Wabi-Sabi

When I was a kid, one of the jobs I'd have to do the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter, was polish the silver. We'd fill a basin with warm soapy water, rub some pink goo over the knives and forks and spoons, rub extra hard on the little black spots where tarnish had settled and get in the thread-like grooves, or patina, that had been scratched into the silver. The patina is where the stories of the spoons and forks and knives lived. the patina was the interesting bits of the life of each piece of cutlery. So, twice, maybe three times a year, we'd rub the silver like Aladdin rubbing his lamp, and place the shiny bits on the freshly ironed linen, next to the plates and wine glasses. The company would come, and in those early years, in the years when we wore our nicest dress and the boys wore a tie and polished shoes, the silver haired relations would tell stories and hold their shiny forks and leave their imprint on the touchable pieces of family history.

I found a new word yesterday: Wabi-sabi. Two words, really. Japanese. An approximate meaning I gleaned from Wikipedia is this: imperfections that make something interesting, bring its history forward, if only indirectly; hinting, whispers.

That is, the cracks in the crockery, the stains on the linen and lace tablecloth, the patina on the silver.

Which brings me to this short excerpt from THE NARROW GATE, when Rose discovers her grandmother's attic:

From Chapter Thirty-Three

Here is a treasure trove of history in this dusty room. Sheets cover armchairs, a desk, an old bureau. There is a sled, the kind she's seen in movies, that must have been her father's and uncle's. Boxes of old clothes that weren't supposed to find their resting place here, but did because they were forgotten or outgrown when it was time to get next season's garments down. A desk with an old typewriter covered in a towel is the best find. Black enamel keys with gold lettering, the keys are stiff with disuse, bit the indentation where fingers were to be placed, round with a band of metal on each one, feels so much more important than the plastic electric typewriter her parents have.