The Great Wave

How many of you actually noticed my profile image? If you had a predilection towards this print in the first place, it may have registered. Like many great works of art, the image of “the Wave” (or more accurately “Under a Wave off Kanagawa”) by the Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai, has become so ubiquitous that it has been used to embellish a myriad of souvenirs and everyday objects from mouse pads and table mats to key chains and even socks. It is Hokusai’s most famous work and is often considered the most recognisable of Japanese art. That prevalence can cause it to sometimes become invisible, in my opinion, unless you are an art fan.

Let me put my theory to the test. How many of you noted the pyramid-shaped mountain in the background, Mount Fuji, itself? Or the three boatloads of struggling rowers? Maybe you saw one and not the other. I’ll be honest here. This painting has fascinated me for many years but it was only when I made a conscious effort to look at it closely did I see the details. The motion of the towering great wave with its claw-like spume is depicted so powerfully in its distinct hues of blues, that to the inattentive eye, it detracts from the mountain in the background. Initially, in fact, the painting had attracted me because I saw in it the the power of the Almighty, of Nature. But for Hokusai, it was Mount Fuji which was the focal point. In fact, this woodblock print is the first in a series called “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”. Strange, isn’t it, what one means to convey and what is actually interpreted especially out of context?

“At 12,000 feet high, Mount Fuji had been worshipped as a sacred location by the Japanese since Shinto times. So while the eye of the viewer is held captive by the the great wave which seems poised to break on top of and capsize the two boatloads of helpless rowers beneath it, it is Mount Fuji, aloof in the distance, which is the true focus, offering perhaps, a spiritual symbol of permanence, contrasted with the futile striving and fleeting nature of human existence”. This is one viewpoint.

I still see in the print the force of nature, reminding me of a Superior Being. Edmond de Goncourt suggested that the wave was “a deification of the sea” itself. An atheist may see only the glory or the power of the ocean. (One sees only what one thinks I guess.) And Mount Fuji, yes, solid and enduring and beautiful. But I would like to see the rowers as ‘striving’ all the same, maybe against the odds, but still making an effort. Not perhaps what Hokusai meant to emphasise but my take on it.

In support of my interpretation, I have a fellow in Andreas Ramos who wrote:
“The violent Yang of nature is overcome by the Yin of the confidence of these experienced fishermen.”

Perception and interpretation aside, this begs the question: can a work of art be appreciated without study? Initially, I was drawn to this print just by its sheer dynamism and beauty. So I think definitely yes. Though perhaps for some, knowing something of its background does illuminate it even more. The important thing is to allow yourself, from time to time, to get hooked to the majesty of something beautiful in the first place. And it does not have to be a work of art.

The Incident is Incidental

She went for it by the jugular. She kept telling herself that it wasn’t really a big deal. Why was she blowing things up out of proportion? But something inside was driving her and she reached for it, disrobed it aggressively and devoured it without tasting it…that dark slab of chocolate…and it was decimated.

So too was gone her peace of mind.

What exactly made her reach out for comfort again in chocolate? Like a sleuth, she needed to so some digging. What had happened earlier in the day?

That is what she could not fathom. It was quite insignificant, quite the norm. Adam had said he did not feel like eating the spaghetti that she had cooked but wanted eggs instead. That was Adam. She blamed herself for having pampered him, abiding by his fanciful whims at mealtimes right from the beginning. But she was so used to it by now; so why did she erupt suddenly like a dormant volcano?

She was beginning to get angry at herself for having lost it and wondered if that had triggered her binge. In the past her feathers were not easily ruffled and this new nagging irritation was disturbing.

Then she remembered that earlier in the day, while she was in the middle of her meditation, he had asked her with urgency to go out into the garden to help and she had had to forego her interrupted practice and oblige, mumbling about always having to go by his demands, never having her space and time respected.

She had been aware for sometime now that she was discontented with this pattern of behaviour both in her husband but more so in herself, when she would grumble pathetically and snap at him every time he called her to do something while she was in the middle of something else. She felt more and more that she never got to complete her tasks in peace because she almost always went along with his agenda. They had even discussed it and she had requested him to consider if she was doing something before shouting for her and once in a while she had even managed to tell him to wait. But both habits and one’s nature get set in stone over time and to change at least the habit one needs to hack at the stone consistently. She had been hacking at it for a while now without much success.

As for one’s nature, she had at least come to the wise conclusion after much trauma that life worked best when one accepted unconditionally the others’ “sanskars” or personality traits and that the only person one can change is oneself. She had really made an effort to accept her husband’s impatient nature and wanting to get things done immediately as well as perfectly. She understood him and when viewed from the sunnier side, it was a trait she really appreciated because he always got things done. That was the funny thing. A characteristic becomes dark only when taken to extremes. She even knew that. So then why the recurring outbursts from her side every time he impinged on her time? She used to be so patient and she did not like herself when she was triggered.

