawaii is to give you a list of examples of what came to mind on my walk today. Perhaps, they will conjure a few images and the concept will be more clear. For me, it was a good exercise. Take some time today to make your own list of what wabi-sabi means to you. Look around at your own space, and rather than see a yard that has a mind of its own or a house with changes to be made, focus on what feels good and embrace the memories that are woven into each part of your home. This is the true meaning of wabi-sabi.
My Wabi-sabi farm is . . .
a pile of coffee branches waiting to be chipped
passionfruit jam that is more like syrup than jam
sun-dried cotton sheets
hens laying in a laundry basket
fresh goat cheese spread on toast
worn wood floors that tell a story
a lava rock garden bed overflowing
a large farm sink found in a banana patch
rusted metal roofing recycled for a chicken coop
a fig tree growing in between the rows of an orchard
handmade vintage fabric napkins that are soft and worn
a thrift store copper pot that has prepared countless bowls of soup
a fence woven by hand from strawberry guava
the colors of the papaya skin picked from a volunteer tree
details of a found feather used as an impromptu bookmark
the feel of an old basket in your hands as you gather fresh herbs
a warm cup of chai tea with local honey enjoyed with friends . . .