June 07, 2006

Calm Before the Storm

June 7, 2006. A bright and warm Wednesday morning sun gleams over Koyo's school buildings and gardens. Outside the staffroom, under the shady canopy of zelkova trees, a single hydrangea bush in full bloom glows with a hue too vivid for reality. It is a painter's compound: of baby blues, sky blues, tinges of rapturous turquoise and empyrean pearl. My thoughts rest in this sight for a second, then begin to grow restive aagain, like someone obsessively counting the change in their pockets. A Murakami protagonist indeed. Lately I have felt myself and my life to be resting upon a crux, a strangely wonderful and unnerving point of displacement. With only a little less than three months to go in my stay here, I feel far too many mixed emotions to get a clear picture of what I have decided to do in my life. There is a voice in me that urges me to start something permanent, but there is also a voice that beckons me to roam more. "Roam" comes from, as far as Dictionary.com tells me, the Middle English word "romen," which probably bears the same or a similar meaning as the present form. Thinking about this word in connection with my life, and the fact that I have grown fond of things like books, travelling, and improvisational music, I recalled that the word for "novel" (the literary entity) in German is "Roman." Unfortunately the connection between the German "Roman" and the Middle English "romen" is tenuous at best. I am sure that any serious etymological investigation would uncover different sets of roots for each word, but if we dig deep enough, we find an existential geology of sorts, a common soil in which both words, all words, are grounded. Thus, in a characteristically illogical and cryptic fashion, I have begun to realize how a journey, or in this case true "wandering" (i.e. a journey without a forestated purpose), is much like a novel. They are both forms of pilgrimage, in which the journey itself creates prupose. The how.. So I take back what I said about that forestated purpose. There is a purpose, but it is not seperable from the acts and days of life itself. While reading parts of a very intelligent book of literary criticism that examined how a walk is a type of poem (or vice versa), I have started to consider how a long period of wandering is the novel itself. It is a section of life. If it were in fact possible, the novel is life itself speaking in its own voice. How abstract I have become! since first sitting down to reflect on the flowers in the garden, the peaceful June sun, the clarity of thought early in the morning (with aide of freshly brewed coffee), and yet this digression seems to me a natural part of my mind's progress. Like Emily Dickinson said, "My business is Circumference." One starts at a point, i.e. conception (whether existentially--i.e. being conceived in the womb, or mentally--i.e. the birth of a "concept"), and then moves in concentric circles outward. Like tree rings. Shuntaro Tanikawa, one of the most successful and lucid modern poets of Japan, says that humans also have tree rings, however ambiguous they may seem, and that the poet's job is to go back to different rings, inhabit both their growth and stagnancy. Maybe it is just another from of 'emotion recollected in tranquility' (I forget the actual wording of that Romantic's dictum), but I know too viscerally the ache of things repeated, both joys and sufferings, how pain hurts less and joy begins to dull with time--for a time, at least. Even though one could play language games endlessly, and say that none of us really have a center, that it is all just relative to my position as a subjective reader of my life; we could give in to the temptation to consider life itself of no real importance and that if we have fun, that will be enough; but just this point of view too floats off with the pollen in the spring wind. But when everything is swept away, what is left? You are. However wonderful or terrifying that is, is up to you, is up to how.


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