Wabi Sabi Wonderful

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I arrived home from Manhattan to a very sweet girl bounding down the stairs. No matter how many times I tell her, Maya seems unable to walk up and down our staircase. Like it is a race, she scampers here or there in slippery socks numerous times a day, giving me a conniption. On this instance though, seeing her run down the stairs to greet me excitedly was nothing but joy. I embraced her before she reached the bottom step, into a big hug she jumped, so that her feet were off the ground. First thing was first, before the days news was shared, I had to apologise to her because I had left the house a little cross this morning at the girls for bickering over a board game. We had made some peace before I left, but it was a stern resolution, not as gentle as I would have liked, so more kindness was needed to acknowledge wrong behavior, and pat the situation away completely.

The morning had been a bit of a flurry, as it is not every day for me, that I have to get up and be ready to attend a meeting at the J.Crew corporate office in Manhattan. A combination of excitement and nerves, got the better of me when the children began to raise voices at one another over rolling the dice. “You rolled a four, not a five!” Maya scolded her sister from the bedroom. Elle has been experimenting with sneak cheating, in the form of trying to slip in a higher number on her role if she thinks she has the chance. It is an innocent experiment, and when the dice number is questionable because it is on an angel, it is one’s natural inclination to ‘choose’ the highest number. Anyway choosing has led to ‘maybe?’ cheating and it is causing a stir between the sisters, especially since Maya taught Elle this, and so while I should have been using this opportunity to guide them into positive resolution and decision-making, I yelled from my bedroom, “That is it, you two are banned from Ludo! I will not have this daily squabble in our house over the numbers on the dice!”

Suddenly it was 8:30am, only 30 minutes before I was to catch the train, and I was still deciding what pants to wear. I really needed some peace and quiet. Life can pile up, and in that moment I was feeling a little bit stressed.

This week my mother had been sending me random emails that are a good example of her strong character. When Mum sends me these emails, I can carry some pressure around for days while working out how best to deal with them and meet my mother’s needs. One email included images from a coroner report of when my aunt, my mother’s beautiful younger sister died in a car accident while driving to the beach with her boyfriend. No-one in the family had ever seen these images before, which Mum suddenly felt the need to officially dig up 37 years later, and I was worried Mum would send them to Grandma and that would break Grandma’s heart. Mum followed this email a few days later with another email, telling me she had bought tombstones for two past generation babies that had died in the family, and had been buried without tombstones, and she was very annoyed at the family and people in general for not talking about and recognising the deaths of these babies more openly at that time in society. Yes, this is my real life, and I love it for all of that, I but I will tell you, my mother is really something! All of this involves some kind of dialogue where I have to say “Yes Mum, people should feel they can process loosing a baby openly, but for some the process is private, but yes, some need the feeling unearthed, yes I understand.” It all takes so much thought and consideration, and my mother is always making me think about this stuff. How things were, how they could have been and how I can be so that things are better in the future.

In addition to this, I was a little bit tired from having stayed up late reading about Wabi Sabi after a sweet exchange with Kim of Willaby Clothier about the journey creating the beauty, no matter what the outcome is. It really is all about the journey, and we have to enjoy the path. We all know this, but instead of knowing this lesson well enough to have better control of my senses this morning, with some discomfort from my mother bothering me, and a late night, and getting ready for the J.Crew meeting, the girls fighting turned my excitement completely to nervous, and I exploded. Being the wonderful daughter that she is, Maya pretty much ignored my fit and said “Mummy you had better put some pants on and go.”

