Saturday, April 30, 2011


 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.  

In art there is often an attempt to make permanent an instant of beauty. I've taken pictures of wildflowers and sunsets. Painters and sculptors do the same. But not all beauty can be made permanent. Photos of sunsets seldom really capture the beauty of the sunset, because part of the beauty of the sunset is that it is transient. It changes. 

A wildflower's beauty is also a thing that doesn't last. We have some flowers going here but a lot of the desert bloom is already over. And the flowers higher in the mountains are still to come. Change is inevitable. Even in permanence. 

A friend and I went to a museum several years ago and looked at a still life of strawberries from a couple hundred years ago. The strawberries looked wrong. But the artist had undoubtedly rendered an accurate image of what he saw. The fact was strawberries had changed. They were not the large fruits we are familiar with today. But much smaller berries.

Permanence is an illusion. Part of the beauty of an antique is not its age or the style, but the care that was taken to insure it survived to come down to us now. Even in something “permanent” it is the changes that have created the beauty. Without erosion and other geological changes, the Sierras wouldn't be too much to look at. 

And we also have artists that specialize in transient mediums. Chefs that turn out beautiful meals or cakes, that cannot be fully appreciated unless they are “destroyed”. 

And then we have our performing artists. We have numerous musicians here in town. And they perform at many different venues with a variety of styles. And a live performance is not the same as hearing a CD. Part of the reason a live performance is special is due to the fact that it is not permanent. Even if it's recorded, the next time they perform it will be different.

The same is true of live theatre. The performance of the actors, the instant of time the show is put on, the fact that the same show will never happen again, is part of what makes live theatre enjoyable. We can revel in the transience.
The Japanese use the term wabi-sabi to refer to this aspect or type of beauty. Beauty that exists due to impermanence or transience. (It also refers to beauty found in incompleteness or imperfection.) 

So go out and enjoy Spring. Where beauty is generated by change itself. Go out and take in a live show. Music, open mic, or theatre. We have plenty of all of these going on here in town, many listed here in The Loop. Take part in the culinary arts, either by eating a good meal, or cooking one.

Things change. And the very fact that they do, can help you appreciate the world, in a whole new way.


  1. This article will be added to my list of favorites. I shared what you wrote with a friend of mine at the Women's Empowerment Group today. She has been isolating herself too much and I told her she is missing out on so much beauty out there in the world. I make it a goal everyday to find beauty in something to make me smile. That's not hard to do.She was inspired by your ideas. Wabi-Sabi

  2. I very much enjoy your articles.