Life threads: Wabi-Sabi.

If I don’t grasp too tightly, I am occasionally able to pick up on theme ideas that run through my life at any given moment, memes if you will for the present, concepts that might be useful, beautiful, or even just interesting for me where I am at.  Right now I’m hearing quite a bit about wabi-sabi, “a beautiful Japanese concept that has no direct translation in English. Both an aesthetic and a worldview, it connotes a way of living that finds beauty in imperfection and accepts the natural cycle of growth and decay.”

I had never heard of this concept before a couple of weeks ago when I first encountered it in an article in Parabola, a lovely magazine I picked up on a whim at Common Good Books (and may now purchase a subscription to).  And apparently it’s a children’s book as well.  Providing an intriguing counterpoint to other articles on perfect shapes in nature and relativism in perception of beauty in art, the article in Parabola on wabi-sabi integrated a unique idea of beauty that arrives with time and use.

Wabi-sabi reminds me of ‘busage’, actually.  Beauty through usage, a concept used in the bicycling world that often refers to things like worn Brooks saddles and old steel frames and ragged bar tape.
While wabi-sabi is far from the stainless steel aesthetic that has infected American design standards, it does fit neatly into a new paradigm of consumption that is espoused by simplicity advocates and antique dealers alike.  Love the functional, the ancient yet sturdy, the worn with careful use.  As Benjamin and I begin thinking about a house and a life together, I want to keep wabi-sabi at the forefront of my vision, a light that can puncture through the plastic world of planned obsolescence to help me create a beautiful, functional home.

Sans sucre.

I have realized that I have an addiction to sugar.  Far more often than is healthy, I crave sweets- cookies, ice cream, bars, baked goods, whatever.  And far more often than is healthy I indulge that craving.  So I’m going without for at least a couple of weeks.  Not entirely sugar free, mind you, because I refuse to become one of those obsessive label readers for which food becomes a chore rather than a joy.  But no more purchased sweets.  Here are my guidelines:

-If I make it from scratch, or someone else does (ie. Thanksgiving pie, particularly since I’ve promised to make sour cream raisin pie for Benjamin’s grandpa at Thanksgiving) then it’s ok, but only in moderation.  The definition of moderation is yet to be determined.

-Honey or agave in my tea does not count as a sweet.

-I will not compensate for the lack of sugar in my diet by eating other unhealthy snacks, ie. fried things, excess carbs, etc.  I will try to continue adding fruits/veggies into my diet.

Starting this right before my birthday (tomorrow!) was probably not the ideal time, but so be it.

Goodbye, delicious pastries.  May your exodus from my diet allow me to taste even more subtleties in food with substantially less processed sugar.

More reflection.

As interesting as musing over my 2010 Practices to Enact was, I will now embark on another ‘list reflection’.  This one was a note on Facebook with the following instructions:
“Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.”

I wrote the original list of 25 random things in February 2009.  To provide some context, I was four months from college graduation (oops, I just told y’all my age), not yet in Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and uncertain as heck as to where I was going with my life, both in physical location and vocational path.  Original list is in italics, my comments today are in regular type.

1. I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly seven years. This means my body will soon stop producing enzymes to digest meat, which is simultaneously awesome and terrifying. However, I’ve thought about eating animals again occasionally to support local farmers. But only local and sustainable of course.
Still mostly a vegetarian, though I’ve become a lot less vehement, particularly when food with a minor amount of meat is served to me.  I also ate an entire hamburger the summer following this list creation while I was working out on sustainable farms in Western Minnesota.  It was both local and sustainable, and delicious to boot.

2. I’ve never been into sports, but watched this year’s Super Bowl with my parents because the Arizona Cardinals have been my dad’s favorite team for as long as I can remember.
This year I watched an entire quarter of a World Cup game and felt like my sports quota was exhausted for at least a couple of months.

3. I enjoy pieces of most subcultures, and have constantly found myself on the fringe of many things. Often these pieces don’t work together too well in common society. For example, I equally (but for completely different reasons) enjoy Elle, Wired, and Backpacker magazine.
Entirely true a year and a half later, maybe even more so with my ‘discovery’ (via my housemate Rachel from last year) of Google Reader.  See the final point of my September Beautiful Things post.

4. I start craft projects and don’t usually finish them.
I’m getting better I swear.  Mostly by doing simpler projects that don’t have such a concretely defined finishing point.