Indeed Maya was right. I needed to decide on some pants and go! I am pretty sure I am not the only person who would have to give some thought when deciding what to wear into a J.Crew meeting. After my 12 months stint of ‘not buying new clothes’ last year, my wardrobe is pleasantly basic and worn, but since I am very particular about what goes with what, when it comes time to go somewhere important or special, I can be heard muttering, “Ah, these shoes just don’t go!” Luckily for me, Emily of Mabo sent me a new pair of Ace & Jig pants from her soon to open bricks and mortar Boutique (which hasn’t been announced yet publicly friends, so I am really sharing the gossip!) and I knew if I wanted to feel fresh and comfortable, I had to wear the Ace & Jig pants. Perhaps all the rushing around I orchestrated on purpose so that I did not have time to really decide and as I ran out the door to catch the train, I grabbed my gardening jacket. I was denying the cold snowy weather of the day before, but knew I needed something for warmth. My gardening jacket is always my favorite, and when I don’t know which jacket to wear, and I feel like I need good luck, it *pops* out of the cupboard like magic. The reason it has become my gardening jacket is because it is so worn out and old, that it is fraying at the cuffs, and the fabric is thin and discolored and torn, but the reason it is magic is because my Aunt sewed this jacket, by herself when she was 16 years old, the quilting, the lining, toggles, all hand done. My Aunt passed away in the mentioned car accident two years after making this jacket, and when my Grandmother gave it to me in my early 20’s, I knew the sentimental value was great. This jacket represents all the gifts my family have given me. I have worn this jacket so much that I have almost worn it out. I often question whether or not it is even fit to wear in public anymore, and as I ran down the street to meet the train I was thinking “Why on earth am I wearing my gardening jacket into J.Crew?” Then a little later as my nerves had calmed and I sat on the train, looking at the cuffs, and studying the inner pocket to see the original color next to the faded exterior, it struck me, oh yes, this jacket is perfect, this jacket is Wabi Sabi… and like the beauty of Wabi Sabi itself, my late night studies, and having a crazy mother, and daughters bickering over rolling the dice made total sense.

Wabi Sabi is not something you can replicate, it is unique. It is the appreciation of ingenious integrity, it is finding value in objects for their evolution, of what something started as, and what it becomes. The value or beauty is gained as much in the journey as the outcome. Anything that happens on the journey, is as it should be. It is a sense of something being perfect, without any definition of what perfect is. It is something pleasing that just seems to happen, and for whatever reason, it is right and good. Westerners often want to use the word imperfect as comparison to perfect too many times while describing Wabi Sabi… but imperfect does not work, because if you truly sense Wabi Sabi, the word imperfect does not enter your mind. You don’t think or say, “That is perfect even though it is imperfect.” you just feel Wabi Sabi all over.

So off I went to the city feeling Wabi Sabi, and happy about that. The journey to reach this meeting had been long and drawn out, 3 months had passed since Ashley Sargent Price the creative director of Crewcuts had first been in touch, and with much anticipation, I was about to meet her!

The J.Crew corporate office is in a very smart location, and while you can likely find it on google, with respect for security, I will not go into great detail, other than to say, it is awesome, fancy and huge, and most definitely one of the places you would want to be if you were going to work in an office building in Manhattan. As is my peculiarity, after going through security, I forgot to get my visitor pass, so they called me back, and then I accidentally took the wrong elevator and went to Facebook instead of J.Crew. In hindsight I wished I could have used that opportunity to go into Facebook (who also own Instagram) and discuss a responsibility to help #normalizebreastfeeding. Any opportunity to fight for this cause, I am in! So I took the elevator back down from Facebook floor, and then hopped in another elevator and arrived at the chic, collector art filled office of J.Crew.

As hoped, the meeting went really well, and I adored Ashley, who I noted instantly very successfully pulls off the current trend in lipstick. I am not sure how I know it is the latest trend in lipstick, because I don’t own or wear a skerrick of make-up, but these things I guess you just know. With a warm introductory hug, our conversation began with motherhood. I loved being there in that moment, there was so much to take in. I would have liked to be a little mouse and just scurry around spying all day. Not because I am a spy, but because I would have liked to observe unobserved. My overall sense of the space was that I felt like J.Crew is really progressive and open. But also, it is what it is. A huge corporate company that employees thousands of people, one way or another. It is a company that puts clothes in all our wardrobes. J.Crew is massive, and powerful.

In the way that I am always thinking of others (as well as myself) used the opportunity to converse with Ashley about some of my especially lovely designer friends, with much “Oooing and aahhing” over Babaá sweaters. I don’t own I lot, but what I do own I love, so if you see me walking down the street, I will likely be wearing Ace & Jig pants and Babaá top. I wear almost the same thing every day. Last year we were broke, and I spent so much time wishing for better quality clothes, that when I received my first paycheck from Taproot Magazine  just like a teenager, I went and spent it all on clothes! We never factored an income from me into our budget because I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mother, but now, for the most part any money that I do make is a bonus to spend on fun things (or if we still are broke, is used to pay taxes).

