Self Experiences Stillness

Last night we took son to see National Treasure in the old Century Park cinema on Bayshore. The theatre was packed, self had never seen so many people in a movie, not in a very very long time. We had popcorn, and self got an extra bag and divided up the popcorn (The popcorn at this theatre is the best of all the theatres in the Peninsula, self doesn’t know why. And they never scrimp on the butter). It is always fun to watch Nic Cage (who self is sure dyes his hair now), and of course Diane Kruger is there for male eye-candy. But Helen Mirren went along for the ride, playing Nic Cage’s mother (and self is always amazed at how this woman manages to exude sexuality, even with the facial wrinkles that she doesn’t bother covering up with Botox), and it was loads of fun (for the parents, that is; self saw a number of little kids, six or seven years old, sleeping).

So, with that ritual of our holiday over, son took off to see his old friend Kenny. He got back at midnight, just as self was finishing the last of his laundry. Then, he stayed up packing until 3 or 3:30, and self was up with him, helping him fold clothes.

Weather’s absolutely gorgeous today. Son is gone. Helping him load up his car, writing down reminders and phone numbers for him to call in case of emergency (during his cross-country drive), and letting him choose from self’s stash of maps, occupied most of the morning.

There’s a stillness in the house now, and though self had thought she would run errands today, perhaps she won’t.

Will self write a story?

Will she watch a movie?

Will she garden?

Will she walk the (snoozing) dogs?

Will she sweep/ dust/ mop?

Or will self simply continue reading The Economist, in which she read this morning that “Women have not escaped the kitchen; it has come after them”?

Son’s spring break plans are still inconclusive, but he said he probably wouldn’t be going home. Self said that he should just go and have fun. Niece G always goes somewhere for spring break: Belize, Bermuda. Self thinks it would be wonderful for son to do the same.

Self now peeks into his room and is surprised to see that he’s straightened up quite a bit: his desk and his bookshelves look neat and tidy. Someday she’ll have to decide what to do with the 60-inch K’Nex rolling ball factory that he built when he was 10, or with his soccer and karate trophies, or with the stuffed animals he won from Great America. She doesn’t have to decide right now, though.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

The Hokusai Anthology of the One Hundred Poets

Son gave self the above-named book for Christmas! A new translation by Peter Morse and printed by George Braziller. Self dropped by Books Inc. in Mountain View with son last week and saw the book on display. After picking it up and glancing briefly through it, self put it back when she saw the price: $50. She didn’t even notice son watching her, he usually heads straight for the science fiction section and she is sure she didn’t spend more than five minutes looking at it. Son has the most uncanny intuition about what she would like for Christmas!

(Last year, he gave self a beautiful bound journal with blank pages and a nice Mont Blanc pen. Self uses up journals so fast that she gets the cheapest kinds, the ones that cost $5 from Target. But this journal was absolutely the most beautiful notebook self had ever owned. She’s saving it up for when she goes on that grand European tour and wants to jot down impressions. And she uses the pen when she has to sign books.)

So, self loves the Hokusai book so much. She remembers a story from her childhood about a fishing village in Japan that built their houses facing away from the sea, because the sea had taken so many lives, and the accompanying woodblock print was by Hokusai. That was how she first heard of him.

Now, perusing the book slowly, self comes across the print for a poem by Fujiwara no Atsutada (904 to 944). The print shows a woman standing before a mighty tree, a hammer in one hand, a nail in the other, a second nail held firmly between her teeth. On the woman’s head are three guttering candles. This is how the text explains the image:

. . . the ceremony of Ushi no Toki Mairi (Praying at the Hour of the Ox — i.e., two o’clock in the morning) is a means of casting a spell on an unfaithful lover. Only women could do it. The woman wakes, dons a white robe, and puts a metal tripod on her head, holding three lit candles. She wears a mirror on her chest and carries a straw doll in her left hand, representing the lover. Her hair is left loose; in her right hand she carries a hammer and nail to attach the straw figure to one of the trees surrounding the temple. She goes to the Shinto temple . . . at two in the morning, nails the figure and then prays to the gods for vengeance . . . It is supposed to be repeated several nights in succession for best effect.

Fascinating, just fascinating . . .

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