Saturday Snapshot: Wabi-Sabi (1)

To put in very simple terms, the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi refers to finding beauty in the withered, aging, destroyed, juxtaposing beauty and sadness.

This notion came to me in the past few days as I surveyed the ruins of the devastating flood now almost two months later. Landscapes had been altered, what once were the healthy homes of birds now destroyed. And yet, from the fallen, a sense of beauty arose.

Here are some photos I took yesterday of the area where I once saw the Merganser family. Remember those baby Mergansers wearing masks heading to the masquerade party?

This is the exact spot where I spotted them before the flood:

Where have all the Mergansers gone?

Wooded area now flattened:

Down & flooded out 1Altered landscape:

Altered landscapeDebris wrapped around tree like an armour of quiet resilience:

Debris wrapped around tree trunk

Wounded spirit:

Wounded SpiritWithered, but with colour:

WitheredBroken, but with character:

Broken, with characterMost important of all… life shooting out from the ruins:

Flowers shooting out of the ruins

Robin out in the sunDowny Woodpecker

Flicker flying out***

More Wabi-sabi’s to come in upcoming Saturday Snapshot, hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. Click to see what others have posted.


All photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, please do not copy or reblog.


Published by


If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

53 thoughts on “Saturday Snapshot: Wabi-Sabi (1)”

  1. Love these photos (and concept of wabi sabii) of finding such beauty within and without the changes created from the damaging flood.


  2. We all need Wabi Sabi in our lives, a different definition of beauty. We can treasure what is battered and old. As a person who is clearly showing my weathering, I love this concept.

    I love how you show that nature is always renewing itself. Thanks for posting these beautiful and profound photos and descriptions.


  3. I can’t believe I haven’t heard that term before… It pretty much defines my own work up to now. Hmmmmm

    Beautiful photos. There is such a feeling that comes with watching Nature reclaim destruction. It is such a reminder that nothing is permanent.

    Thoughtful post as always….


    1. Michelle,

      You’re right. Your art is a collection of Wabi-Sabi’s. Actually, I first learned of this term from a TIME magazine article about the film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. If you’re interested, click on the link and check that out. It’s an inspiring article in which the filmmakers tried to use the Wabi-Sabi concept for the set design to create the mood and setting.


  4. Wow … it does take a long time for the effects of flood or fire to be worn down and replaced with new growth … it’s heartening to know that new growth comes quickly and creatures find food and refuge in the piled up debris of the flood.

    And yes, there is beauty in the destruction …


    1. Susan,

      Not that we relish the destruction, but that in the saddest of events, we can still see some positives. Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us your thoughts.


    1. laurelrainsnow,

      I’ve taken so many photos these few weeks, amidst the devastation, yes, there’s beauty. But my heart do go out to those who are left homeless… people and birds.


    1. Christine,

      This one is much worse than the one we had in I think 2005, when it was named a ‘hundred year flood’. I don’t know what this one is called now. Seems like we’re living hundreds of years in a few months.


  5. The shot with the debris wrapped around the tree is something! Water has so much force and can be devastating so quickly and without warning. Love that last bird shot!


    1. Ellen,

      You see from the height of the debris, you can tell how high the water went. There are many trees wrapped around with debris like that. But this one seems to have the most character.


  6. I bought a children’s book by the same title (Wabi Sabi) this summer for my Japanese Literature Challenge. It was a new concept to me, and a very lovely one. Americans are not very good, generally speaking, about finding the beauty in something ravaged or aging. Yet the older I become, the more beauty I find in the “imperfect”. It gives me a lot of peace to accept that concept. No, to embrace it.


    1. Bellezza,

      I’d love to hear what you have to say about that children’s book. It’s interesting how they’d intro. children to this concept. Also, if I ever have the time to do another JLC, it would be have to be Kawabata’s Beauty and Sadness. That title has long intrigued me. And I agree, the older we get, the less a ‘perfectionist’ we’ve learned to become.