Ashely and I could have chatted all day. I really admired her work as a Creative Director, and all too soon our meeting came to an end. I very much look forward to sharing how we go on to work together in the future. With a sense of cherishing the opportunity, we both agreed whole heartedly, “Let’s take it slow and not be in a rush, let’s do it right, and make the best of it!”

I left feeling a little in wonder, like I had been given a gift, that had no distinguishing shape, or weight or color, or texture… I had been given something but there was nothing to hold, nothing to speak of and it was not defined, and I can’t describe it, but yes, something is there, something is going to happen.

As I stepped off the train, back in New Jersey, at the stop near our house, I wished the conductor a lovely afternoon, and as I turned my head to make my way home, I could see Cam walking towards me along the train platform. In a burst of unexpected happiness I ran to him and wrapped my arms around him. He had come to meet me at the station, to welcome me home, to embrace my efforts. My luck in life seemed to double in that moment as I felt incredible gratitude for an amazing experience, but more importantly I had someone who loves and respects me to share it with. This small gesture from my husband honored me. Cam and I walked home hand in hand, he held me firmly by his side so I remembered to walk slowly, savoring each step on the path. As he opened the front door he announced to the girls, floors above “Mummy is home.” Loud and clear and with a thud, thud, thud, more love galloped down the stairs and embraced me.

“Mummy we have been gardening while you were gone!” Maya said as I put her down from my arms. “Come and have a look at what we did!” she said exuberantly taking my hand. As a stood at the kitchen window, looking out to our yard. There before my eyes was a little rock path and a sign sitting on the ground and leaning on a large rock.  A real sign, an actual pieces of wood with words on it. I had painted this sign one day in a fit of frustration. I was really annoyed with our neighbors on the right, because they had spoken to the girls in a matter of fact way for sprinkling bird seed on their driveway. Their driveway is very smooth and clean and the birds could easily see it, the girls were in a lovely state of play and what ended up happening was that this neighbor gave the girls a lengthy explanation, to stay off their driveway because they might accidentally get run over when they drive in and out, and don’t put bird seed on their driveway because they might get rats. We actually ‘like’ these neighbors, but I don’t relate to them. Once when we were on vacation, they cut large branches off our trees while we were away, without talking to us about it first, because they were worried the branches would fall on their house. I guess they did it while we were away because they were worried we might say we did not want them to cut such big branches off our trees. “The bird seed might attract rats” was the last straw for me. In a pinch of inherited madness (which is actually very handy for making change, if directed properly), I went down to the basement and painted a positive affirmation sign, and nailed it to the tree so that the neighbors might be more open. Now when Cam saw this he told me I was being crazy and passive aggressive, and he took the sign down and put it back in the basement. I had to agree with him, and I blame this behavior on my mother, and I am glad I have a sensible husband to let me know when I have crossed the sanity line. The sign was great, but the intention was really to annoy my neighbors. Anyway, on this day of all days, while I am away the children did not do school work with their father, he sent them outside to play for hours on end undisturbed, and as my daughters are my daughters, they get to work, doing something. Then as soon as I get home, they have to show me something. Beaming with pride over a job well done, it was Maya’s priority to take me straight to the window to see what they had created. A small but noticeable, two-sided stone garden path had been made, leading to the entrance of their tree house. At the end of the path, where the stones stopped and the treehouse foliage started, there sat the wooden sign that I had painted for the neighbors wellbeing. The girls had found it in the basement, and spontaneously decided to include it in their gardening.

Some kind of beautiful lightness of being, like when you whiteness a shooting star crossing the night sky, lifted me. I was standing there basking in big wishes and wondering if it would all come true. As the days events swirled around in my head in a mixed up jumble of why, and what and when and where and who and really the biggest, question…. how? How am I going to do this? There before me was that sign I had made about a year ago. With a few simple words, and some hippy flowers painted in white on a scrap piece of wood sitting in our garden. Hitting me in the heart, was a sense of life’s beauty. “Oh my goodness, it is perfect Maya!” I said, I love what you have done!” Divinely placed by two little free-spirited girls, I stood there, reading my own sign. Let go of fear, set yourself free …. Ahhh, I marveled, shaking my head. This is little rocky path, this is my way to the light.

