Better Homes & Gardens - - Editorials Letter -

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.

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