The joy of the transient

In the spirit of wabi-sabi I decided to really pay attention to transient and simple beauty today.

Eldest One calling me in to her room in a flurry of excitement because two daffodils had opened in her flower arrangement. The taste of maple syrup on little jewels of raspberry with crisp, fluffy pancakes.  Little One proudly smiling as she gave me a card adorned with tissue paper flowers.  The slowly disappearing heart shape traced into the milk and chocolate on my cappuccino.


While running along the quayside, I tried tuning out that internal voice which says I really need to stop now and to focus on the natural world around me.  The first sprinkling of white blossom on a tree poking through the pedestrian bridge.  Silvery ripples traced in the water behind a swan.  Daisies just beginning to peep open in the grass.  The feeling of the icy wind on my cheeks.

A very peaceful way to enjoy a run – maybe it is going to be an important part of my gap year after all.

Wabi-Sabi at the Welcome Cafe

Tulips are quietly fading in a vase on a shelf.  Little One is being noisy and wobbling precariously on her chair, and I feel conscious of all the other people around us wanting to relax with their cups of tea.  We’ve come to shelter from the cold and to share scones, cream, jam, tea and hot chocolate.  I feel aware my heart’s not fully in it today.

You’re used to grey England Skies

Cloudy days, colder nights

And your heart’s not right

On the way home, I’m reminded of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, a kind of unique beauty of the imperfect and transient. The fading vase of tulips or the ‘grey England Skies’*

I was thinking how this concept could help me to appreciate moments of imperfect beauty more.  Reading the more detailed description of a wabi-sabi approach to life and aesthetics I was really interested to find out that ‘wabi’ used to be associated with sadness and loneliness, and ‘sabi’ with desolation but the meanings are now transformed to a way of looking at life which accepts transience and looks for beauty in the faded.

In my gap year there are going to be moments of pleasure and beauty which are inherently transient.  I want to really live in those moments rather than grieving their passing.  In myself I feel I need to look for the deeper beauty in a life that has felt weathered and eroded by mental illness.  I still need to learn more about appreciating moments of joy amidst the challenges of parenting a Little One with learning difficulties.  I’m planning to go back to the Welcome Cafe and contemplate those tulips some more, maybe with a notepad and my camera phone.

*Lyrics from England Skies by Shake Shake Go

About that pizza

An inauspicious Thursday evening

There was something about that pizza right from the start.  It surprised me with its beauty, all hand-stretched bubbles and micro-mushrooms.  No tomato – just the fragrance of truffle oil and a scattering of rocket.

As we talked over that half a pizza, I told you about my fears for the future and my deep loneliness.  My feeling of my career having been stolen from me by mental illness.  My plans to volunteer with a mental health trust, my worries of never finding that thing, that elusive vocation which would satisfy me and make me feel whole again.

My beautiful friend, you turned it on its head.  Wonderful and unfamiliar like my tomato-less pizza.  You wondered if I could spend a year on enjoyment, on pleasure, on finding out about me again.  Beauty rather than darkness.  Could I take a gap year from obligation to any previous map of what my life should look like if I hadn’t been ill?

Somehow that half a pizza persuaded me that I really, really wanted to try.