There is an old house down in the hollow where there is a dim light. You almost don’t see it. But then in winter on a certain day when the sky is gray-bright and you are walking on the ridge opening your eyes to everything in the spaces between the trees, you will see it just sitting there like it has always done. Empty, hollowed out. You will see it, a house of ancient boards and slanting rusted roof the color of the red oak leaves that carpet the ground. Having no door, it is neither open nor closed. It is part of the hollow, and you go down to it because you are neither home nor away and why not in the hollow then.
There are no clocks ticking inside the house, only the sound of light rain patter on tin roof, same as rhododendron patter that has quieted the ticking in your mind as you have been walking all day. But you stop and listen here and it is not the same patter after all as that on the waxy leaves. You close your eyes. It is a higher rust-note, and it makes you want to sleep here, for many days and nights. You imagine all the shades of dim light and of darkness through which you could dream, rain pattering on the rough tin above you. You sink in deeper, more to the place you have been trying to get to, and you think, it is ok, to sink in this way, to let your chest cave in the way it wants to.
You close your eyes and listen: the sound of rust. Nothing lasts. Nothing is finished.
The earth caves in this way, into these hollows and sinkholes. Stones yield to water and time, soil yields to stones. Iron yields to rain and salt and air, oxidizes. Be more like this, you think. Neither open nor closed.
I have been learning of the Japanese practice called wabi-sabi. It is a beauty-seeing practice based on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. It celebrates impermanence, the natural condition of all things.
While the words wabi and sabi do not translate easily from the kanji written language in which each word is a pictogram, a body of complex meaning and visual form in itself, wabi can be defined as “the loneliness of living in nature” or “a quietness,” while sabi is the beauty that comes with age, the impermanence that is suggested in the wear-and-tear of an object.
There is a phonological and etymological connection with the word sabi to the word rust, that natural reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water, that rust that is a corrosion of machines and steel and human-made things: barbed wire, roofs, gates, gutters. Latches, hinges, nails. The things that hold our houses together, enclose them. Keep the wild animals and weather out. All rusting. Latches that fasten our doors, that we might close out the rain and the wind, be guarded against them. Nails that fasten the boards.
You would like to sink further in. You think of his face whom you love, cannot stop loving, the lines around his eyes, light in the irises like that in rotting oak leaves. Your chest caves no different than this soil. You run your hand along the weathered boards, smooth-rough against your palm and fingertips. You notice the colorful lichen that have found their way into the grains and cracks and are spreading and flowering out. Beautiful, you think. This decay. Sometimes you let go like this, in rare moments like these. The light is changing. You feel chilled standing in one place. You keep walking, neither leaving nor not leaving the house. Sometimes you will see it sitting still and empty, in among the bare trees. Sometimes you will not see it, on your way somewhere, walking past.