Moongazing

Mariko Kinoshita, a Japanese artist, is highly culturally adaptable unlike many Japanese who still harbour suspicions about foreigners. This is to be expected when we consider that the whole country was closed to all foreign influence for a period of over 250 years between 1603 and 1868. 

But this work unashamedly evokes the very essence of Japan. Gazing at the moon through the pale fish of cherry blossom (sakura) is essential for the Japanese spirit. The kimono and white mask of a beautiful silent woman create the sense of mystery the world is so intrigued by.

In Japan, fully-grown adults can be seen weeping at the sight of sakura at its peak. We watch the national news several times a day to find the exact peak for particular locations and then rush to stand close and gaze by moonlight.  In fact, the first national forecast has been released today so people are already planning.

Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto is the moon god in the Shinto religion and in Japanese mythology.  This deity is male unlike in ancient myths of Greece or Rome, and its creator also male. Tsukuyomi was the second of the ‘three noble children’ born when Izangi-no-Mikoto, the god who created the first land of the Japanese archipelago.  It is said that he was born from Izangi’s right eye. After climbing a celestial ladder, Tsukuyomi lived in the heavens with his sister Amaterasu, the sun goddess, who also became his wife. Japanese myths are primitive and not limited by worldly classifications. The very origins of Japan are fantastical in a very eastern way which fascinates westerners.

I love Kinoshita’s painting and feel honoured to be helping this artist edge into the wide world. It is easy to see her unconscious heritage in the stillness and silent joy.

                                    Images courtesy of Mariko Kinoshita and Linden Thorp

 

Calling: to the white marble of Montpellier

Cover Picture

Calling

Sipping Rhone wine under the flounces

of the massive Lime-flower tree

aroma and scent trouble me.

The wine at its best, the flowers at their peak,

and yet my habitual absorption in

the sensory is being tugged at,

its tension overstretched like used muslin,

its once overwhelming newness wearing thin.

The perfection of sky balanced on untouched forests

almost eludes me at this time,

but the gist of your abstract words has already

dropped in the fine covering of flowers at my feet.

For someone is calling me from

the white marble of Montpellier.

A dream in our shuttered salon, the logs in the stove

like wands of alpine witnesses,

compels me to descend our mountain hairpins

on the weekly bus alive with grape-pickers,

my suitcases slotted between their stained baskets,

to the other North African haven of Montpellier. .

You demand why and who and how I must go down from

this ultimate haven of Cathars, catholics, shepherds,

but the gist of your question disappears

in the evening sizzle of biftek buried

in an armful of bay leaves and vine twigs.

For someone is calling me from

the vivid painted timbers of Montpellier.

The fierce row on the boards at bedtime,

your coarse tears extinguishing the candles

and unbalancing the stable slab of incense,

propel me out of your faithless fleshy cloisters.

You hurl bells, burn sutras in your ashtray,

demand and denounce my path to this ‘borrowed’ deity,

making last-ditch interrogations under a strong light.

But the gist of your spite is sucked

into the Lama’s Himalayan eyes,

dredged over the ample of his saffron robes,

as he welcomes me to the wooden temple in an orchard,

its specifications exact, my mission specific.

He has been waiting with his butter lamps and words.

‘‘You heard my calling. I knew you would come soon.’’

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Reading the Air: Silence

negative silence 5My father was always silent. He never told me about his feelings or his life. As a child he never enriched my powers of imagination by sharing the pictures of his mind.  I always thought he didn’t share them because they didn’t exist, and so, as his heir, his ticket for the family future, I failed to find my own pictures and there were no feelings in sight. I searched wildly for them, and in the end decided it was my fault, as children do.

He was sick, thin and weakened by tuberculosis. The only sounds he made were coughing and rasping, always in the distance when he was at home. But mostly he was at work making tatami mats, the dust and dryness of the rushes always irritating his condition.tatami

Hearing him speaking tersely to the doctor when he came was a shock. His voice was gruff, words like stones dropped into a deep tank, and I knew then that the tank was deep but empty, sterile.

I learned my pictures and feelings from others eventually, from women mostly. But the constant presence negative silence 3of his silence like a kind of weather, made them somehow trivial, easy to vanish, like crushed ice on a hot day. I longed to ask him to teach me the skill of making pictures which other people seemed to have naturally, and to enjoy. I felt an empty tank like him, and when I spoke, which became increasingly rare, my words dropped into the deeps just like his had.

When his condition was at its worst in the winter, he had to sit outside on the flimsy balcony and make a little fire in the fish grille to warm himself. The cold air was the only thing that stopped his incessant coughing and allowed the bleeding of his lungs to subside. I watched from inside as the snow settled around him, and on his balding head. I squeezed and toiled so hard so I could make my own picture of him as I watched. Then I turned away to check if it was there, and it was for a brief second, then it vanished like crushed ice in the hot sun.negative silence 4

Friends told me that silence was rare and that I should be grateful for it. That in their busy lives between work and sleep, they could not find it. They toldnegative silence me that my father loved me in his way and to just accept that he was a quiet man.  Accept? Quiet? How could I tell them how empty I was, and how the abyss of my life at home was truly bottomless.

When I got older, and my father had died, I thought I would climb out of the bottomless tank of silence and it would disappear. I had managed to find a way of making pictures and being briefly acquainted with feelings without him. But the silence was still there, the blank sides, the dimensionlessness. I could not climb out.

Then I felt deep regret and realisation that I was perhaps the only one who could have aroused him and pulled him out of the tank. That this had been my mission, my true purpose in life, but out of fear, the vision of a genkanraised fist knocking silence into me with a hard blow, had paralysed me. I had failed, and so the tank and the numbness were my legacy.

Then one day, I met a Holy Being who asked me to always stand in the shoes of others, to always act from the position of understanding how others felt. I said that I had no idea how to understand the feelings of other people. I was told that I made myself separate from others and that it was only true love and respect that would enable me to understand them.

silenceI told how my father had made himself separate from me by using silence as if it were a weapon, and that I then made myself separate from him. ‘He loved you in the only way he could. By feeding you and making a roof over your head. You could have reached out to thank him with love.  He would have taken your hand and you could have dragged him out of his tank. But your own fear trapped you in a tank of your own making.’

Now, unconditional love is the creator of all my pictures and I can stand in the shoes of others. My father taught me silence so that I could know the joy of sound. He taught me blankness so that I could create magical pictures and impressions, and an infinity of human understanding. Silence and stillness are rare treasures in my life today.

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