Mono No Aware

As I have been sharing out my blog and inviting others in, I am continually learning – about myself, about others, and about different views of life in different cultures. For this I am so grateful.

I have to thank my cousin for his always insightful thoughts as he created a link for me between my bittersweet feelings of seeing a butterfly to the Japanese concept of Mono No Aware. And now, I am passing this concept on to you…

Mono No Aware is closely linked to the cherry blossoms which have a short blooming period annually. Despite knowing that the cherry blossoms will bloom and only last for a very short period of time, the Japanese delight and are joyous in experiencing this beauty.

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Mono no aware is one of those phrases which can not simply be translated. It’s essentially a “sensitivity to ephemera” – understanding that what is now will not always be and appreciating the beauty and happiness of the now. I am still working to understand the fullness of this concept, so as I continue this post, I will be sharing quotes from articles I’ve read. Quotes that are most poignant and touching to me.

Mono-no aware: the ephemeral nature of beauty – the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last.

I find it fitting that I am sharing this thought at the same time that the last leaves are falling, and a new season is soon arriving. I haven’t taken the time to appreciate these fleeting moments since going back to work, but just Monday, I caught a beautiful sunrise, one that lasted only moments before changing again and sweeping us to the start of a new day.

Monday’s sunrise

The crescent moon winked at me in the sky, and there was a lone star shining bright for me. The landscape was black as warm oranges and yellows rose in the horizon, pushing the darkness up and away and opening the curtains to a clear blue sky.

Mon Cœur and I also recently enjoyed an afternoon walk down our road, and as we walked, the wind was tickling the last of the leaves from their summer homes, and they were tumbling and swirling to the ground. We’ve enjoyed the changing colors all throughout fall and these last leaves are giving way for winter’s landscape of bare trees for the next few months.

Sunday’s walk

Unknowingly, I had already bought into the notion of Mono No Aware in a few different ways. For the first year of MC’s life, we took a picture every month to document her growth. I don’t even recognize the newborn and infant that she was…Babies are born to grow and grow, and what was just days or months ago will have changed and become unrecognizable.

Monthly picture taking strategies changed once MC became mobile!

And as we’ve been building the garden and seeing more butterflies than ever, I smile, knowing Millie is with us. It isn’t a happy smile, it is a melancholy smile. Throughout my pregnancy, I enjoyed reading bedtime books to MC, while knowing that Millie was hearing them, too. I delighted in Millie’s movements I felt and shared them with MC and Chouchou. I loved watching my growing belly and hearing her heartbeat at each prenatal appointment. None of these fond memories replace the sadness and emptiness we continue to feel in Millie’s physical absence, although it gives a respite.

this melancholy is suffused with a quiet rejoicing in the fact that we had the chance to witness the beauty of life at all, however fleetingly.

While we will never get to see Millie grow up and change I can still remember with a sad sort of joy the moments I shared with Millie while she was in the womb.

Understanding and accepting that innate uncertainty of life helps us evade the overwhelming feeling of morbidity associated with impermanence, instead highlighting our ability to enjoy life by appreciating its fleeting moments. 

Berkley Center at Georgetown University

As we have been living each day and taking it as it comes, I’ve been trying to remain open and honest with MC. I think that because I have been upfront with her about my feelings, “I’m sad,” or, “I miss Millie,” or, “There’s a butterfly, there’s Millie,” she has also embraced this mindset that is Mono No Aware. We are at peace with what reminds us of Millie, or when we see the new space that we’ve created for her in the house, or when I am looking through photos and come across one of Millie’s, MC simply says, “Millie!”

I am grateful for the small moments that make up each day and despite the fleeting moments, I cherish them for what they are. Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving, and hoping that you will take a moment to delight in all the small things that bring a smile to your face and warm your heart.


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