Embrace the Flaw

5 07 2016

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept that embraces transience and imperfection.

The Shakers are known for their simple, classic furniture style. They believed that one should not aspire to the perfection of God. In their simple woodcraft they include a flaw, thereby keeping the work as humble as their faith.

The Navajos weave an imperfection into their blankets. It is their belief that the “flaw” makes the blanket more beautiful.

Yet our society tells us to strive for perfection, that anything less is failure. Striving for perfection, however, can sometimes paralyze us. Things rarely go as we plan them. I say embrace your creative flaws. Understand them and own them. Exercise your creative muscle. It’s how we respond to the twists and turns of life that gives our life it’s quality. It’s our creative muscle that can lift us up during turbulent times. That same muscle can help us, even power us through creative blocks.

It’s important to know and understand your own unique creative process. Understanding your process means you can consciously change it up. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, “Big Magic”, she writes of getting dressed up for your creativity as you would for a lover. Change it up, get out of your bathrobe, let yourself feel your beauty and take your creativity into your arms like a lover.

Embrace the Flaw
Children are naturally creative. They haven’t learned the woulds and shoulds of striving for perfection. They live life with simple creative joy. One of the favorite projects from my daughter’s childhood was her taking advantage of a “broken” project. She was making a plaster of her handprint when the caste broke in half. Instead of seeing it as a broken hand, she turned it into a face. Of the many art projects from her youth, it is one that I kept and is still on display.

Jade hand face

Exercising the Creative Muscle

Before mirror

Mardi grasI saw a cracked mirror on the side of the road in a trash pile on the way to work. As I drove past it I thought that it would look great in my garden. I have a long weathered fence that dominates the small garden and the mirror was very large. It had a gold ornate frame. It looked like it could have been in a House of Ill Repute. Gaudy and shiny things draw me in and amuse me. It’s like catching worthless beads at Mardi Gras, I don’t want one single strand, I want to wear a hundred strands of colorful beads, only during the parade. It’s transient and imperfect. It’s not classic and timeless. I know this about myself and embrace it.

I drove two blocks past the cracked mirror and turned around and went back to get it. It was dirty and weathered and so big it barely fit into my car. My creative wheels started turning. Before long I knew I wanted to embrace the crack, the obvious flaw. I bounced ideas around with a friend. By the time I got the mirror home after my workday, I knew I would etch a vine along the crack. Since it was going outside I needed to put caulk on the edge where backing meets the frame and to put waterproof paint on the back.

After mirror

So with the help of my sweetie, it’s now hanging in our garden. It’s my interpretation of wabi-sabi. Perfectly imperfect. I know it’s transient—it’s living in the hot, humid Louisiana weather. I don’t know if I’ll have it for a season or for years. But for the present, it hangs outside my bedroom window and expands my small sliver of a garden. It gives me joy every time I look at it.

Night mirror

Embrace the New Direction
Embrace your imperfections, your flaws, your creative blocks. Ray Strother said in a Creative Hero blog post, “Creativity is the spark of God.” When your project or your life turns in an unexpected direction, embrace the change. Know there is divine inspiration when the creative spirit takes you in a new direction.

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And the seasons they go round and round

27 10 2013

LeavesLoss comes in many forms. I got a late night call from my daughter this week to tell me her long-time friend Michael had taken his life. I had an intense maternal need to wrap my arms around my baby girl to protect her from the tidal wave of grief that swept over us both. I could feel the emotional aftermath that was hitting all who knew this talented and brilliant young man.

As I tried to make sense of it all, I rewatched Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creative genius. She talks of the fear of being a creative person and being undone by those gifts. We know when we have seen the artist who is lit from within, when they give a performance that is transcendent. When we have this experience, we see a glimpse of the divine.

Those who knew Michael saw his transcendent gift as we watched his hands fly over the piano keys when he played.  Perhaps the burden of that gift was too difficult for him to bear.

The universe has been whispering to me of the seasons of life. While Gilbert’s TED Talk spoke to my intellect, it was listening to Joni Mitchell’s song, The Circle Game that unleashed the tears.

My daughter is looking at a spring college graduation, just as her friend Michael was. A year from now she will probably be living in a far off city. While I want to hold her close to me, it is my job to encourage her to fly.

We can’t stop the seasons from going round and round. Pain and tragedy are part of living a full life.  As a parent I hope I have given my daughter the tools she needs to enter her new adult life and the inner strength to sustain her in difficult times.

We leave our gifts with the world no matter how long we walk upon it. My week ended with a baby’s christening, a life just starting, full of promise and possibility, blessed by the universe.

The seasons they will continue.

The Circle Game
by Joni Mitchell   

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like when you’re older must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game 

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him take your time it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game