Thursday, September 27, 2018

My Ephemeral Life

I started this post a while ago in a cryptic list, though not cryptic at the time, of course. Now I haven't got a clue about some, can't be bothered with others, but also have new thoughts.  My memory has never been good, but of late I can't hold on to thoughts, and am often left with a sensation of having had a thought.

Reminds me of how I've come to view one aspect of Mishima Yukio's "Hojo no Umi" quadrilogy: in the first novel, a daughter of the nobility in the early 1900s gets pregnant and is sent away to a temple. 1300 pages later, at the end of the saga, she reappears as Mother Superior in her 80s, and when interviewed by a young journo (?) about her indiscretion, she says there might have been incidents like that, but it's been so long she cannot remember. When I first read the novel, at around age 25, I thought she was full of baloney, and it was either because she was of the class who could get away with an answer like that, or Mishima being a man was clueless about women. And while I still believe it's impossible to forget giving birth to a child, I have grown far more sympathetic to the forgetting part. Because it's not only as if we have a list, and we forget details about the items, but gradually items drop off the list and we forget they were ever there. And in some ways, it makes life easier. 

Our cherry tree was in full bloom Sunday/Monday but lost 75% of the petals in a few hours in Tuesday's spring gust. It's both pretty and sad when it happens. We Japanese are said to love the ephemeral and know how to enjoy the moment. (Which really should lead us to care more for the environment but consumerism/convenience are hard habits to kick.) I do love cherry blossoms, I was born in early April which was the best time for them in my youth, and the start of the new school year, full of fresh faces and hope. (But also, the reason I can be bothered tending to hellebores is their flowers last and last and last.)

You might know the word "Ukiyoe (浮世絵)" usually relating to 1800s Japanese influence on European art and craft; woodblock prints depicting everyday scenes of everyday people often in series. "E" in this context means pictures. "Ukiyo" is one of those handy (for us), untranslatable (to non-Japanese) words which cover a gamut of nuances/sentiments/values. To me, ephemerality of life/society/existence comes to mind first, the illusive/multitudinous state of flux of everything, the lack of permanence/solidity, different viewpoints somehow creating a semblance of consensus (with blurred edges) which loosely forms the "norm", the ambiguity, the not articulating. It tends to focus on the sad/lamented/lost/unobtainable/harsh reality, though is it real or just perception? At times it's the "mainstream" seen from the outside. The word has Buddhists origins and ties in well with reincarnation, and the insignificance of the individual, (not just people but of any part of a whole, physically, temporally, anything-else-ally,) or of significance itself.

Dad's been gone five and a half years; he would have been 91 tomorrow. He was a strong and unforgettable character, but we are getting used to him not being around. Mom keeps forgetting, not in a "senile" sense but memories dropping out so she can concentrate on the task on hand, making her almost 88 years of life smaller and less vivid. I feel myself growing less attached and sometimes passion/enthusiasm is something I remember having in the past, like everything shiny belongs in my past, almost the way they should. This ought to feel like a paradigm shift, but I've been shrugging off as a natural progression.

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For some years I've been looking for a good book on, for want of a better description, key/"symbols" in Ukiyoe prints. The scenes/items/costumes were so ordinary to the people back then but have since lost the cultural meaning/background to us. I'm looking for a book to help me "read" the pictures better.

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I heard my friend's father passed away. Very sad for her, but also somewhat relieved for her mom who, like mine, cared for him at home in her advanced age, not that it makes the passing bearable. She also told me dear Gavin passed away a month ago. The last time I saw him he mused it's time he had a small cashmere scarf, and I had been designing something in my head, but I didn't make it in time. Along with the loss of the lovely man, I lament the missed opportunity. 

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Volume was selected the NZ Bookseller of the Year 2018 mere 20 months after it opened. I make light of this because Volume fans know how seriously good Stella and Thomas are, but it's quite an accomplishment. Stella said it was nice to be recognized by peers. I waited a couple of weeks before going in to congratulate them, giving everybody else a chance to get their congrats out of the way, but folks just kept pouring in. Goodness, what have they done to my temple for contemplation?

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About a week before the needlepoint project, I finished the tube scarf, and Rosie likes it so it should keep her warm next winter. I've been trying to finish a few project before we go to Japan, and testing my will power not to start another but these are fun to make. Next piece, I might do a row or two of knit-purl-knit-purl so the ends don't open up like elephant trunks. Or not.
This time I didn't wet-finish quite the way I did the sample swatch.

OK, this week, I started Mom's cowl in murky natural colors.

