Wabi Sabi Feng Shui Nature and Photography

Sometimes the grand seascapes of the west coast winter are just too gray and flat to hold my attention.

Break in storm Strait of Georgia bnw by Terrill Welch 2013_02_25 074

When this happens I look elsewhere to see what I can feel and see by the sea. This is when I am most often consciously drawn to beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” or the wabi-sabi nature of our natural environment.

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. Andrew Juniper in Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence describes wabi-sabi this way: “if an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.” Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi

Feng Shui on the other hand comes from the discipline of Kan Yu or the Tao of heaven and earth. The term feng shui literally translates as “wind-water” in English. Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feng_shui

In both wabi-sabi and feng shui there is an element of human use or organization to replicate and appreciate our natural world. So, when the view on the horizon is less than inspiring, I sometimes seek to photograph these natural relationships between feng shui elements with their full embodiment of characteristics of wabi-sabi at sources – without human use or organization.

These wabi-sabi, feng shui nature photographs seldom make it to my blogs or my online galleries for purchase. They are a meditation or spiritual practice rather than an end result. However, today I am going to share a few of these images with you.

In the trees…

Arbutus Splendor

Looking into the deep woods on Henderson Hill gives way to the splendor of the the arbutus trees. Their tangle of light-seeking branches reach elegantly under and around in search of the sky.

Arbutus Splendor by Terrill Welch 2013_02_08 096

A new conversation

Though it is just the end of February there are many signs that a new spring season is beginning here on Mayne Island. One of these is the shedding of the bark on the arbutus trees and the revealing of the fresh new skin on of these sensual trees. It is such a tactile sensory visual experience that I walk along running my hands over their smooth exposed trunks.

a new conversation by Terrill Welch 2013_02_25 114

Arbutus Bark Natural Design

The pealing and curling captures natural the movement of time in its everyday way of being.

Arbutus bark natural design by Terrill Welch 2013_02_25 147

Out on a limb

Trees seem to have invented the strength of the spiral. In our occasional high winds I am often amazed that so few trees are blown to the ground. This spiraling is I believe part of the mystery.

Out on a Limb by Terrill Welch 2013_02_08 165

On the forest floor…

While, when the big landscapes fail to impress on a heavy overcast west coast afternoon, the little things sometimes become more beautiful than ever. This is fresh new moss growing on the rocks. So very soft and lovely on the eyes and to the touch.

Take time to notice the little things by Terrill Welch 2013_02_08 233

By the Sea…

A Dance through Time

Over and over they tango the sea and the shore until they are shaped as one. I am squished between the land and sea begging the sky to intervene. Have you been there?

A dance through time by Terrill Welch 2013_02_25 185

Shell Sand Sea – a love story

The tide is going out. As the water leaves in a wave of salty tears, the shell of a varnish clam remains, embracing the sand.

shell sand sea a love story by Terrill Welch 2013_02_01 365

Butter Clam 1

The round butter clam brings vitality to the gray and the stones by the sea.

butter clam 1 by Terrill Welch 2013_02_01 297

Mussels and Seaweed

The connected and passage of relationships crush and sweep away any sense of isolation. Yet, the inner scream of longing cries out to be heard, noticed and cherished.

mussels and seaweed by Terrill Welch 2013_02_01 248

Plump Oyster

What belly can grumble with such nourishing abundance for the taking?

plump oyster by Terrill Welch 2013_02_01 246

Another Layer

There is yet another layer of temporary impermanence. We know in this continuation we are but a moment of moments lost to infinity.

another layer by Terrill Welch 2013_02_01 444


Our live bits drifting with the dead, the dying and such shall we become.

Drifting by Terrill Welch 2013_02_01 452

Such is the nature of wab-sabi feng shui in my natural world of photography. May this imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete Tao of heaven and earth bring you a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing.


What wabi-sabi feng shui nature influences your life?


© 2013 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com


19 thoughts on “Wabi Sabi Feng Shui Nature and Photography

  1. These photos are images to meditate on.
    To answer, in no particular order,…the sky…the clouds…the sun…the relationship between them….who is featured…who hides…how do they interact…as I watch

  2. Terrill – “These wabi-sabi, feng shui nature photographs seldom make it to my blogs or my online galleries for purchase. They are a meditation or spiritual practice rather than an end result. However, today I am going to share a few of these images with you.”

    And I’m so glad you did! Even though I’m a “tree person” — the ethereal aspect of “On the Forest Floor” has really captured my intrigue today.

    You asked, “What wabi-sabi feng shui nature influences your life?”

    As a minimalist, I reside at the intersection where wabi (minimal) and sabi (functional) meet. A beautiful life with fewer things—simple, yet full. That lifestyle lends itself beautifully to the uninterrupted flow of good, fresh, feng shui energy.

  3. Your words and images in this post are so evocative and beautiful, Terrill. I have to get out to Mayne Island this summer! To answer your question I would have to say it’s not as much the things in nature as the moments spent immersed in it, and the attention to the details, both big and small. (I do have a recent passion for dried kelp though!)

  4. What a beautifully written post and gorgeous photos. Like you, I love to touch the things I see, like the naked limbs, and furry moss. But I also feel like I can touch them through your photos. I can see how these would be subjects for meditation. I am so glad you shared these. And thank you for linking to my post on wabi sabi.

  5. Arbutus and cedars are my favourite trees on the west coast. In other parts of the world I love the sakura trees in Japan and ancient olives and almond trees in Italy.

  6. A little synchronicity – it was only last week I remember first seeing the term wabi sabi on another blog and here it is again. How well your stunning photos capture the sense of serene melancholy and spiritual longing. I don’t believe we have arbutus here in our woods, so it was fascinating for me to see the peeling bark up close. Will be more conscious of wabi sabi influences in my life as I go through my day…

    • Wabi Sabi was something I discovered and learned about a few years ago. But I believe it is something we know without definition regardless. Have a wonderful wabi-sabi day Barbara and good to have drop in.

  7. I so enjoyed these photos. They speak to my heart! Noticed the arbutus on Facebook and it moved me deeply. Thank you for sharing wabi sabi and the imperfect perfection of it.

    • You are most welcome Kathy and I believe this value and commitment for the imperfection perfection is something we share. My visits to your blog often remember of these aspects in nature.

  8. There is some real sensory immersion here Terrill. There is a serenity and a real in close connection with the forces and nature and the forms that inhibit the visual landscape. This is the territory of artists and those who achieve not only the creative ideas that initiate the process but the inspiration that can only be sparked by personal experience. Beautiful post and presentation!

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