For some odd reason, I like old things. Well-worn, scruffy, flaking, fading. Doesn’t matter. New has no appeal to me much anymore.
I wear aging lace-up shoes just about every day. Love the way they feel on my old, calloused feet, like they were made for each other.
Maybe I like old things because of my ancient age. I see pictures of me as a youth, and then I see in the mirror the image of me now. Is this the same guy? Could they ever have been the same?
Thus, I like well-worn clothes and shoes, old houses, used cars — anything to match my look.
I’ve been told by friends — or perhaps enemies — that I’m a perfect fit for the oriental wabi-sabi way of life.
That way appreciates things worn, aging, fading. Things unpainted, decaying, cracking.
As a young adult, I tooled around town in a 1949 black, four-door Ford sedan. Man, I loved that auto — stick shift and all — though the couch-like front seat constantly shifted back and forth because of a broken lock knob.
Most of my clothes date back to the 1970s. It’s not that don’t like the modern look, but the old shirts and pants have become close friends, roommates. When I don’t wear them, they tend to get upset.
And my old homestead? It needs a paint job and some old wood replaced, but if I do it the house will lose its wabi-sabi appearance. I don’t know if I can do it to the place. I would hate for my own house to call me a traitor.
My kitchen table is an old, well-worn cedar picnic table. I’m not sure how ancient it is, but it’s covered with nicks and scratches. Wabi-sabi lovers would have a fit over it.
The sagging shelves in my old wooden book cases groan from the bows made by the heavy hardbacks.
I wear an old brown corduroy blazer to church every Sunday during the cold months. Yes, everyone is tired of seeing me in it, but it does wonders for my soul, not to mention the warmth for my cold body.
All my faded khaki pants are frayed at the cuffs. I use a pair of paper scissors to trim the threads that hang loose after each washing.
When I first met my wife Jean, she wouldn’t date me because I was wearing well-worn, loose-legged Air Force khakis. Needless to say, she was not a wabi-sabi fan. At one point she threatened to give them to Goodwill.
I also remember wearing my old white Air Force underwear until they fell to pieces from rips and tears and age, even though I kept trying to keep them alive with patches and thread.
The old pants and jeans I wear today have many years of service left before they fall apart. They’re at the point of softness where they wear well. No sense in hauling them out with the trash.
And yes, all my T-shirts meet the wabi-sabi seal of approval.
The furniture in my aging home displays scratches, rips and dents from years of use, but there is in them a beauty and a familiarity beyond monetary worth.
The rockers on my old blue Carolina rocking chair still show the gnawing, teething marks put there by Bradley, my white-and-brown Shih Tzu, who died a couple of months ago at age 17. Bradley the puppy gnawed away on everything he could in our Western North Carolina mountain home.
That old rocker is a priceless example of wabi-sabi and a daily reminder of the dog I loved so much.
I guess that’s what wabi-sabi really is a way of appreciating aging beauty in an imperfect, scratched-up world.
Wabi-sabi’s roots definitely are found in Zen, but they’re there in our Christianity, too. The old rugged cross is a vivid example, as are old country churches with fading paint and well-worn pews and doors.
Not to mention our hymnals with fading covers and loose pages.
When things begin cracking, even decaying, I can see the natural beauty in them. And I can celebrate those items knowing that they, too, were once young but now are old.
I’m now white-haired and balding with sagging skin and muscles, but, to me, I’m perfectly normal and in a good mind to appreciate all my physical flaws.
In my youth I sought perfection. In my old age I’ve abandoned perfection in favor of flawed, wrinkled and spotted.
I appreciate this old age of mine. I’m imperfect and so is this world. And so it’s all good.
Unpainted. Cracking. Decaying. Everything old is now special.
Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives in nearby Phenix City. His email is email@example.com.