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The Suter is hosting a fabulous show of paintings, carvings and audio. I've been five times and it's intriguing how different paintings grabs my attention every time. Wednesday, it was the one in the linked article, (not the banner,) which I hardly noticed the first four times, but maybe this is my favorite. I also stalked a school group of 8/9 year olds in one of Esther's classes; so informative, not only what Esther said but what the kids said/asked. I've always planned to learn Maori after I get the hang of this weaving thing, meaning I haven't started, but if not learning the language properly, I would like to delve into their myths and visual symbols. 

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I saw two documentaries, "McQueen" and "McKellen: Playing the Part", in one afternoon. (I can't find a good link for the latter.)  I didn't know much about McKellen's gay rights activism, but I was overwhelmed by the common thread of the hardship of growing up gay; how it might have been in KcKellen's time sure, but McQueen was much younger than me. And things don't seem to be getting better for today's youths. The gender issue is becoming difficult to discuss as I find I am not upu with the latest, and the fear to offend is great because, goodness me, they've been though enough without me adding to it. At the same time I'm glad I grew up outside the strictly Christian/Western values because I think Japanese can afford to be more ambiguous and therefore tolerant about gender, sex and other people's private business. I also grew up in the more hopeful 1970's.

I also had an interesting thought about making and one's vocation, which bounced in my head like a loose tooth all afternoon, which I kept touching with my head-tongue, but can't remember what it was. Ukiyo, eh.

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The weaver has been weaving. This is the second piece on the gray merino warp, and I have a problem with the floating selvedge. I use both warp and weft yarns for it, depending on which suits better. This one I decided on the darker weft to avoid a flecked look on the sides. But the draft has floats and the draw-in is considerable on some rows. So...

I put extra weight on the selvedge, as usual, and sleyed it to the dent next to the last "proper" warp ends, as usual, but nothing worked, so I'm ignoring the problem in the interest of getting this warp woven quickly.

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Japan trip is approaching, and my poor mother has had enough of me. We are now Skyping every 10-14 days, which has been good for a psyche. I told Pat I'm going travel with plenty of projects so I  don't pick on her. I find the situation difficult because I thought I was doing a daughterly duty and entertaining her, but I can only do this on my terms, while she feels both amused and put upon. I remembered last week that as a child I could do no right, so I'm wrong in thinking anything has changed. And I say it with absolutely no bitterness. It's just life. Ukiyo.

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I'm not depressed, just olding. ("Aging" doesn't sound right.) But next post is more chipper.

2 comments:

  1. " I feel myself growing less attached and sometimes passion/enthusiasm is something I remember having in the past" I have been going through the same thing. I remember what I used to be able to do - and now can't. It aches like a sore tooth and my 'head tongue' keeps poking at the memory. I keep hoping I will feel 'better', more energetic, but my days slither out of my fingers and I go to bed lamenting all that I did not do...

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    Replies
    1. Among the things I must remind myself constantly, Laura, is that output quantity is not a competition, that I've always been slow, but also that I came to weaving late-ish in life and what a big change it was to my previous life as a serial admin worker; I've been in relatively great health; and most of this century I've been able/allowed to do nothing but weave. Which is why I had imagined I'd have done more by 60, and more importantly stay on course, having established a routine/rhythm by now. That said, with memory peeling off, I can't remember what all I had intended to do, or even what I did manage. I relentlessly envy just about everybody else, not for making/selling/earning/accomplishing/exhibiting/winning/finishing, but for having the stamina to take on projects in the first place. I fear proximity to my mother, also, for adopting the mindset appropriate to her age, (and by golly, she started weaving at 59.5, and with us three and Dad, she still managed to learn/weave so diversely until about 80 when Dad became sicker.) I used to notice drastic changes in my outlook every time I came home but with regular Skyping I don't have enough gap to reflect on myself. Not that any of this is her fault.

      On the other hand, I don't mind slowing down as long as I come out with good ideas, and stuff, at the other end, if I can stick with them without forgetting, ugh,) and putting meanings into my work for my own satisfaction, (partly because I gave up on the idea of technical goodness, I shan't dare say "excellence", which a default position of Japanese craftspeople, I think. These are different modes, and this slow one is the one I can handle. (Or, willing to handle?)

      Still, it is pathetic; I'm 60, in relative good health, greedy for opportunities and successes, (read: "I want to get things done",) yet watch(?) helplessly(???) what I used to see as core of my character wane. What's worse is I know a couple of things I can do immediately as remedies, but have a hard time sticking to them.

      It must be time to take out my orange silk whip again and self-flagellate in the nicest way, Laura.

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