Well, the shooting stars in my dreams were so wonderful I overslept this weekend until my cat Hobey plunked his front paws onto my armpit and stuck his face in mine to razz me about missing the meteor showers just before dawn.
Actually I’ve never seen meteors or shooting stars. The buildings surrounding my little brick rowhouse are so high – skyscrapers, practically – downtown here in the heart of the city. But there’s a small patch of sky right above me: Once I saw some stars wink at me. I think they were in a pattern like the freckles on my forearm. If you connect the dots, I might have the constellation Cassiopeia there. I confess, I stole that idea from a movie, I liked it so much.
The Leonids were in town. The meteor showers, I mean. Actually, they could be viewed from various vantage points on Planet Earth. You might have missed them if you were fixated by TV news of the “war” in Afghanistan or dire threats of possible renewed terrorism at home. One oracle of doom actually predicted the USA would be nuked last week, and she wasn’t talking about her microwave.
But some Americans I knew were fixated, instead, on the dramatic displays of – literally – 1,000 points of light overhead. Just back from Russia, Virato, the New-Age avatar, alerted me to this glorious celestial display: “During a typical Leonid meteor shower, an experienced observer might see about 10 to 15 meteors per hour,” he writes. “This year’s Leonid storm might peak at a rate of up to 2,000 per hour.”
Barbara, a magazine editor from LI, drove 15 minutes to the beach with friends and said the meteor showers were simply “exquisite.”
In the dead of night, “Meg” and her partner trundled out to a better vantage point from their home in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. “There we were in a park in Ft. Washington at 4 a.m. until just after 6. It was incredible. A bunch of school kids in an astronomy club, their teacher and a couple of parents stayed there all night. Neat thing to do.”
I breathlessly awaited my Southern-fried chef buddy Bobby’s verdict, and he did not disappoint. “Mama Nature put on quite a show. At times it seemed as though there were hundreds at a time. There were a couple so huge as they entered the atmosphere that the trail they left was like the contrails of a jet. Magnificent. Memory is the best camera.”
The great thing about these folks is that they haven’t allowed disaster to deter them from living their lives.
Living mine, I recently was catching up on some much-needed reading – non-disaster reading of back issues of my favorite magazines – the kind of almost luxurious mental meandering I so enjoy and suspect you do too. When I dipped into Utne Reader, which at this point is like another adored old friend I haven’t had time for in so long, what stood out were some articles about “Wabi-Sabi,” the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness.
This was a kind of revelation to me. Consider how we in America must suddenly, since Sept. 11, acclimate ourselves to accommodating, almost simultaneously, paradox and contradiction – prosperity and insecurity, battle and pacification, freedom and vigilance. You get the picture.
And yet if we embrace this centuries-old concept of wabi-sabi, a kind of “exquisite decay,” as they so vividly described it, we could transform the way folks live their – our – lives. I ponder that, for awhile, how, paradoxically, we often discard things, and people, that show signs of wear, and yet, we also buy furniture, or even clothing, that has been artificially “distressed” or aged to look or feel more comfy. I realized, then, that if indeed we really did embrace the notion of “wabi-sabi” in America, we would not demand perfection in our lives, in our government, in the security that some “Daddy” president assures us.
And then we might be able to scale down our expectations of perfection, so that we could be satisfied with the awe of the ordinary, life as it really is, which is why I still love the tranquility Zen Buddhism can bring. Perhaps we already have applied these notions of Wabi-Sabi to our own lives, maybe even our own work. Perhaps we are open to change. To reality. To not letting our quest for perfection interfere with experiencing life as it really is … insecure, imperfect, a process, a journey. An adventure.
Imperfect as it was, the Thanksgiving my mother cooked a turkey that didn’t measure up to her exacting standards was still an occasion for celebration – there we were, all four of us, together as a family.
Just as some folks insist there’s no bad sex, I say there’s no bad turkey. So rejoice! And have a Wabi-Sabi Thanksgiving.