Oct 24, 2007

A few more thoughts on wabi

I went out to my garden to pick flowers for chanoyu class. At this late date, there are very few flowers left. After the previous night’s storm, the few chrysanthemums hanging on were looking pretty ragged. I picked one anyway and brought it in for the day’s tea ceremony. I also chose a branch of leaves that were past the brilliant color of autumn: it was turning brown and curling at the edges.

These imperfect flowers were what I consider an example of wabi. I arranged them in a simple hanging bamboo vase. There is even a poetic name for this type of flower: rangiku. When I first heard this, I asked for a translation of it and was told that it is like a once beautiful woman of a certain age. Certainly this chrysanthemum had a dignity about it. It didn’t hang its head, but stood proudly in the vase. It was a survivor, one of the last of the season and it had been through the storm and endured. With the branch of leaves, they both said so much about the season, too. Like the poem, quoted in this post, no flowers or colored leaves, only a thatched hut in the autumn dusk. The tea tasted so delicious that day.

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