My Week

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Jonathan Self

This week, i’ve been read­ing a book about wabis­abi, which is not, as i ini­tially be­lieved, some­thing you might order in a Ja­panese res­tau­rant, but a way of liv­ing that fo­cuses on find­ing beauty within the im­per­fec­tions of life and ac­cept­ing peace­fully the nat­u­ral cy­cle of growth and de­cay. i wish i’d known about it sooner, as it pro­vides a fan­tas­tic ex­cuse for avoid­ing chores: ‘sorry, i can’t mow the lawn/paint the gates/ mend the shed, as it would de­stroy the wabi-sabi.’

i be­came in­ter­ested in the whole phi­los­o­phy thanks to an ar­ti­cle sent to me by an el­derly house­bound cousin, who passes each day snip­ping out items from the news­pa­per and post­ing them off to fam­ily and friends. My mother did the same in her last years and, al­though she’s been dead for three decades, i still miss the weekly en­ve­lope stuffed with clip­pings.

By and large, she sent me cut­tings con­tain­ing ad­vice of one sort or an­other. A typ­i­cal batch might cover such sub­jects as what to do if you en­counter an an­gry crowd, how to pre­vent hair loss and the ben­e­fits of eat­ing sev­eral cloves of raw gar­lic be­fore break­fast. how­ever, she would also in­clude book re­views, recipes, gar­den­ing tips and edi­to­rial er­rors, in­clud­ing a ‘spot the ball’ com­pe­ti­tion in which the ball was still in the pic­ture, and head­lines of the ‘County spelling bee post­poned’ and ‘China may be us­ing sea to hide sub­marines’ va­ri­ety.

Af­ter she died, we found one fi­nal cut­ting stapled to her will. it con­cerned the ex­or­bi­tant cost of funer­als and she had writ­ten across the top: ‘Get three quotes.’

Cut­tings were my mother’s way of re­mind­ing me that i was in her thoughts. The mod­ern equiv­a­lent is, i sup­pose, when a well­wisher sends one a link to an on­line ar­ti­cle. This al­ways makes my heart sink. i spend far too many of my wak­ing hours wrestling with the e-jet­sam and e-flot­sam in my in­box and the last thing i want is more im­per­sonal, non-es­sen­tial email.

i stick doggedly to the print ver­sions of news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines be­cause, in get­ting to the sec­tions i want to read, i in­vari­ably dis­cover other items of in­ter­est. The ef­fi­ciency of dig­i­tal me­dia is also, to my mind, its down­fall as it re­moves the el­e­ment of chance and dis­cour­ages brows­ing.

Imust con­fess at this junc­ture that i’m not above a bit of snip­ping and post­ing my­self. On Wed­nes­day, i ac­tu­ally sent a piece from The South­ern Star to our old­est son, Nat, con­cern­ing the miss­ing stone from our stone cir­cle (on farm­land that was once ours, but is now owned by the state).

in 2016, a Prof Meaden pub­lished a book about the cir­cle in which he pro­posed a new the­ory, viz. that it rep­re­sented the union be­tween two fer­til­ity deities: the sky god (male) and the earth god (fe­male). Ac­cord­ing to the pro­fes­sor, the cir­cle con­tains a male stone (no prizes for guess­ing what this looks like) po­si­tioned so that at sun­rise on the first day of each of the eight Gaelic sea­sons it casts its gi­ant shadow onto a dif­fer­ent fe­male stone.

Any­way, un­til last year, we were, it tran­spires, us­ing a miss­ing stone from the cir­cle to pre­vent mo­torists from park­ing across our drive­way. That stone was stolen from us by a per­son or per­sons un­known and is now, it tran­spires, be­ing kept in a se­cret lo­ca­tion by a Prof Atkins, who came to see me last week with the hope of es­tab­lish­ing its prove­nance.

i liked Prof Atkins, a re­spected ge­neti­cist, who ad­mit­ted that this was not his area of ex­per­tise, but is nev­er­the­less con­vinced that the pur­pose of many of the most fa­mous ar­chae­o­log­i­cal mon­u­ments in the Bri­tish isles needs to be re-eval­u­ated. he be­lieves, for ex­am­ple, that ire­land’s great­est ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site, New­grange, is not, as we all sup­posed, a gi­ant ce­les­tial clock, but rep­re­sents the earth god­dess’s womb.

When, on the win­ter sol­stice, it is briefly pen­e­trated by a sin­gle ray of sun­shine—which, given the weather in ire­land, fre­quently fails to hap­pen—what is be­ing wit­nessed is the fe­cund sky god… Well, you get the pic­ture.

‘We were, it tran­spires, us­ing a miss­ing stone from the cir­cle to pre­vent mo­torists from park­ing on our drive

The sky god, fe­cund or oth­er­wise, has been quite good to us fol­low­ing the dread­ful dam­age wrought by hur­ri­cane Ophe­lia and storm Brian. The past few days have been cold, but sunny and when i come in from my af­ter­noon walk, i’m grate­ful that i can lounge in front of a log fire in the draw­ing room at a time of day when i know many of my neigh­bours are fac­ing a te­dious com­mute.

‘Wabi-sabi,’ ac­cord­ing to Leonard Koren, ‘is ex­actly about the del­i­cate bal­ance be­tween the plea­sure we get from things and the plea­sure we get from free­dom of things.’ Ex­actly.

Jonathan Self is the au­thor of Good Money: Be­come an Eth­i­cal En­tre­pre­neur (Head of Zeus) and a raw dog-food maker (http://hon­eysre­al­dog food.com) who lives in Co Cork, Ire­land

Next week Joe Gibbs

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