A Wabi Sabi Sort Of Democracy

My gardening style has benefited from limitations, like Black Walnut trees overhead that both bring shade, as well as toxins, and therefore not everything likes to grow near one. As such, my plant choices outside in my little in between garden are limited, or one could see it that way. I of course don’t, as for me those conditions are exactly right for what I love, a woodland.

So my little woodland garden out my door is coming along, as wild geraniums leaves poke out of the ground, the Lungwort has begun to flower, and the hosta’s and ferns are yet to unfurl their leaves and fronds, and I watch it all, every day, like an expectant mother, every spring. Did they make it? Are they in the right spot? Should this be moved? What the heck is that?

Scattered along the cement walk I have pottery shards, in a sort of homage to archaeology, er, well BBC’s Time Team in particular. Although, they as well serve to help to retain whatever rain falls, as the area is just underneath the overhang of the roof line and doesn’t get as much rain that is filtered through the trees above.

And so this garden is a collection of broken and discarded, of foreign things, and found by the side of the road things. Everything I have out there came with the garden, or bought locally, like from the annual Gathering on the Green, where every year I wander round and round the tables full of plants from local gardeners, pondering my limited choices. Such is my love of the flawed and the imperfect, I am also fond of limits, as they force you to think outside the box.

Lungwort was a voluntary I found and replanted where I wanted it

Wabi Sabi

Emerging in the 15th century as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all. 

UTNE reader | Wabi-Sabi: The Art Of Imperfection | by Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Now, with that all in mind, as the nosy neighbour up here in Canada, eh, I see that perhaps America’s problem may not be with division, but instead their response to division.

Perhaps it is in the Wests’ tendency towards perfection, that we generally tend to miss the beauty in the flawed, the imperfect union, of some lofty pursuit towards greatness, when greatness only provides but a fleeting glimpse of harmony, and with it’s passing returns us to our same concerns, our same fears.

Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.


To be in harmony one must first collect together many voices.

Wild Geranium bought at the gathering a couple summers ago

That to me is the very essence of democracy, that imperfect union, the idea that there indeed is a certain beauty in our dissension, our conflicts, of discord, and the fault lines weakened by unchecked greed and corruption left ignored shall in time erode, to break us all apart.

Though, think of it as that crack in the bowl, mended together with gold dust, and let’s ponder the metaphor inherent in that reality, that philosophy.

We is a concept, we is a construct, an idea, from certain angles we can be a battle between the proverbial us and them, the other, the unknown. Yet we as it pertains to Democrats, to democracy itself, in the U.S. can be a bone of contention and has become a divisive battleground of ideas, ideologies and values. Some people criticize the Democrats for their infighting, yet, is dissension in the ranks really a bad thing?

I mean, are they all suppose to march in lock step like some kind of automaton? Sing in one voice, believe in one thing, is that what is important?

Throughout history, it is the divided nations that have been conquered, and with that in mind I can see the concern. Yet, there is a fine balance that can be had, between division and the solutions that may rise from that friction. The GOP move in lock step, a party though that has become a pack of liars and sycophants, bowing to the wishes of a corrupt leader.

Democracy is not about singular, it is not about the one, it is about the many. If the many are going to be heard, if those divergent ideas are going to be one day policy, that we has to be choir, not a solo, and understood for what it really is, and what it really means.

Each and every one of those divergent voices that makes up the Democratic party, whether they lean left, or they lean right, or firm in the centre of it all, each one need not be in lock step with their neighbour. Instead, walking at their own pace, fighting for the causes that ring true to their heart, that is what defines a Democrat – or should be what defines them, to my mind.

Fern poking out of the ground.

When harmony is required, each of the voices joins the many, and why be a tenor when you are a baritone?

That is the strength and not the weakness of democracy, of it’s embracing of diversity, on the ground wherever they may be, whether that be Oregon, or New Mexico, New York State, or North Carolina, each has unique concerns, a unique voice, er, accent, and should not those voices each in turn be heard? Appreciated for what they are? Who they are, and what is relevant to them? That is the purpose of those United States, is it not?

Is greed and opulence, riches and power, is all that worth so much that it should be that we turn our heads away?

Some wise one once said that a poor man shames us all, yet in this new world of greedy selfish decadence, that a poor man is instead a loser who deserves nothing, because their skin is the wrong colour, or they kneel to a different god. That those who come to the door seeking sanctuary are now turned away, no room at the inn, and was it not so long ago that this was thought to be a sin?

In those un-united states down yonder, they have made their division an enemy, a fractured nation wedged apart even more by a man only concerned for his own wealth, for his own cronies, to wealth and privilege they kneel, and is systematically breaking down the very checks and balances put in place, ignoring that democracy he is supposed to uphold. A nation founded on hope, a beacon, a new beginning, sinking in a swamp of corruption and chaos, discarding the values and decency once thought to be the essence of what made one presidential.

But, I guess that spring of youth that once defined the place has waned, as it has Trump himself, and with it the earth beneath their feet, poisoned by the very things that sustain it, weighted down by a very uncertain future, and the whims of a toddler in chief whinnying for his binky.

So, maybe the path to mending the rift is a bit of glue and gold dust, which really is an acknowledgement of that imperfect union that has ALWAYs defined America. Embrace divisions, accept dissension, enfolding the foreign, fighting for freedom, a new appreciation of the frailty of that democracy, and the imperfections inherent within us all.

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