Thursday, 13 December 2012

Sabi Frozen Indigo

The conversation often turns to Japanese ideas of aesthetics after a few rounds of hot sake in the chilly evenings with friends from overseas. The words Wabi and Sabi are almost worn out. I lifted this definition from some book years ago and never ran across it again.

'Wabi refers to a cricket on a leaf sheltered by a second leaf over the edge of a misty pond, chirping forlornly with no one listening.'

'Sabi can be seen in the dry yellowed curling bottom two leaves of a wild chrysanthemum  in late autumn. The sun barely gives enough heat and the last blossom of the year won't have the energy to open.'

Blandina, Judi and fellow indigo sisters poked holes in the dry dirt in the seed trays and carefully dropped in a few indigo seeds on their way out the door last spring.  The seedlings grew in front of the house and they were watered and cared for throughout the sweltering summer. One good harvest of indigo leaves in August and then they were left to go to seed for next years crop.

The seeds are ready to take but the beauty of the forlorn bitter frozen blue leaves and the wilting chrysanthemum plants amongst them made it hard to uproot them. The birds will find the seeds sooner than later.

 These terms are used for pottery,  lifestyles,  textiles. Sabi is harder to get a direct hit with.  It is nearing the end of an exhausting, eventful and fulfilling year for me. Sabi was ascendant just moments before.  I just watched this youtube of the Little Drummer Boy,  and the spirit of Christmas hit me right in the chest. And good ol' Dylan playing and implying a few roles at once....the singer, the drummer and the king. A tissue in each hand might come in handy for this one.

I'll pick the dried indigo flowers and winnow the seeds tomorrow. Sabi is over for this year. Time for some yuletide spirit in the mountains of Japan.

The 20I3 Spring Indigo Workshops at my Farmhouse in Japan:


  1. yes, the deep emotion of these old holidays still surprise me. you've got it, i think. i love this: "forlorn frozen bitter blue leaves". i could read that phrase every day. thanks.

  2. restrained emotions, restrained beauty.

  3. this time of year, in the Northern Hemisphere, always seems wabi sabi to me. a time for reflection, for remembering.

  4. The colors and quick changes in that video sort of tear your heart out.