A Change In Context: A Writer Wednesday Post

December 12th, 2012 | Posted by Irene in Essays

Glad To Be Human update–thanks for your patient understanding while the publisher works out yet more details–I am as eager as you– 

To listen to this post, please click here:A Change in Context

Another brief reflection on wabi-sabi this week, the highly useful Japanese aesthetic concept of finding beauty in the impermanent, the worn. Like our New York City signs last week, only this time highly local. And a mark of the feet, not the hand.

We are renovating our third floor –re-organizing the storage of our creative work and making a new studio space, thereby liberating a second floor room for guests.

Wanting to recycle as much as possible, we saved useable parts of the old flooring and our builders salvaged an old porch floor from another job. Once in place, we planned to paint this new/old floor.  But after the cost and effort of preserving these materials, we were disappointed to discover there simply wasn’t enough wood. We would have to buy new flooring.

Rather than dump the old boards, though, we decided to upend the old scruffy, paint-peely porch floor and use it for wainscotting. The change of context is stunning.

Monet Boards, photo & all text
© Irene O’Garden 2012

Instead of a sanded, scraped-down, repainted pretendy-new floor, the worn boards greet you round the top of the stairs, quietly resplendent with subtle colors and textures.  More beautiful than we could have imagined.  An effect we would have  yearned for and tried vainly to achieve.  It’s like entering a corner of Monet.

These boards are humble. They are themselves. Life and human use has made them beautiful. Nothing more need be done, but to wax them and preserve the gift of their patina.

A change in context. I smile at this little domestic parable–the worn, the scuffed, the literally downtrodden shall be lifted up, shall have pride of place in an airy new chapel of art.


Are you inspired by a change of context this week?


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  • Imogene

    Lovely writing and lovely wainscotting! How wonderful to enjoy that kind of aged/ageless beauty inside (versus outside) your home.

  • Linda O’Brien

    Oh, to be a family member(by marriage) i have learned soooooooo much about texture, color and feel. Your brother has shirts that are just now feeling comfortable – 3 years after wearing them (I guess he had hope in my choices of fashion). When we first married, I cleaned out our closet – sent the items to Good Will – and had to go and buy back a couple things including his cowboy boots . That has never happened again! But what is even more encouraging? Our lovely granddaughter Sarah is a “feeler”. I take her shopping and I get ” Sure grandma, it’s cute, but I don’t like the feel” “No I probably won’t wear it”. No O’Brien I know is a slave to fashion= but we are a colorful group = and feel good about it! See you soon.

  • Mark R

    There IS a beauty in the mellowed, aged , and worn… people and things….. Ive always been fascinated in my past work with seniors — the absolute beauty of aged hands — and always surprised to find the hands themselves are SOFT…… very very soft . Held many a hand during a intimate conversation or reminiscence and didn’t always want to let go….

    I was fortunate to view the wainscotting in person…. Its like a truly great modern piece by Rothko or another modernist. … you could find yourself pulling up a chair and just viewing the section…. there is that much to see….So glad you share your unique sight…. and the ability to describe the heart of each viewing…

    • Wonderful images of the soft hands, Mark–Does a song hide there?

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