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19 thoughts on “Wabi Sabi Wonderful

  1. Kirsten, I love every single part of this blog post! But the comment I was composing in my head was getting sooo long. I wish I could just have a conversation with you in person! Congratulations on your collaboration with JCrew, it all sounds so exciting.

  2. Is this an April fools post? All these years of you preaching about independent designers, organic, ethically-made clothing? I guess when money calls, you just have to sacrifice your ideals.

  3. Well for starters I don’t preach, I support ethical designers enthusiastically, and J.Crew have not offered me any money, and I don’t actually do things for money. I do things because I am moved to. I like J.Crew, and feel they have great potential as an American giant clothing retailer to set an example. J.Crew have a whole range (which is expanding constantly) called Garments for Good in Crewcuts. The Edun line, is made entirely in Africa, under fair trade conditions, so it employs local people who want to do that kind of work and 100% of the proceeds, which means no profit to J.Crew, but 100% of the money, goes to the same local African Orphanage. I am in a wonderful situation where J.Crew have approached me and are saying how can we work together? When I work out a way that I am comfortable working with them I will proceed. I am grateful that I have the ability to think of interesting ideas and it has attracted a large company like this, and now, hopefully with time, I will be able to execute something so that I can help others, and spread a positive energy. Your comment seems like it comes from a strange place, it was neither supportive or friendly, and made assumptions about my character. Good for you for speaking your mind, but sorry it did not land well. And I will add also, this blog post offered so much more than that. I truly hope you are open enough that you took away something beautiful, this is my life, and share because I like sharing. Your judgement is a representation of you, not me.

  4. Oh thank you Anthea, I wish I could chat too, chatting is so much easier, and yes that lovely dimension of seeing expressions! Yay for imagined chats. I really appreciate you kind supportive comment, I am not sure what is going to happen with J.Crew yet, but we shall see! Life you know, I am just so happy with the journey to this point, so much more than I ever imagined. Happy Easter to you! xoxo

  5. I have been reading for a little while now and want to thank you for writing such beautiful, honest blog posts. I also love looking through your instagram account… especially at photos of your lovely long hair (please do share any tips you have on hair care!).
    Amy xx

  6. Thank you so much Amy, I appreciate your kind words, so much! Thanks for reading and following along. As for my hair, I think genes is largely responsible for my hair. I wash it about twice a week, using a natural/organic shampoo from wholefoods. Nothing fancy. I do not color it, or blow dry it. I don’t own a hair drier, and let it air dry. I get a trim about once a year. Sometimes I just trim it myself. I brush it about once a day. If it is windy or dry weather I braid it. Leaving it be seems to keep it healthy 🙂 and as I said, some kind of good hair genes 🙂

  7. Dearest Kirsten,

    Thank you so much for sharing so much of your life, for your honesty and grace. That’s all I came here to say. You don’t know me but I truly hope to meet you some day in person.

  8. Kirsten, your blog post is honest, thought provoking and inspiring. You are a good person with a good heart. You do so much good in the world, don’t let negative, hurtful comments distract you from what you do.

  9. dear kirsten, if only i were as eloquent with words…loved all and every bit of this, i sighed, yipped, eeked, winced, rejoiced along with you, but mostly, i felt you, and all your beauty coming through. can i share some of my favorite words with you? (and with karen above) because i am part navajo/apache and for the deeply lovely meaning…

    May the Sun bring you new energy by day.
    May the Moon softly restore you by night.
    May the Rain wash away your worries.
    May the Breeze blow new strength into your being.
    May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.
    ~ Apache Blessing

    xxx lori

  10. As a mom to two young daughters, I love and am inspired (daily) by your instagram and am only now getting the chance to read your blog posts, which are profoundly much more than blog posts! Listen, stay true to your instinct and wisdom – there is so much negativity and conformity out there and that will never change. Your mom sounds like she’s going through something heavy of her own, probably contemplating her own death ( as morbid as that sounds). Keep love and understanding in your heart when reading her words. I lost my own sister prematurely, which profoundly has altered my psychology. As for JCrew, few are willing to see the ways that JCrew is becoming more of a champion for independent creative minds than a corporate brand. And this is because of people like you who harness within themaelves the power to create a profound shift in perspective. Hold steady and know that you are part of a much bigger solution.