That is when it dawned on her. It was not only about accepting him. She needed to change. What she perceived in herself as composure and tolerance was also over-amplified* and that extreme version made her submissive at times. Her needs were not being met and that is why she had gone for that whole bar of chocolate. She had to turn down the volume a little.* She had to learn to say “no” or “not now” more often, to find a balance. She had given it a go by requesting him to wait and consider at times but it was not working. We teach people how to treat us. The pattern had taken many years to create. On both sides. It is now up to her to keep picking at each stitch till that particular fabric falls apart. At least from her side.

*Neale D Walsch: ” All of your so-called faults, all the things you don’t like about yourself, are your greatest assets….They are simply over-amplified…just turn down the volume a little and weaknesses will be seen as strengths.”

Him and Her

She tiptoes around the house in the early mornings so that we can have a lie-in: he is welcomed with open arms as he squeals his way into our room no matter how early  it is

She nestles all her belongings for use during the day under a table to keep them accessible yet out of sight: his paraphernalia is strewn all over the house during the course of the day till it is time to tidy up and no one bats an eyelid.

She continually sponges kitchen surfaces to wipe away crumbs and water: when he is seated at the kitchen table he has no qualms flinging bits about on the table itself or down onto the floor.

She has to turn off the television and refrain from watching when he is around because his screen time is restricted: he can have the telly on whenever he needs to be pacified.

When she enters a room, there is a hush and  people tend to go quiet at least for a while: when he makes an entrance there is a fanfare of ” Aw! How cute!” to greet him.

This is perhaps the natural state of progression from 2 to 80. How marvellous the spontaneity and rambunctiousness of the toddler and how magnificent the grace and consideration of the elder.

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Photo b Zino Bang on Pexels.com

grandmother making faces
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But there is also a darker angle which sometimes fills me with dread. Does one become invisible with time? Is that also natural?

I would like to think not. Maybe no longer on centre stage but still very present and glowing. Like the fierce golden orange sunset or the rusty hues of autumn.

I believe that fearing old age is counter-productive and futile. We must trust that there is beauty even in this phase of life and we always have a choice each time our landscape changes to embrace our new reality and be ready to continue creating our own dance. If one can learn to sit with the calm grace and wisdom that comes with age, that in itself can create a presence.

 

 

Then …and Now

“M..u..m. The ball’s gone over to Gerald’s”

The long drawl on “mum” reverberates in my ears even after more than twenty years and images of my bare, brown patch of a garden springs to mind. What a difference to the lush lawn in front of me today.

As the boys were growing up, our tiny garden was their football field, their tennis court, their mini gym. My borders were mainly sturdy shrubs that could withstand all kinds of abuse from all manner of balls, rackets and shoes. Our world centred around the boys and our conversations revolved around them….which activities to choose for them, what kind of discipline, where to go at weekends….And all the while as they were growing and outgrowing the small garden, I kept hankering after my dream garden.

And there it is now, in front of my eyes, very much a part of my home, seen in all its glory through the bi-fold doors with no net curtains to hide it. A well-manicured lawn surrounded by a border of low bushes in every shade of green, resplendent with my favourite plants: dangling hot pink fuschias, pearly strings of bleeding hearts, golden yellow osteospermums, and pastel roses galore. In one corner a dark acer stands sheltering two lovers and in another my favourite pitcher fountain rippling with water.

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And today one of our main topics of conversation is the garden: when do we prune the hellebores, why is the jasmine not growing, what feed to buy…. If only I knew then that there is a right time for everything, I would have perhaps enjoyed my kids’ outdoor play more and fretted less about not having a garden brimming over with blooms.

But no regrets. Plus I am letting go of the guilt. Both do not really serve me. I have inculcated mindfulness now. Must be the right time for me I guess and better late than never. I have learnt to stop and savour the ordinary beautiful moments that we so often miss when we are operating on autopilot. So as I sit by my expansive doors now and marvel at my outdoor space having merged with my indoors, I realise I have come full circle. I can revel in the moment and also look forward to my one-year old grandson come and mess around with me in my haven. And this time round I intend to enjoy his mucking around.

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Why blogging? Why now?

Words have always been a passion for me. I love reading and have the habit of noting down any striking sentence or paragraph that resonates with me. So could I perhaps come up with cleverly phrased thoughts and reflections which might perhaps inspire someone else? Or just plain words that describe an experience that some reader may relate to and empathise with? So making a connection; sharing

Then the act of writing is said to be cathartic, healing. Not only that but it can help make sense of events and maybe put things in perspective. Or just clarify what is going on in one’s head and putting pen to paper (or should I say key to monitor)  kind of makes the impression permanent.

Then again my reflections are my take on what I have gleaned from my own life situations as well as snippets from stories or other media. Having read, for many years,  about various ways to make one’s life magical or how to improve relationships or simply be happy, lately I find myself actively examining events and reviewing either what I learnt from them or how I could have responded differently or how I put or could have put some age old principles into practice. Plus I am fascinated when other people relate their life stories and experiences and I have drawn from them (with their permission where necessary)

In fact the way I see it my blog is about how I am learning to practise what I have read about living a full life, all these years, and how I am finding my own answers to so many questions and how even more questions are surfacing. Maybe, just maybe, you might find an answer or two in my sharing my on-going journey with you and if more questions come up for you there is room for discussion too.