Fresh blossoms for you

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We used to have a pear tree in our yard. It didn’t bear edible fruit, but the blossoms in early spring were incredible, as you can see. So much promise, yet those first couple of seasons without any pears to eat were disappointing.

I find life is a lot like this. We get some of what we want, but not all, and somehow that makes us discount what we did receive. 

  • Someone gives you a gift but it’s not exactly what you were hoping for. (Especially frustrating from a significant other, who really ought at know you better, right?!?) 
  • Yes, you got to the gym, yet that 20 minutes on the elliptical just doesn’t seem like it was enough. 
  • The food at that hot new restaurant was delicious but the service was less than stellar. And the bathroom was cold and scattered with used paper towels.
  • You are moved by images of native elders’ lined and weathered faces, yet cringe at the laugh lines and crows feet reflected back in your own mirror. 

Life is full of magnificent imperfections. In the Japanese tradition there is a term for this: Wabi sabi. It is a way of looking at the world that rings deep and true. Wabi means genteel poverty, where simplicity and detachment from the trappings of wealth preside; it carries a sense of quiet nobility in the simplest cup of tea or broth. Sabi first came to use to describe the melancholy ache associated with twelfth century Japanese poetry; it conjures fallow fields, wobbly fences and a somber mood.

Taken together, wabi sabi stands for more than the sum of its parts. It allows everything to be exactly as it is, and invites us to revel in the beauty of imperfection. When we do this, we see that while fruit is good, the blossoms alone offer unique sustenance. And the lack of fruit cannot take away from that.

Where, my friend, are you struggling with ideas of perfection? What might you gain by allowing things to be as they are, finding ways to bring gratitude to every misstep, every melancholy mood, every misshapen pancake or loose strand of hair? 

This week, I invite you to practice holding the awareness spoken of so beautifully in these lines by Zen student and musical poet Leonard Cohen:

The birds they sang 
at the break of day 
Start again 
I heard them say 
Don’t dwell on what 
has passed away 
or what is yet to be.
 
Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in.