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Fence posts and weeds (12/07/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns
I recently realized that I haven’t talked “wabi sabi” for a long time. As a matter of fact, to my chagrin, my recent acquisition of so many new things for our home is far from customary for an aging boomer with simplistic tastes and down to earth desires.

Pat and I have been concentrating on disposing of outdated items and transforming our Burns-built, split-level home in Lewiston (which I hope to never leave.) We’ve been Native American and down-home country for years! My heart will never completely desert that passion.

I once wrote a wabi sabi poem I named “Untrimmed Shrubs.” It went like this: I am drawn to imperfections, the crude fallibility of things, knotty wood, rumpled shoes, bare lopsided barns, windmills silent and still, a weathered sun-baked hand – graciously gathering weeds for a winter bouquet.”

Our new furniture replaces the aging, sagging, and worn stuff. We went “casual plush” with earth tones. It’s far removed from our original décor of thirty years ago, which was also so-named “earth tones,” but was gaudy and early boomer retro. Now the more refined, warm beige, intertwined with subtle shades of gold, rust, gray, and brown, is more suitable with our neutral, eggshell carpeting.

Pat, ever the construction contractor, is the one with the good eye and the know-how to select what’s stylish. My sense of fashion has been snagged in cutesy, crafty, and miniature collectables gracing every flat surface available, along with family photos. A creature of complacent tradition, I must admit there is virtue in the changes.

No reference book I use today defines wabi sabi. I read all about it years ago in a magazine article and proclaimed, “That’s me!” You may be too, if you’re drawn to the flawed and catawampus, the crude and the modest. Lichen scaling dead tree trunks, faces with embedded character lines, splintery wood fences entwined with thorny vines, leather and denim aged through the years like a second skin, and dried weeds speak to me.

Pat’s solution to books lying all around the house created a charming space for me. He had floor to ceiling oak shelving built in what has become the “library,” which I decorated for myself. Now all of our picture albums, keepsakes, and old music cassettes have foundtheir resting places with my continuously growing collection of hardcover books. Family keepsakes I navigate toward are the smaller, seemingly insignificant things with sentimental ambience. Certain music and artists’ voices set the mood during creative spurts.

Nature photographs I’ve taken throughout the years hang on walls in nearly every room of our home and up the stairway. Despite my family’s continuous nagging that they want to get me a digital camera, I’ve taken some awesome photos with my trusty Samsung, cracked from being dropped and functioning fine for the wear and tear.

This autumn was spectacular! Throughout the Winona area, hills and valleys were a photo buff’s smorgasbord. Several new enlargements, I’ve framed and hung, dress up the walls beautifully. My older pictures include black and white shots of Sugar Loaf, Fremont Store, tree roots, and cemeteries. How can I hide any of them away in a drawer!

I must stop the madness! A housemate, name withheld, who has been extremely patient, is beginning to make some noise about the house being one wall and one display away from “clutter.” (And I always gave him credit for being wabi sabi !) I will always give a second glance to imperfections, the unrefined and off plumb.

The natural world, leafy and moss-covered, holds my most penetrating, adoring gaze. Each sighting is unique. We can capture only snippets, moment by moment.

Exposed tree roots, gnarled and snaking along earth’s surface, remind me that one generation planted the tree and another enjoys the shade. The human race flourishes despite its imperfections…or maybe because of them.

Have you embraced a burl today? Stifle it already!

Janet Burns resides in the heart of Winona County. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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