5. Sometimes I think my early high school self would be highly disdainful of many aspects of my present self, and vice versa.
This became even more apparent when I read through my journals of high school that my mother brought when she visited a couple of weeks ago.  High school self and present self would be acquaintances, maybe, and high school self would be relieved at calm gained and angry at zealousness lost.

6. I don’t believe in soulmates, but I’m a huge proponent of kindred spirits.
Still don’t believe in soulmates, but somehow the universe decided to bring me to a wonderful partner, man, and friend.

7. I want to spend a year living in a commune, from a tent, in a developing country, and with a group of native peoples. Probably not all at the same time though.
My big adventure goals have  changed quite a bit actually.  I would still do all of these things, but now I’m really excited about biking the length of the Mississippi River with Benjamin in the near-ish future.

8. I’ve been told that at school I come across as a youngest child, but at home I’m often the quintessential older sister. For no good reason I’d much rather be seen as an older sibling as opposed to a younger one.
Age has since become relatively irrelevant, at least in social situations.  Though when I do pay attention I notice that I am frequently the youngest person at a particular gathering these days.

9. I call many places home, and can find home nearly anywhere I go. While this lets me find joy and connection in a plethora of new situations, it also makes me REALLY bad at keeping up with people I’m not actually physically present with, apart from my family.
Yup.   But I did make a Facebook note a moment ago asking for people’s addresses so I can simultaneously have a reason to write regularly AND keep in touch with people.  Snap.  I’d like your address too, so please leave it in the comments.

10. I kind of want December 21st, 2012 to be an actual apocalypse.
Just so I can have an apocalypse party for three days.  Everyone’s invited!

11. I believe the holy is in the paradox, that when you discover two equally important but seemingly incompatible truths, you’re probably on to something. Live in the complications.
This one is illustrated regularly, by my passions and experiences and conversations and the frequent inability to reconcile it all.  Celebrate the paradox!

12. I think that people are essentially good, though not really in any religious sense. I want to be the kind of ‘good’ stranger that people can depend on so that my trust in humanity can be withheld when the situation presents itself.
Meeting strangers during my 14 months thus far living in the city has solidified this even further.  There are so many ‘isms’ that lead a person to act out of selfishness or another form of evil, and while personal responsibility does play an important part, a majority of pain, violence and oppression comes from systemic problems.  People, as individuals, have at least a core seed of goodness.

13. I value authenticity above all else, and expect it from everyone and myself most of all.
Yes.

14. Sometimes I wonder if I’d be happier being a genius at one thing rather than mediocre to good at a number of things.
Genius and mediocrity factor nonwithstanding, having the ridiculous number of interests that I do has certainly started an uncountable number of conversations with wonderful people, some of whom have become good friends.


15. I am constantly in awe of how magnificent and complicated the world is, and how I managed to be an entity in it at this moment in time.
The change of the seasons amplifies this point- I am amazed at the pure outpouring of energy that happens on this planet, and the constant fluctuations, only a small percentage of which I am privy to.

16. I am obsessed with space. This includes any sort of movie set in space, Battlestar Galactica, and the NASA universe picture of the day.
So obsessed that I’m planning to see the new IMAX film on the Hubble telescope at the Science Museum this Friday.  For my birthday.

17. I’m working on becoming a better listener, to not wait in conversations for my turn to speak and not always feel the need to give advice. This is largely inspired by being blessed to have so many fantastic listener friends in my life.
I think this will always be a work in progress, and a particular challenge for me.  Though I am more blessed than ever to have great listeners for friends.

18. Lately I identify most with the idea of joy, though I’m not really sure I could define it for you if you asked.
This has persisted, to the point where joy feels like a core component of my being.  I can only hope that I give it back to the universe in even a fraction of the amount that I receive.

19. At this point in my life I can’t imagine settling because I am intrigued by so many places, people, vocations, and opportunities that I don’t want to commit to just one and risk forsaking the rest.
Of all the random facts in this list, this one has changed the most, and in fact was what inspired me to do this reflection.  Most importantly, settling no longer feels like a bad word.  I have found a place and a person that I want to be with for a very very long time, and while that means I will be putting down roots, it does not mean that I cannot still have adventures and throw myself into opportunities as they present themselves.

20. As much as I have moments of cynicism where it seems as though human beings are destroying everything that is good on this earth, ultimately I love humanity and don’t think I could ever completely leave it behind.
But this is definitely second in terms of most change.  I still love people- I see the good and the beauty in individuals daily and sometimes my soul aches at how wonderful human connection can be.  But I think the planet would be better off without us, really.  We selfishly consume resources far beyond the planet’s means without giving back in equal measure, or even attempting to do so most of the time.  Every species has its era, and it just might be time for ours to begin coming to a close.

