Anyone who explains wabi-sabi first says it's a difficult concept to convey to Westerners.
I'm Cuban by heritage and American by geography, so this will likely be an exercise in mutual blindness.
That's fine with me.
My mother has a scar.
She was not born with this scar, but received it while pregnant. It was years before I learned that, while the scar had risen from the application of a hasty scalpel, it hadn't been from a Cesarean section.
At eight months pregnant, you are large. Comically so. The back-tilted movement of a pregnant woman, especially when she is very thin, appears to be a constant exercise in being about to topple over. As one who is gratefully male, I keep this thought to myself in polite company: for all its awkwardness and transience pregnancy commands a certain respect.
In magazines they airbrush the scars out.
A scar is the result of the mechanism the body has evolved to repair damaged tissue as quickly as possible.
Tissue trying to fuse together at the site of an injury does not concern itself with appearances: it's more worried about preventing infection than about how prominent your wounds look in harsh light.
The patterns of your skin and the location of your hair follicles are encoded. You are mapped out. Skin does not care. It bubbles over ferverently, piling on flesh where there is none; cells replicate dutifully, enthusiastically, blindly. A keloid looks like a bad welding job. Your skin, it usually knows when to stop. Sometimes it doesn't. No time for hair outlets. Oh well.
Because of our aversion to blemishes, surgeons usually take measures following an invasive procedure to prevent excessive scarring. Suture neatly, cut smoothly. The skin's got less to cover. When they do a boob job now, they can cut your nipple out and squeeze the implant into the hole; before, they had to create a potentially unsightly anchor-shaped cut around the nipple, down, parting both ways at the lower curvature of the breast.
(Breast implants have nothing to do with anything here actually, so moving on.)
When there's a chance you're bleeding inside, surgeons do not concern themselves with appearances: they're more worried about heart failure than how jagged your belly looks in harsh light.
I was a big baby. When my mother was pregnant with me, her belly was very large. Probably comically so.
When a man followed her to her apartment from beneath an overpass, her belly was as good a target as any.
You hear about stabbed pregnant women giving birth to children with scars. His knife missed my head by centimeters with each stroke. Small imperfections in trajectory. I was born alive, without wounds. Years later, I can appreciate subtleties of geometry, and the round bulk of a full abdomen: imperfection.
After she was found screaming by strangers, the surgeons at the hospital had their priorities straight. My mother has a scar an inch wide up her stomach.
Deliver me from a place where there are no scars.
Sparrows have built a nest, away from the heat, above the door of the enclosed back porch. They failed to take into account the constant swinging and banging of the door, and because of shoddy human construction there is a large opening connecting the outside to the inside. The result: sparrow hay all over the place. There is down from baby chicks in the vaccuum as I write this. We put packing tape over the hole to keep the birds from continuously repairing their house out into nothing. And it's ugly as sin. But the sparrows don't mind.
Today, a pink sparrow chick slipped through a gap in the packing tape. Outlined on the floor, it looked like a potato bug. The skin of birds is like gossamer. The skin of poppies is like gossamer. Outlined on the floor, it looked like a flower. Flowers open in the sun, hoping to fly. This sparrow was a dreamer.
I could go on.
This little sparrow was feisty — it bit at my fingers when I picked it up. Up close, baby birds are very ugly animals. Gray tufts of down sticking out everywhere, wrinkly skin, like a little old man. All kinds of tough and delicate, like a little old —
I could go on.
In a housing tract, where the color of doors is subject to neighborhood approval, a bundle of hay sticking out underneath a roof lip would not fly.
I knew a man who lived in a housing tract. He was a construction worker. The outside of his home was bland as could be: but the inside looked like an ocean palace. Uneven tile, enormous stone vases bolted to the floor, walls rough and lumpy, made to look like coral.
The neighborhood beautification committee contacted him regarding a knocker he installed on the outside of his front door. He laughed.
He bolted the knocker to his bedroom ceiling instead.
From Animal Planet News, June 15, 20061:
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has used a camera "trap" to capture the first-ever images of the critically endangered wild rhino in the Borneo jungles.
The rhino is believed to be one of a population of just 13 whose existence was confirmed last year in a remote part of Malaysia's Sabah state, according to WWF. Very few other rhinos are believed to survive elsewhere in Borneo.
Tomorrow, the two of us, miles apart, will be under the same sun. Now we are breathing oxygen which has existed for millions of years, which will exist within us, eventually to be released back into the sky.
Together, our remnants will be obliterated by the swelling of the sun.