KATHERINE NEVILLE’S Summer Solstice “Shibui” Newsletter June 18, 2021

Katherine in Brittany

Summer Solstice “Shibui” Newsletter
June 18, 2021

Koyannisqatsi: Life Out of Balance

This weekend, as we descend into the “dark half” of the year, was marked in ancient times as the date when Delphi’s Sun God Apollo would depart for the south, and the Lord of Misrule and intoxication, Dionysus, would take over the Oracle for the next six months. Since those ancient days, the Summer Solstice has been the time of year when we mortals were to delve into the depths of our own reality, think over our relationship with the natural world, and make a plan for next year’s plantings.

This past year of The Plague, we have been receiving an important message: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Many of us live in a disposable society of man-made obects and experiences. Time rushes by us like a time-lapse film. As Dr. Karl Pribram used to say: “Tempus Fidgets!” Let’s not fidget with it!

The Hopi Indian word for “Life out of Balance” is Koyannisqatsi. Nearly 40 years ago, in 1982, a small film with music by Philip Glass caught the attention of Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola, who arranged distribution and publicity. It showed, in actual time-lapse photography, the swift progression of creation and destruction of the natural and man-made world surrounding us. 

Beach at Finistère
Tea Bowl, Teruo Hara


In early days in Japanese culture, Wabi referred to living alone, in isolation or desolation or melancholy, within Nature–like Thoreau, apart from the crowd. While Sabi referred to something shrivelled or withered, aged, like patina or rust. Something Shibui was astringent, sour-bittersweet like a persimmon. Today, all of these are put together in a “Japanese aesthetic” of beauty in transience: asymmetry, irregularity; leaves coming into bud or changing color and falling; fruits ripening and decaying; the beauty in finding balance between simplicity and complexity: “A dynamic whole that is to be admired and appreciated…”

That’s a bit like appreciating Mother Nature herself–isn’t it?

Happy descent into the Solstice!

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