Living Wabi Sabi

It is not despite our problems, but because of them that our hearts hold everything we need to be joyful.” Taro Gold

iphone fencev 040 I am going to begin with some honesty today: Our barn is really not a barn. It is only a corn crib disguised as a barn.

After spending sometime with the goats and chickens yesterday, I began feeling like a disgruntled corn crib owner. All I could see were all of the problems, and began picturing everyone else’s perfect barns.  I don’t really know who these perfect barn owners are, but I know their barns are better than mine. My thoughts quickly spiraled off into images of Animal Welfare folks coming down the driveway with their take-em-away truck because they had gotten wind of the goat turds that are intermittently found floating in water buckets and hiding in baking soda dispensers.

I suppose it could be all of those farm magazines I read… If someone was coming to my house to write a story about my farm,  I guess I would scrub that sucker down too, put diapers on all of the chickens and goats, and maybe replace the chicken feed bags that keep the wind out with a real tarp. My barn would probably look pretty darn good, in kind of an Ozarks- hillbilly sort of way.

Now, let’s rewind things a bit, to an important memory.

I could barely take it all in when my daughters and I drove up the long driveway to the old farmhouse on 1500 acres of land, and there it was… the little red barn within walking distance of the house. At the time, I knew nothing about corn cribs, so it was a barn to me. We looked at the house and I was giddy, but not as giddy as when the gentleman told me that the corn crib was apart of the agreement. He slid open the heavy old door and I could do nothing but grin. It was a real old barn with its rafters full of spider webs and the sun shining and wind blowing through the broken panes of glass of the four square windows. My senses overloaded with joy. It’s almost like I could see the chickens roosting in the rafters and the goats bedded down together in the golden straw. It was perfectly imperfect.

This memory began flickering as I was contemplating my barn dilemma at the kitchen table. At that same moment, the mailman drove up our driveway, and hopped out with a package. In that package was a book from a friend titled, Living Wabi Sabi by Taro Gold. There sat in front of me a book about an ancient Japanese Buddhist philosophy centering around “…the oddities, the perfectly imperfect uniqueness of you and me and everything…the value of objects, events, and the entirety of life “as is” unpolished, unpredictable, and natural.” It is a book about the empowerment of imperfection.

The book begins with the author’s grandma telling him, ” You will grow to be even happier than you can possibly imagine today.” She was right. After reading the book that same morning, I felt tremendous joy about who I am and the life that I am living.

There is so much beauty in everything that is imperfect, including you and me. The broken window at the peak of barn is like my anxiety, or the open slats that have to be covered to keep the wind out are like my imperfect body, or the never-ending shit that is everywhere, and I mean everywhere (please be careful  where you put your hand) is like the poo of life that just won’t go away no matter how much you try to scrub it. Scrape away one giant pile of frozen shit one day, undoubtedly there will be a new one soon there after.

I guess the more I love and accept my Wabi Sabi corn crib, the more I can love my Wabi Sabi self.

I am including a video of a group of people in Paraguay, South America that seems to embody the Wabi Sabi philosophy. It’s so beautifully imperfect.


“A meaningful life is made up of a series of daily acts of decency and kindness which ironically add up to something truly great over the course of a lifetime.”

Journal Entry: River Falls, WI

December 11,2008  Yesterday I went into the coop and was startled to see that the baby chicks were not in their new enclosure that Chris had made. I honestly thought they could have been eaten by the big chickens. (That is about as realistic as when I wondered how long chicks need to nurse before they start eating food).

When I first walked into the coop, the baby goats followed me, and they immediately went to the feed bags. They were jumping all over them. I shooed them out and started my search for the chicks.

I started to hear peeping coming from behind the feed bags. The chicks were all huddled up between the bags. The first chick I pulled out seemed fine. The second one, which is our runt, did not. She was limp and barely moving. Every few minutes she would stretch her neck out and open her beak a little. It looked like there was gooey stuff in her mouth. I felt so sad because she had such a difficult start to her life. Her egg was so little. I couldn’t believe that a chicken could be inside there. We knew it was bantam chicken and most likely an Old English.

On a previous day, when I went out to the coop to check for new chicks, that same chick was all curled up in the back of the nesting box, newly hatched, looking very dead. Cranberry, her surrogate mom, was not quite keeping her warm enough. It seemed like she did not even know she was there. She could have been just born. I took her inside the travel trailer, and told the girls she probably wouldn’t make it. We laid her in our makeshift brooder to keep her warm while she passed away. We continued to hold her and talk to her, and then things started to change. Her eyes opened and she started to peep very loud. That is when I knew my assessment of her health was very wrong. Within two hours, she was moving around the brooder and making new friends. It was so exciting to see her transformation.

When I saw her current condition, I was again so certain she would die very soon.  I wasn’t sure what to do with her body because she was still alive, and she was getting trampled when I put her back with the other chicks.

Caroline, Chris and Sabrina came in the coop soon after I had made my discovery. Caroline held the dying baby and I left and went and sat in our warming car. Chris made the decision to put the dying chick with a hen in one of the nesting boxes. The hens name is Bumblebee, a beautiful white Silky who has never had her own chicks. Chris said that when he laid the chick next to Bumbles, she immediately took her wing and pulled the chick underneath her. That is so sweet.  It made me feel better to think of that baby dying warm underneath such a kind hen.

We then went to Minneapolis at about 2:00 for my Chiropractic appointment, and spent some time after at my mom and dad’s house. We returned  home at about 10:00 that night. The girls and Chris rushed out to the coop to see if the baby chick was still alive.  They were very surprised at what they found.

Chris looked in the nesting box that Bumblebee and the baby were in, and found that neither of them were in there. He then searched the nesting box below to makes sure that he hadn’t mistaken which one he put her in. Empty…

Then, they all turned and saw something miraculous There stood the baby chick on top of the feed bags, looking healthy and strong. Chris placed her back with her friends and she took a drink of water and went about her business like nothing had ever happened.

When I went out to the coop today, there she was running around with her seven other buddies. Lessons learned: Never assume anything, and pull someone under your wing every once in a while, even if you don’t know who it is. It could make all the difference in the world.