Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Wabi Sabi Of Old Barns

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I adore shabby barns. And the worse condition they’re in, the more they appeal to me. I didn’t know how to describe the feelings that these weathered buildings rouse in me until Debra’s comment “...clearly, you love the wabi sabi of old barns.”

And there it was. Finally. The clarification. And enlightment. Wabi-sabi.


What is wabi-sabi, you ask? Well, I looked it up and found a fabulous article that clearly explains it. I have included a few excerpts between images of barns I photographed that I hope you will enjoy as much as I did.


“Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered - and it reveres authenticity above all.”


“Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet - that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.”


“Wabi stems from the root wa, which refers to harmony, peace, tranquillity, and balance. Generally speaking, wabi had the original meaning of sad, desolate, and lonely, but poetically it has come to mean simple, unmaterialistic, humble by choice, and in tune with nature. Someone who is perfectly herself and never craves to be anything else would be described as wabi.”


“A wabi person epitomizes Zen, which is to say, he or she is content with very little; free from greed, indolence, and anger; and understands the wisdom of rocks and grasshoppers.”


“Sabi by itself means 'the bloom of time'. It connotes natural progression - tarnish, hoariness, rust - the extinguished gloss of that which once sparkled. It's the understanding that beauty is fleeting.”


“The word's meaning has changed over time, from its ancient definition, ‘to be desolate’, to the more neutral ‘to grow old’. By the thirteenth century, sabi's meaning had evolved into taking pleasure in things that were old and faded. A proverb emerged: ‘Time is kind to things, but unkind to man’."


Sabi things carry the burden of their years with dignity and grace: the chilly mottled surface of an oxidized silver bowl, the yielding gray of weathered wood, the elegant withering of a bereft autumn bough. An old car left in a field to rust, as it transforms from an eyesore into a part of the landscape, could be considered America's contribution to the evolution of sabi. An abandoned barn, as it collapses in on itself, holds this mystique”.

An abandoned barn. A beautiful sight to me.


I am obviously a lover of the Japanese art - or rather, mind-set - of wabi-sabi, which has been a huge part of me as far back as I can remember. Even as a young child, I was fascinated and charmed by old churches, crumbling stone houses, decaying machinery left in fields, rust, rotted wood, wells that are falling apart, old ships and boats, aged lighthouses, erosion, rusty garden tools and so on. I’ve always loved all this, but never knew how to put it in words. And certainly never imagined that there was an actual term for it. Until now.


So, thank you, Debra, for putting a name to this. Wabi-sabi. Such a cool term, too.


I have taken dozens of barn images in the past month, and I will share more of them with you in future posts. I hope you enjoyed today’s ‘wabi-sabi’ barns.

Read the rest of the informative article about wabi-sabi here.

16 comments:

  1. I love these photos, Martha. I'd never heard of wabi-sabi but I love the term and the meaning behind it. It expresses perfectly the emotional pull of imperfect things on our psyche.

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    1. It sure does explain it. These types of things are very appealing to me. I had no idea there was such a cool term to describe it. But there it is.

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  2. You had me until "Liver spots". I'm not that "wabi-sabi"! ha!
    Lovely images. I'm all for old barns. But I don't care for deserted ones. That makes me sad.
    m.

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    1. Haha...yes, the liver spots. I can't say that was my favourite part either. Deserted barns are a little sad, but they are still lovely on their own.

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  3. I'm glad that "wabi-sabi" resonates with you, Martha! We were driving around rural Alberta this weekend and it was wall-to-wall wabi-sabi old barns and houses! I'm still surprised at how many we saw. A farmer once told me that he left old buildings standing as a sign of respect for the contribution they and their former owners made to the development of the land. The old structures are allowed to "retire" and erode away naturally.

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    1. If I'd been going through that rural area, it would take me forever to get from point A to point B. I'd be stopping constantly to take photos. I love that story from the farmer. That is beautiful. I've noticed a lot of barns and old structures in the rural areas around here left to erode away naturally. It's a lovely sight.

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  4. Beautiful photos, love the barns and landscape and sky! Looks a bit similar to where I grew up. Love what Debra said! And yes also a little sad.

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    1. You must have had a lot of room to roam and play. I imagine your imagination was quite active.

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  5. I'm just a country girl, I like things that have been used by people from the past and there is a beauty in it. Nice to know that another country on the other side of the world has a name for it!

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    1. We discover amazing things from different cultures if we take the time to look!

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  6. I love wabi sabi so much I named my business after it!

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  7. wow Martha, these shots are amazing. I can see myself just running down the prairie ;-)

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    1. Yes, that's what feeling these areas give you. Big open fields that make you feel so carefree!

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  8. Wabi-sabi.....thank you Martha for sharing this way of thinking and also these absolutely beautiful photos of barns. These could make a great calendar....yes?

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    1. I never thought of a calendar, but that sounds great! Thank you. Wabi-sabi is now my new favourite term :)

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