Perfect! It’s a word we use much too easily (and lazily) in the magazine industry. “____ makes a perfect summer appetizer. ____ is this season’s perfect paint color.” Editors tend to use perfect as shorthand for something that’s the very best, very good, or sometimes just OK. But by overusing this perfectly acceptable word, are we in danger of eroding its meaning?
We have high standards for our stories and photography in the magazine, but most of the time I am actually searching for imperfection rather than the opposite. I prefer to eat a delicious cake that looks a little wonky instead of an exquisite-looking dessert that is bland and ordinary. I like a wild and gestural flower arrangement over a tight and sterile one. I want my house to look lived-in.
I love nothing more than the happy accident that ends up being completely right. I look for these unintended moments of beauty whenever I can.
This summer, groups of flowering tobacco seeded themselves in the cracks along my driveway. When I come home after work, there they are, all pristine and white and smelling of jasmine. I didn’t plan it, but I’m glad I spared the seedlings the Weedwacker back in June.
Why am I thinking of imperfection now? Autumn. For me, fall reveals the beauty of things that are going slightly off. Take leaves, for instance. Lengthening nights cause plant tissues to stop producing chlorophyll and begin to decay. Less green means the brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows that were always hiding in the leaf come to the fore. We love pumpkins and gourds for their genetic mutations—the weirder and wartier, the better. A rose in late November, even wind-battered, is a treasure.
During this season of winding down and transition, keep an eye out for fall’s happy accidents.
And more importantly, with the holidays around the corner, give yourself a break. Being cozy inside with friends and family, telling stories, and eating delicious—if visually imperfect—food should be our most satisfying communal goal.