Perfection is messy, oddly shaped


I was lying in bed the other night in the little apartment my husband, Peter, and I rent in Mexico, and thinking that things were perfect. Then I wondered what that meant.

Because, without trying very hard at all, I could come up with things that were far from perfect — in the world, in the neighborhood, even in my body if I really started digging. But it did not prevent me from feeling that — at that moment, lying in bed, listening to the distant cacophony of noises outside my window — things were, in fact, perfect. I thought about my day and decided it had to do with imperfection.

I only noticed my sheets because I could feel them against my legs. They are not 1,000-thread-count sheets. These are cotton sheets that have likely been used for a few years. They are sturdy and a little rough from drying on a clothesline on the roof.

“There is nothing as nice as a crisp cotton sheet” is what my mother would say.

She hangs her sheets out on the line to this day, and perhaps that’s what got me thinking about perfection. Perfection has to be imperfect enough to notice it, to enjoy it, to make me pay attention.

Walking earlier that night, I saw a crowd of young men gathered around the back of an old hatchback. They were excitedly peering into the open back door and, because I could not help myself, I stopped to see what had them all excited.

Puppies. The whole back of the car was filled with puppies, and these were not some kind of special breed. They had a little of this and a little of that in them, and they were all different patterns and colors and, yes, they were absolutely perfect because they were all so very alive and all a little homely.

Earlier in the day, I went to the vegetable market. Peter calls it “Carrie’s Candy Store” because I get so overwhelmed by all the things there are to eat and to buy. There are boxes of beets on the bottom shelf, a bucket of asparagus on the counter, pudgy carrots of various sizes and shapes and celery bunches that stand half as tall as me. None of the vegetables are uniform; all of them are jammed into a small place filled with other shoppers who have a lot more experience navigating Mexican markets than I do.

“I’m afraid to go in there!” Peter says. I love it.

I love those vegetables because they are unusual shapes and are very fresh, and they look and taste like they just came out of the garden. They are not packaged or presented in any special way. They are perfect.

On my way back into the apartment, I took a photo of a flower in a pot, sitting on the stairwell, catching the late afternoon light. The wall behind it was a little stained, and as I looked closely, I saw the bloom was past its prime, a little faded. That flower was as beautiful as it could be because it was blooming at just the right time, in just the right light, not trying to be anything other than what it was.

And that’s it, I suppose. Too often, I imagine that perfection is an absence of flaws. But I don’t think that’s how I experience it. Perfection is perfect because it is messy and oddly shaped and possibly just a little past its prime. Perfection is rough enough to get our attention and smells a little like sunshine.

Till next time,


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