Monday, August 1, 2011
An Asian Reverie
Our study, where I now sit contemplating the window, faces north. On these bright sunny winter mornings, the curtain shielding my eyes from the direct sunlight makes a screen for a shadow play that goes on throughout the morning. The apricot branches are bare but nature has arranged them perfectly, and their shadows play on the curtain. They’re still now, as if frozen by the frosty air. It’s that sort of day.
Just by itself, this would make a pleasing backdrop for my thinking; one that Sei Shonagon would delight in and describe vividly in a whole chapter of the Pillow Book. Even the curtain is vaguely Japanese, with its horizontal lines and muted creamy colour. But wrens and several other tiny birds play amongst these branches outside, their moving shadows adding to the simple pleasure of a shadow play they don’t know or care about.
I have my own wayang puppet show and my Japanese thoughts, all in the first five minutes of being here. Soon the sun will move on, and the screen will be empty; but that’s also as it should be. Mono no aware is the Japanese expression. Things are there for a little while, and then they disappear forever. One of the glories of the wildflower is that it won’t be here next week. Enjoy its presence while it exists. It’s the deeply Japanese, wistful version of carpe diem.
I forget those other things, for a while at least. "It'll all be the same, a hundred years from now," so Mr Polly said. He's right and he's wrong.