the beauty of spoons and the celebration of eight decades of life

About a year ago I wandered into the Muji store in Melbourne and fell in love with a spoon. I love the simplicity and functionality of Japanese design and this spoon was weighted perfectly with a optimally designed shallow ladle for transferring sauces into bowls. Kitchen bliss.

My other favourite spoon is a wooden one that lives in my dad's kitchen. He reckons it is about as old as their marriage which is nearing 60 years. The head of the spoon is probably half the size it once was. The wood is dark and patchy. The tip is almost flat from decades of stirring against the bottom of a pan. The sides are smooth and shaped by countless rotations in pots of all shapes and sizes. 

Japanese culture includes the wonderful idea of wabi sabi; beauty through imperfection. Wabi sabi is not about imperfection as a consequence of mediocre design and/or manufacturing, Wabu sabi is about the beauty that comes from growth, use, scars. My leather messenger bag that I've used most days for decades. The cracked and stained teacup that has presided over morning teas hundreds maybe thousands of times. The gnarly tree in the bush. The gorge.

What I love about the spoon in dad's kitchen is not its age, its the stories it holds. I can still smell the raspberry jam on the stove. I can see mum swooshing that spoon around the large blue plastic bowl that contained the fruitcake dough she made religiously for birthday cakes. And countless soups and stews. Oh the stories ...

The beauty of the Muji spoon comes from the striving for perfection. The beauty of the wooden spoon comes from its willing fatigue and scars. 

Yesterday we gathered to celebrate my dad's 80th birthday. Surviving eight decades is an achievement. But just like the spoon, celebrating the age per se is a tad shallow. A life is a container for stories and so yesterday we told and heard stories.

As Dad said in his remarks, life is not easy. Our bodies and hearts carry scars and indeed in some cases are being scarred by this season of life. Understanding wabi sabi has been helpful for me in appreciating the beauty that grows in lives well lived. Wrinkles, creakiness, worn out body shapes. In some cases broken bodies that can't be repaired. Beauty not born of adherence to an idea of perfect design (although, in the right context I love this too), but of usefulness and longevity. Beauty that emerges from resilience. Beauty that finds strength when others would succumbed.

Happy 80th Dad, I love you.


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