02 October 2012

Embracing Imperfection


And they were never finished. Navajos hated to complete anything--whether it was a basket, a blanket, a song, or a story. They never wanted their artifacts to be too perfect, or too closed-ended, for a definitive ending cramped the spirit of the creator and sapped the life from the art. So they left little gaps and imperfections, deliberate lacunae that kept things alive for another day. To them, comprehensiveness was tantamount to suffocation. Aesthetically and literally, Navajos always left themselves an out. - Hampton Sides in "Blood and Thunder"
The garden is no place for perfection. Constant change is inherent, whether it is decay and death or growth, seeding and spreading. But much of both Western and Eastern styles of gardening are built around the ideas of control and perfection. There is a desire to see the crisp edge of lawn abutting the curb, the perfectly manicured mixed perennial bed, the perfectly shaped shrub, the ideal clean Zen rock garden--everything behaving neatly, just like in the gardening books.

That's because we find beauty in symmetry, neatness, clean lines.


But the truth is, its nearly impossible for gardens to be perfect. It's nearly impossible for us to be perfect. Yet, we struggle through life trying to be so. In our own lives, we beat ourselves up for our quirks, those gaps or frayed threads within our souls that we feel are ugly. We judge others for their imperfections too, rather than finding those things unique and beautiful.

In evolution, it's the quirky mutations from which new traits and species arise. One generation's crazy ugly spotted fur is the next generation's advantage, if the environment changes in its favor.

Just as in life, we gardeners are prone to fight nature's tendency toward chaos, disorder and imperfection. Most of us anyway.

But perhaps its good to allow imperfection into the garden, like the Navajo, to purposely leave some of the threads unwoven. It's in those places of imperfection that some of the best beauty hides. It's where an unexpected flower can take hold, or a lizard can find a home. That imperfect weed that you didn't want there; that one with the red berries. Maybe that's where a bird decides to alight on its journey to South America for the winter.

So, as I gaze across my garden and see what isn't right, I'm meditating on the fact that it is all right. That there is no ideal ending. Because imperfection is beautiful too.

10 comments:

Roberta said...

My goodness, after reading this post I imagine that my garden would most certainly win the Navajo stamp of approval. I like it the way it is. I like it's quirks and unfinished quality. It leaves a door open. There's always something to do later.
I think I spend too much time trying to avoid criticism, not so much trying to be perfect; it's a given that we (or at least me) are flawed. I disengage as a survival mechanism - from family, from friends, from co-workers. Ironically people have often told me that they envy my quiet life. The peaceful solitude of gardening is a large part of that life.

Anonymous said...

Very well said. Laura

Nancy said...

If you look in one of the corners of a Navajo blanket that has a border you will usually find a line of the inside color making a trail to the other edge. this is called the weaver's pathway and keeps her spirit from being stuck in the rug. It allows her a chance to leave and keep weaving as well as making sure that the small imperfection exists. Thanks for the comparision to gardens. it makes me feel much better.

Deaton said...

Hi,
a passage that feels germane..."Teach us to befriend our own strange and unsightly edges to that we may better befriend others."

The entire piece from which I quote is about safe passage through transitions. May you pass safely through...

Portlandier said...

What a wonderful post. There is anxiety that comes with wanting the garden to be perfect...but it never is. And it's ok.

Birdwoman said...

Lovely post. Dare I say "perfect"? Just what I needed to read today.

hautjardinage said...

It's all about perception anyway.

Anonymous said...

I so agree. I had a plaque made for my garden that says:

"Grace without perfection is more to be desired than perfection without grace."

It was originally written in Spanish in a Mexico City garden and the words fit my style ... gracefully.

Ragna

Randy Hyden said...

I don`t think you could have put into words any better what gardening is to many of us.

"But the truth is, its nearly impossible for gardens to be perfect. It's nearly impossible for us to be perfect. Yet, we struggle through life trying to be so. In our own lives, we beat ourselves up for our quirks, those gaps or frayed threads within our souls that we feel are ugly. We judge others for their imperfections too, rather than finding those things unique and beautiful."
I can see the beauty in strictly formal gardens, but they crash on my senses after a short while and bear little resemblance to my home garden much as a large commercial building does to my own cottage home. Thanks for the thought. I`ll save it and use in a post if you don`t mind much.

The Curious Holts said...

So wabi-sabi.

I LOVE that Navajo weaver's would leave a pathway so their souls would not get trapped.

I can understand that.

Course, my soul is forever trapped in my garden. We like it there.

Lovely postholio.

Every time I cut over to the east side I try to poke around FP and see if I can find y'alls place to stalk a bit. No luck yet.