  11. Hi Martha,
    I love your name “Marhta runs” it is like the insta account name my daughter started “Maya climbs trees” (which I ended up taking over). You are absolutely right about my mother processing death. My mother carries a lot of pain, physical and emotional, and thinks about dying and wants to die. It is heavy, and has been her burden a long time, and at times is my burden also. My mother is amazing, but her life is hard. I do try and stay open and supportive to her, but it is a test some days. I have learnt sadly that boundaries have to be created sometimes for self protection and wellbeing, and when it is setting boundaries with your mother over her suffering, it is very challenging. Thank you for your wise words over J.Crew too. You put it perfectly. Thank you, you are a smart, insightful, feeling women Martha. Thank you for writing. Yours words were a gift to me today. Kirsten

  12. Oh Lori, If only I could knit 🙂 ha! I admire you so. Thank you for appreciating my writing, thank you for reading. Your words to me were also all of that, you know how to say just what I needed to hear, thank you. I love the blessing you shared, it resonates with me, and hopefully others, so clearly. Yesterday I went to the woods to clear my energy, and I sat and leaned against a pine tree in the sunshine. It was so windy, I could feel the tree swaying, on my back. The life of wind, the life of the tree, the life force, it filled me… I feel this blessing. Thank you, thank you.

  13. Thank you Sarah, thanks for coming here to say that! Meeting would be so lovely! Thank you.

  14. Hello Sweet Clare, you are such a sweet soul Clare. Thank you for your kind words, of support and encouragement. I look forward to seeing you in the park next, and I will give you a big hug! xoxo

  15. Your posts are always such a compelling read Kirsten and I echo the sentiments of Lori, above. I really love that I “feel” so much of you through your writing. It is also so interesting that you touched on wabi sabi as I was just introduced to this concept this week through Jodi Wilson of Practising Simplicity. I think I need to read a bit more. Thanks again. Joelle xx

  16. Thanks Joelle, you comment was much appreciated! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! Yes Wabi Sabi seems to be the bees knees right now! yay for that! xoxo

  17. Wow, I am amazed, and filled to the brim with inspiration to be a better person and mother dear Kirsten. Thank you ever so much for sharing the rituals of your life and for showing your real self .. I find it to be deeply moving. Thank you and I am ever so happy to have met you here. The positive energy and thoughts that you generate are contagious. Best of luck on this new and exciting venture and I know it will turn out to be grand..as I know that everything you touch turns to gold..the kind that warms you from within

  18. Hi Kirsten, Just wanted to say that you are such an inspiring person and I love getting a glimpse into your world through your pictures and your writing. You have such an honest grace about the way that you tell stories about your life. I also have a complicated relationship with my mother and boundaries are so hard. Your honesty about your own mother and the grace with which you handle it is helpful to hear. Sometimes its nice to just know I’m not alone in that! Really, I loved everything about this post.
    xo, Sarah

  19. Hi Kirsten 🙂 Your blog is beautiful and I think you write very well. Like Martha, I also wanted to make a comment about your mother, who I think probably reads your blog? With seven children of my own, almost twelve grandchildren, and an elderly and ill mother who has also always been as passionate and original in her thinking as your mother sounds to be, I can’t help hoping that we can all be as kind to one another as we hope others will be with us along the way, and through the different seasons of our lives. I didn’t have an easy upbringing; it was very difficult, with a lot of problems, and my relationship with my mother hasn’t always been easy. But the truth is that so much of what’s good in me is from her. Many of the good things she taught me are intrinsic to the way that I have lived. Most of all, I know that I have a loving husband and wonderful children that are my greatest blessing – something that she hasn’t always had, which might have made all the difference. I don’t like to think of your mother’s hurt over what has been written above. I’m sure that wasn’t your intent. But a mother’s heart sings or breaks too easily according to the words and actions of her children. I’d love to have you share with us some of your more positive thoughts about your mother? I’m guessing that at least some, if not much, of your creativity, your passion to accomplish good, appreciation for beauty, concern for others and for nature, etc., might have been taught or inherited from her? I know my mother will pass away soon, and I want to make sure that I honor her as I should while she’s still here. I want to know that I’ve been the best daughter I can be, and have not added to her burdens. I wish you all the best with your blog, your beautiful family, your interesting endeavors, and your happiness.

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