21. Namaste is one of my favorite concepts; it means ‘my inner light acknowledges and bows to your inner light’.
Several times I have considered signing all of my emails with ‘namaste’, even the work ones, but thought it might be confusing/spiritually offensive to somebody.  But it’s still one of my favorite concepts, and I may get a tattoo related to it one day.

22. I hope to publish a book one day, and I’ve had several absurd ideas over the years as to what it might be about that have thankfully faded into various journals.
It will not be fiction, as evidenced by my slackings during NaNoWriMo.

23. My idea of what love is has changed quite immensely over the years, and I’m excited to see the depths it will reach as I continue to meet and know people and have new experiences.
Exponential changes to this day, and more to come I think.  Love is deep and wide and so multi-dimensional that trying to contain it to our physical universe seems a travesty.

24. I think my parents are the most fantastic parents that I could have had and I love them dearly, while I simultaneously see the root of several of my insecurities and frustrations toward the world in them.
This too deepens with time, as new points of conflict and convergence emerge.

25. I am constantly being reminded that nothing is permanent, that there is beauty everywhere, and that all is one.
There really is nothing to add to this one.  Namaste, all.

Procrastination.

I’ve been noticing a number of blog posts lately about procrastination, and I think the universe is trying to tell me something.  For while I’ve never particularly classified myself as a procrastinator, I do often have surprising difficulty actually getting to the things I want to be doing.  Because there are emails to check, bread to make, floors to sweep, and a nap to take.

This procrastination, coupled with my near inability to focus on a single thing at a time, results in an occasionally crippling level of inefficiency.  I’m doing work, but it’s not the work I want to be doing, and what’s more I’m likely not doing it well because I’m doing at least two other things at the same time.  Le sigh.

One of the very few non-procrastination, non-multi tasking moments in the day is my morning yoga.  With the sun streaming in through the east facing windows (now a blessed hour earlier, so even when I get up at 7:13 it’s light, but not for long I suppose…) I go through my cat-cow stretches, my four sun salutations, sometimes a series of warrior poses, occasionally other seated poses as the mood strikes me, and always finish with tree pose.  And during the whole process I am centered, focused on the minute changes in my breathing and muscle movement.  When my mind does wander I notice it gently, and almost always am able to return to the poses I am pressing my body into.

Yoga is my time of solitude, of focus, of peace.  But it is only 15-30 minutes of my day.  As to the rest, it’s a toss up really, a mad dash to accomplish something, spend time over tea and in the out of doors as much as possible, and not berate myself too harshly for not accomplishing what I planned for the day.  Slowly but surely I hope to integrate the focus and presence that I experience while doing yoga into the rest of my day’s activities.

Until then, here’s a wonderful episode of Tales of Mere Existence on the subject.

Namaste, friends.

~Lauren

Beautiful things: November.

BIRDS!  The chickadees have been out in full force, joyously announcing the final days of autumn, and I was lucky enough to discover a pileated woodpecker on an oak snag in the golf course on Larpenteur yesterday.
You can’t really tell from the picture, but the pileated woodpecker is over a foot long, in comparison to the 6-9 inch woodpeckers of other sorts.  Grand indeed.

The new drivetrain on my Bridgestone bicycle.  It is so much more efficient and the gear sizing suits my travels.  With a single cog in the front (and, as a result, no front derailleur to get shifted out of wack and generally be a pain) and seven in the back, I can make good time in the flat bike lane of Minnehaha, and summit the Pelham hill on the way to work with relative ease.

Sour cream raisin pie.  I have promised to make it for Thanksgiving, though I am still intimidated by the prospect of whipping up good meringue.  Stories will certainly ensue, post haste.

Old factories and warehouses that are now artist spaces.  I went to a fantastic Halloween party at the Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts, which is housed in an old cookie factory.  They blew glass in the dark, and for $15 one received a handmade glass and unlimited refills of beer.

NaNoWriMo.  I haven’t started writing yet, and it might be a late night in order for me to get my 1,667 words out for the day.  But I’ve committed, and have gone a step further and set up a Tuesday afternoon write-in at the Fireroast Mountain Cafe.  Come join me in writing from 12-3 every Tuesday in November, or just stop by and say hello!

Be well, and enjoy the final vestiges of autumn!

~Lauren