Paying attention and losing my shoes

When it rains it pours. This was my thought walking home through the dark, wet streets one night recently after a dentist appointment where I’d been told I needed treatments that would cost me close to a month’s earnings. Why now, just as I was planning to move? How was I going to afford everything? I felt despondent, defeated by this latest curveball. Continue reading Paying attention and losing my shoes

Memories, moments and the middle way

Félix Vallotton, Le Ballon, oil on wood (1899)

I recently read a short story in which a woman tells her lover a terrible secret. “My mother died in a lake when I was a child,” she says. “And what did you do?” the lover asks. “I watched,” she says. “I stood there watching as my mother’s hair slipped gently under the surface of the water. I didn’t run to get help.” Continue reading Memories, moments and the middle way

Someday this pain will be useful to you

 Tetsugoro Yorozu, Self-portrait with a cloud, oil on canvas (1922) (currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art, Hayama)

The past month has been a rollercoaster of emotions, from the high of starting a new life in the city I’ve wanted to live in for so long, to moments of loneliness and scary anxiety.

I’ve always been a worrier, and a lot of things make me nervous. Change most of all. There is a side of me that really likes things to stay the same. I don’t want summer to become autumn. I don’t want to leave things – homes, jobs, people, regardless of whether or not I actually like them. I even find it hard to leave a place I’m visiting for a day. I resist and fight and push against change. But not changing is even worse. Continue reading Someday this pain will be useful to you

A monument to Unsatisfied Desire

clarice-lispector

‘The “ever after” of passion tastes like a stubbed out cigarette.’

In Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector’s ‘Letter to Hermengardo’, the writer, Idalina, advises her reader about desire, the tendency to seek after pleasures, and the pain this brings. Continue reading A monument to Unsatisfied Desire

On race and belonging

On Between the Covers, poet and writer Claudia Rankine talks about the title of her book Citizen being in part about belonging. This is a theme that has been often on my mind since moving to Japan four years ago. Continue reading On race and belonging

Body matters

Ghada Amer Green Paradise for bodies

Ghada Amer, Untitled,  acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas (2008)

Every week I read a novel by a Japanese writer with my friend – in her case the original and in mine a translation. Recently we read The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto. The main character, Chihiro, is an artist who paints murals for a living.  She spends most of her time outdoors, engaging her whole body as she works. ‘I guess I’m one of those people who always thinks with her body,’ she says. Continue reading Body matters

Double negative

Helen Verhoeven

Helen Verhoeven,The Waiting, oil on canvas (2014)

I’ve just finished reading Haruki Murakami’s first novel, Hear the Wind Sing. In it, one of his characters paraphrases this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

Continue reading Double negative

The beauty of uncertainty

Nothing is certain and nothing lasts. As Sogyal Rinpoche writes in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, ‘there is only one law in the universe that never changes – that all things change, and that all things are impermanent. This realisation of impermanence is the only thing we can hold onto.’ Continue reading The beauty of uncertainty

The art of saying what cannot be said

Koshiro Onchi Poem no 6 1948 woodblock

Koshiro Onchi, Poem No. 6, woodblock print (1948)

I’m currently reading Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and it has got me thinking about the ability of poetry to ‘describe the indescribable’, as Alan Watts puts it in his lecture ‘Buddhism as Dialogue’. ‘Poetry is the great language,’ he says. ‘It is the art of saying what cannot be said.’ Continue reading The art of saying what cannot be said