  7. What a great post Arti, Wabi Sabi is an interesting concept, one I’d heard of before, but not fully appreciated the meaning. I particularly love your bird shots- that last one is especially fantastic.


    1. Louise,

      That’s a Northern Flicker. And there were so many there… Flickers, Robins, Sparrows, … love their chirpings and joyous sounds among the ruins.


    1. Nise,

      This time it’s not only watching on the TV screen, but we could actually feel threatened by the water. It’s actually quite scary seeing its force and speed.


    1. Diane,

      You’re absolutely right. It’s very sad… there are those who have lost their homes, and all that they have, mementoes, their livelihood, everything. Not just in our city, in other smaller towns too. But visiting nature, I was encouraged to see new lives sprouting out. And oh, the birds were everywhere, chirping away… dancing among the ruins.


  8. I remember learning of Wabi-Sabi from you in the past. It’s always good to see evidence of the recoveries taking place, and the way the old, the damaged and the nearly-destroyed can be woven back into the fabric of life.

    I do think people have trouble understanding that such events have been with us not just for years or decades but for centuries. I’ve written about the Great Kansas City flood I experienced as a child – in the 1950s. There was the terrible flood of 1927 on the Mississippi and the great Atchafalaya flood in 1846. I don’t mention these to diminish your events at all – only to say that it’s part of the natural course of things.

    Of course, especially with flooding, human attempts to alleviate the worst often increases the damage. The construction of flood walls, levees and such is meant to contain the rivers, but by denying them their natural flood plains, we make their flooding even more destructive.Thank goodness, in some places, people are coming to their senses.

    The really good news is that nature’s ability to heal herself is phenomenal. After just five years, it’s almost impossible to find traces of Hurricane Ike in Galveston. There still are homes needing repair here and there, and of course many of the great live oaks died, but still – anyone who just came to town with no memory of what used to be would see only a green, blossoming and lovely town. You’ll get there, too.


    1. Linda,

      Here’s a good example of the difference between the general and the particular. While such flooding may be common as you said in this whole wide world, it’s the worst in Alberta’s and my City’s history, with unprecedented destruction in the billions. And while nature has its regenerating forces, a bird’s nest destroyed, another one will go up in no time, it’s not the same with human infrastructures and livelihood. In this area where the above photos were taken, there were roads and trails, and a large concrete bridge joining two sides of the river, which had been demolished due to flood water. Repair has yet to be started. This is just one particular area, one where I frequent. My heart goes out to those whose houses are now condemned, beyond repair, and yet still carry a mortgage, and memories of lives once lived. Or, the town of High River (yes, what a name) is still in limbo for the whole town may not be able, or worthwhile, to rebuild. While it may be common elsewhere, I don’t wish to see it again, here in particular.


  9. In the world where we think devastation has happened, I am always surprised by how resilient things are, too. I bet you won’t be able to tell there was a flood in a few months’ time.


    1. bettyl,

      Welcome! And thanks for leaving your comment. These photos were taken just two days ago, and that’s two months since the flood. In this area, there were broken paths and trails, and a long, concrete bridge across the river destroyed. While a bird’s nest gone, another one can go up in no time, such is not the case with human infrastructure. This is the worst flooding in our City (and Province’s) history, damages in the billions, and full recovery will likely take years.


  10. It’s good to see that the birds are back, Arti. In your response to Christine, you mention the recurrence of a hundred years flood in eight years and not knowing what to call that. When Super Storm Sandy battered the East Coast last fall, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo mentioned how we seem to now be having these hundred year storms every other year. If this is not screaming, “global warming” what is? I think our vulnerable environment is a much greater threat to our safety than terrorism.

    The term wabi-sabi instantly made me think of wasabi.


    1. lameadventures,

      Point taken. Definitely needs more study to find out exactly what caused this particular, recent flooding. As for wasabi, yes, same here. Mind you, these are all translations. Wabi-sabi sounds trivial, and with no meaning, just the sound. But in Japanese, the two words carry deep thoughts.


