Choosing a Wabi Sabi Life

The moon lay on her back in the sky, her thin ivory rim tipped up. Cupped gently in her hollow was the indigo sky, dotted with stars. Two straight lines stitched past the horns of the moon. They were contrails, side-lit by the bright, reflected light. Next to the contrails is the constellation Orion. I always look for it when I walk at night. Often I can just see the belt. Tonight I could see the entire constellation: the powerful Hunter standing next to the river Eridanus with his two hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, fighting Taurus, the bull.

OrionI was walking at night. The sidewalks were deserted. In the distance, I could hear a train whistle calling as it crossed the street grade and raced into the blank and mountainous desert. Who is on the train? Where are they going at night, where will they wake up?

In the next block the intense smell of orange blossom washed over the block walls that provide privacy. I could just see the blossoms on an orange tree. I know the smell from perfumes, but no perfume has such a rich, deep green smell that carries the hope of next summer’s glowing ember oranges. I touched one of the polished, shiny dark leaves. I pulled one of the blossom branches to me, and, making careful that there were no bees in the bunch, touched the flowers to my tongue. The neroli oil washed over my tongue in a sweet and bitter wave. It is as if I had bitten into a perfumed orange. The branch sprang away from me.moon

The houses have their curtains drawn. I could hear faint sounds from the TVs. Someone was watching explosions and laughing. In the next house someone was not making it on American Idol. I kept walking through the shining night air. This was my gift alone.

I have chosen this life–right now it is lonely and hard. But walking through the night with all five senses is a feast I find indescribably life affirming. I feel alive and aware. I am in one moment at a time. It is an enormous gift to see all this, to taste it, touch it, to hear the sounds of the desert at night. I am grateful. The people who are in front of the TV will never know this, but they are satisfied, too. They don’t want to be walking outside in the dark. I’m glad for their comfort and glad for my own experience.

And in that second of peace, I know the heart of wabi-sabi.

Images: Orion:  Moon:

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at