Please excuse me should you find this post/blog to be a rambling affair. All over the shop like a dog’s breakfast, as they say. Like life itself.
I know I am privileged. I have retired from paid work, and I have the wherewithal to support myself. So I write novels. By its nature, this is a solitary activity. But I don’t mind this at all. And It didn’t take me any time at all to get accustomed to it. It’s not so very different from the way I’ve been living all along.
So ‘lock-down’ hardly feels foreign to me. I have a loving partner. The Coles supermarket delivers to my door. My coastal environment is extremely pleasant, and right there on my doorstep. I have plenty to do. I use Zoom when I want to talk to grandkids. My exercise regime is a 3-kilometre walk on the beach. In a typical day, I might see half a dozen people in the flesh. At an appropriate social distance.
I am loath to crow about this too much. I recognize most other people are doing it much tougher than I am. My children, for example, all of whom live in big cities, are gearing themselves up to work potentially from home, while – one of them at least – has to manage kids who are learning at home. At the same home, for pity’s sake!
There are people who are dedicated extroverts, for whom the company of others is like the oxygen they breathe. They, I imagine, are beyond stir crazy.
There are those trapped at home in an abusive relationship. Wtf are they meant to do?
And let’s not forget those in their late teens, early twenties, and beyond, whose chance of a physical relationship with a beloved partner is necessarily put on ice. How are these people, post-Covid, expected to engage in – quaint word, I know – courtship?
So, when I talk about my privileged situation, can I perhaps expect these people to show me the finger? Or can I anticipate, contrariwise, that my example might point them in the direction of paths of their own making that might help guide them through the crisis?
Very important to me, I embrace and am embraced by visual and aural arts of my choice. All the time. Let me deal in this blog with the visual.
I enjoy ukiyo-e every day. They hang on my walls and draw my eye constantly. They are dear to me, almost like friends. For the benefit of the uninitiated, ukiyo-e are Japanese woodblock prints. The anonymous beauty depicted in the picture above is an example. It is the work of Susuki Harunobu. He trod this earth from 1724 to 1770.
If you have read my earlier blog/posts, you will realize I love things Japanese. When, one way or another, the present pandemic comes to an end, I shall visit Japan again. The Japanese, so I would argue, do not deal so much in ‘sights’ (think the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon) as with ‘events’. Taking in a ‘sight’ is a passive and detached activity. Only the sight gets to have an input. You do not.
By contrast, experiencing an ‘event’ is very much an interactive activity. An event is something you are part of. It makes its mark on you, and you on it.
The Japanese are masters at turning ‘sights’ into ‘events’. Even a visit to a shopping mall or a train station can become an event in Japan. At the Sendai Railway Station on my last visit to Japan, I found the entire Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra there playing Beethoven. The audience of commuters, frozen in their tracks at first, were soon literally hopping to the beat. So was I. Can you imagine this happening in Grand Central Station? Or Gare du Nord? Or Southern Cross Station?
To move around Japan is to experience one event after another, most of them unexpected. Life becomes exciting.
And, of course, you don’t just drink tea in Japan. You participate in a tea ceremony.
My woodblock print (above) seems to reflect this. When I look at the lady in it (as I do daily), she seems to be inviting me to share one of her most private moments with her. And the landscapes and seascapes of Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) seem to invite me not merely to look at them but to come on in. I cannot resist.
What do you do if ukiyo-e is not your bag? Well, visuals with the ability to engage are not the sole privilege of humans to create. Nature does a pretty good job. At present, when I go out onto my front verandah, I see the air chockers with blue-grey butterflies, all – for reasons best know to themselves – heading north.
The air is so thick with them I imagine that, should I chance to yawn, I might swallow half a dozen or more of them. It is a beautiful ‘sight’ to behold and, if I really did swallow some of them, it would be an ‘event’ to experience.