Vintage Dahlia – and a Wabi-Sabi Lesson

Vintage Dahlia

Vintage Dahlia © 2013 Bo Mackison

“But when does something’s destiny finally come to fruition? Is the plant complete when it flowers? When it goes to seed? When the seeds sprout? When everything turns into compost?” ~ Leonard Koren, in Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers  

It’s been a rough few weeks. Really rough. A double loss in our little family. A long time friend’s liver cancer diagnosis. A co-worker’s college aged child killed in a motorcycle accident. Grief is not an easy emotion at any time, and I am working to cope with grief upon grief upon grief, while discovering the life skills I thought would be helpful are woefully inadequate.

I’ve been asking a million “Why?” questions. And getting no satisfactory answers.

Yes, I know life is cyclical and includes — on various levels — experiences of birthing, living, and dying. And during this time of grief, I tend to ask the question “Why?” An unanswerable question, in most situations like these, but it was becoming an unhelpful mantra for me.

I didn’t realize how pervasive “Why?” questioning was throughout the many parts of my life, however, until a wise mentor kindly brought it to my attention. To fully explore her comment, I began to journal. And I came up with a long list of questions:

  • Why did I create my Desert Wisdom Cards? Why am I creating the Prairie Wisdom Cards? Why?
  • Why am I studying teaching methods and taking creativity coaching training? Why?
  • Why am I drawn to mystical and sacred places? Why?
  • Why do I take photos and make the effort to painstakingly process them and post them and print them? Why?
  • Why do I long to travel, to let new places and experiences and cultures seep into my being? Why?
  • Why can’t I stay one place? Why can’t I concentrate on one project? Why do thing always seem more difficult than expected? Why? Why? Why?

My mentor suggested that I need not answer those persistent whys, that they are a both a distraction and an attachment to outcome that does not serve me in my work.

She suggested I read a small book, The Seven Paths by Christine Baldwin, one she has found of great help in its simplicity, and contemplate several of the paths — “follow your purpose while dealing with surprises,” and “ask for what you need while offering what you have.” And finally, “move gently upon the earth.”

The advice is simple, solid, and had a feel of acceptance, an uplifting quality. It offers a message to quiet the continuous chatter of “why” and substitute the more down to earth and less ego-driven mantra — “Do your work and release it into the world.”

I took these wise words one step further, and applied them to my current life situation. The above quote by Leonard Koren in his book on wabi-sabi gave me a container for my thoughts.

Our destiny, each of our destinies, is individual. We are alone on our journey, yet we walk with companions.

We may set fruit, flower, sprout seeds, or turn to compost.  No need to ask “why?” for it is all good, it is all necessary.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.   Her exhibit, Garden Party – A Celebration of Botanical Photography, is at the Alicia Ashman Branch Library Gallery in Madison, Wisconsin and runs through September 5, 2013.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Gandalf says:

    I love the image, and your post is extremely thought provoking. Peace.

  2. Sending peaceful, nurturing thoughts your way. XO

  3. Life is so hard Bo. I’m so sorry for the losses you and those round about you are facing.

    One of the reasons I love the flowers so is that they seem to sit beyond both questions and attempts at answers. They just are.

    Wishing you the comfort of the loveliest of the flowers Bo

  4. Sorry for the losses in your life Bo, been there myself quite a few times and I still don’t have the answers but I just keep plugging along waiting for them to be answered..beautiful image btw !!

  5. I’m so sorry for your losses, Bo. Life can be hard, but you’ve somehow managed to make something beautiful of your difficulities. *Hugs* and wishing you peace.

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