Saturday, May 14, 2011
Count The Moons
The thing is, as I was looking at my pictures tonight, I thought this one looked like a picture of a bunch of moons. The idea claimed my reverie and immediately I was back in Seoul, Korea some 20 plus years ago, lying on a cotton mat under a low and wide picture window. No glass in the window, but lattice and rice paper, and on a very warm summer night, I had the shutters open. Wide open. Big, wide open. I had made the choice of hoping for respite from the stifling heat over the possibility of an uninvited guest (read "rat") sashaying along the window sill.
Here, forgive me this amusing foray into a side story as I relish the moment in time when that very guest did that very thing. In the middle of a restless sleep, I woke for some suspicious reason, raised up a bit and turned from one side to the other, pausing to look out the window into the clear, black night. Nose to nose, with a fat, brown rat on his way down the window sill leaving or entering my room. I'll never really know, but I tell myself he was on his way in when I prevented that dreadful event. I don't think we can ever know who was more surprised. We both froze and I saw his eyes widen in fear as he screeched, "Yikes! She's awake!" Believe me or don't, but just know that I am holding back from being as descriptive as I could be.
I had been in Korea long enough to have overcome a couple of small bouts of homesickness, a whole heap of culture shock, realized my initial naive, if romantic, desire to "get my hands dirty, my feet wet, and my heart broken." I belonged there at that time more than I had remembered ever having belonged until then. Anywhere or anytime. I felt held there. I was living with my friend/art teacher/fairy godmother and her parents in a tall, two-story house where they gave me the room on the main floor with the rat-access. No, wait, I mean the room with the big, beautiful window through which the mother, of a late summer morning, would pass sweet, ripe persimmons or velvety roses to me as I sat cross-legged on the thick cotton mat grinding soot-smelling ink for my day's toil of laying brush to paper.
You might presume to think I jest when I call it toil, that activity of grinding ink, meditating upon the wonders of mulberry paper, setting out the wool brushes, the pale colors, the ceramic dishes. It was sheer, unadulterated joy and unmeasured pleasure, and it sucked blood, sweat and tears from my very core. I must have written about this activity in this blog before, so I won't belabor, but let me just say, maybe in heaven there is no beer, but I know there is Chinese Ink and Brush Painting.
Some mornings, my friend and I would take our sketch books or water jugs up the hill behind the house into the cuckoo woods, fill the jugs with cold spring water before skipping back home (yup--we held hands and skipped like school girls down the rocky hill, such was the halcyon, carefree spirit that engulfed us on those days) or sit beside bright, pink acacia bushes and make charcoal drawings of the Buddhist temple and her monks being about their holy business.
Please, pull me back to the point I started to make at the beginning of this entry. Merely a glimpse of my life at that time, but perhaps you are sufficiently instructed about how blissfully I found myself placed then and there for me to get back to the moon. Or moons, really.
Back to my summer night, my big window and my clear, black, star-studded night, after the cuckoo in our chestnut tree had lulled me weirdly to the land of nod. (Really, the unnatural sound of a cuckoo cuckooing can be very strange and unnerving.) I rose up on my elbow, looked out the window and there before my very eyes were two, huge bright-white moons crossing paths with the pace and purpose of a finely choreographed Alvin Ailey piece.
By this time, as wonderfully startling and breathtaking as seeing two moons flow and cross in the sky could be, I didn't question my sight at all. I didn't question the possibility of it, either. Just one more delightful
surprise in a succession of many over the years. What were these two moons saying to me? At first, I thought they were appearing just because they were fulfilling the measure of their creation. It wasn't until after I woke up and admitted to myself that I was only dreaming, that I began to analyze why I would dream about two moons in a Korean sky. Two equally brilliant moons crossing and then going opposite directions in the same sky. Maybe it wasn't a Korean sky, but THE sky--the world's sky. Maybe my mind was trying to work out the inevitable, necessary duality of life, of being alive.
One, and there are many, aspect of this idea is how homesick I can be for some place while living in another that I would be homesick for were I to leave. My skies. My orb-filled Ogden skies, my two-mooned Korean skies, my Montana Big Skies, my Crayola box New Mexico skies. Maybe it's about time to head north and check out Aurora Borealis!