  11. As usual, beautiful photos. Ruins can be beautiful especially the natural kind. It creates opportunities in nature for the landscape to renew itself. I hope the city is recovering. I know it will take a long time but I hope it is getting better.


    1. Stefanie,

      I’ve seen so many beautiful sights amidst the ruins that this is just the first of a series. As we head into the fall season, many repairs would likely be delayed till next year. I think wildlife are more adaptable than humans… less complicated lives.


  12. Beautiful photos! Destruction as well as renewal and growth are both a part of nature (although sadly, humans contribute to make destruction even worse), so it makes sense to see beauty in both aspects of life.


    1. Rebecca,

      It is rejuvenating for me to feel the presence of life through the birds. They were so cheery, chirping and singing among the ruins.


  13. My whole life is wabi-sabi. Even Lizzie is wabi-sabi, which I considered naming her, actually. My furniture. My art. Most of my dishes. Almost everything. I think I can count the pieces of furniture that I actually bought new — not handed down, yard sales, antique haunts — on less than 10 fingers — maybe only five. And I love that.

    Your photos move me tremendously. There is beauty in rebirth, although the means to it may have been most traumatic. I was glad to see your birds still there, still making their way and building their new world, too. The flood was a terrible tragedy and I’m not sure things can ever be replaced, certainly never “the same.” But they can begin anew. Your special spot here is doing that. And that gives me a quiet, somewhat melancholy joy.


    1. Jeanie,

      Yes, I think this term Wabi-Sabi has universal applications. And it looks like many of us fall under its umbrella. Guess we have learned to adjust too and adapt, in order to focus on the positive, the beautiful. Most of the time, I just let things be and learn to accept as they are. I’ve a little cushion I bought some years back, where I put in our family room couch… it has the words “Martha doesn’t live here.” I think that just about describes my home condition. 😉


  14. You certainly have access to a perfect illustration of wabi-sabi with the destructive effects of the floods. So good to see resilience and renewal right among the broken and ruined.


  15. Wabi-Sabi. Lovely phrase. I’ve never heard of it before, but it is a beautiful concept. Very Japanese. Nature will repair itself, perhaps even re-invent itself. And I love your photography.


    1. Grad,

      Yes, I agree, very Japanese. The philosophy and aesthetics. I’d like to read more about it. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thought.


  16. I had never heard the term Wabi-Sabi but I like it and will become familiar with it so I can use it too – there are certainly many things around me that come under that description.
    Floods are terrible and fires too. It is so painful to watch the aftermaths of ravages made by fire or water – so many homes destroyed, so much infrastructure and so many lives and animals – we feel so insignificant in front of the forces of nature, but as you show in your pictures, life comes back, eventually… That makes me think of Pompeii, but it never came back.


    1. Vagabonde,

      Interesting you pointed out Pompeii. Somehow, because it was so far back in history, when I was visiting and saw all those charred bodies in the casings, I didn’t feel any sadness. But oh how horrible that must have been, the utter devastation. For these photos, I’m glad there are the birds, and new lives shooting out, even if they are weeds, at least they are green. 😉


      1. Thanks for coming to my blog. To answer your question – yes I saw the film Midnight in Paris which I liked a lot – it was a good PR movie for Paris (and I think Woody Allen got money from the city for his film.) It also started me to read about Paris in the 1930s – Hemingway and all of them. I read many books on that period including a bio on Gertrude Stein, which made me go to New York later to see an exhibit on her art collection.
        Last Sunday I saw Blue Jasmine which I liked also because Cate Blanchett is outstanding but I wish they had shown more of SF. I did see the beginning of The Butler, while we were waiting for Blue Jasmine, and did not like what I saw. The scene in Georgia sounded fake then I read about the real butler and found out that he was not from Georgia, but from Virginia and his mother was never raped nor his father murdered. My husband said the movie shows that it is “based on a true story” not a true story, but after reading about the real butler it seems the movie is based on only 5% of the real butler’s life…. Not much of a “base.”


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