Iowa Alumni Magazine | June 2005 | Reviews

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

By Carol Harker
The Wabi-Sabi House by Robyn Griggs Lawrence,71BA (Clarkson Potter/Publishers)

If you see dignity in an old milking stool, sense rhythms of grace in the squeak of a worn rocking chair, admire the wild beauty of a single stalk of goldenrod, favor a hand-thrown pottery mug even though it’s chipped, enjoy plunging your hands into a sudsy sink of dishes, then you already know the power of wabi-sabi.

In The Wabi-Sabi House, Robyn Griggs Lawrence, editor in chief of Natural Home magazine, sketches the development of wabi-sabi principles in Japanese culture, showing readers how they might adapt elements for their own living. Loosely translated as “humble beauty,” wabi-sabi incorporates echoes of Zen spirituality to create a nurturing aesthetic.

As Lawrence explains, “wabi-sabi is not a decorating ‘style’ but rather a mind-set. There’s no list of rules; we can’t hang crystals or move our beds and wait for peace to befall us.” The principle instead relies on the serenity of living modestly, finding satisfaction in spare simplicity, and focusing mindfully on the present. It comes from letting go of needless clutter and the penchant for perfection; it means stepping off the accelerating treadmill of daily living to luxuriate in a cup of tea with a friend or to watch a hawk swoop through the sky on invisible wind currents.

In The Wabi-Sabi House, Lawrence provides plenty of gentle guidance to help readers create their own refuge from a world overrun with commitments, information, and stuff. Her book is well-timed, an elixir for the overwhelmed.