The Pillowbook of Prudence . . .
I have just finished reading the Pillowbook of Sei Shonagon. The book dates from 1000 years ago when the art of writing – calligraphy – and the art of writing – poetry and story – were desired skills, like playing an instrument, painting or embroidery were in western culture. Not only that, the art of both sorts of writing was considered a required accomlishment. Sei Shonagon was a part of the imperial court: a witty, intuitive woman with a sharp eye and an ability to translate her observations into simple words that charm and beguile. The Pillowbook is a journal and I realised it is the sort of journal I would like to write; as if I am picking up a brush and painting a picture of my day.
Sei Shonagon is a masterful teacher. By her words, or perhaps lack of them, she has taught me what editors have been trying to teach me for years. When I write description, I am castigated for over-gilding the lily. This 1000 year old teacher can use one word to create an image. She has taught me much about simplicity of line and simplicity of word. I am so grateful to have found this book and I offer up The Pillowbook of Prudence as an exercise (with abject apologies to Sei Shõnagon)
Things that are splendid:
The sky clearing to dusty blue so that one can work in short sleeves. The sound of wrens gossiping as they sit on the gates near the barn. A tortoise balancing on the pump buoy in the dam. The sound of frogs in the peace. The horse snorting. Ewes bleating at the top of the ski-run. The farm garden clipped and pruned and tucked up for winter. White nerines pushing through the lawn. Lunch under the shedding hawthorns. An adolescent possum asleep in the straw in the barn as I move around it loading straw mulch into a barrow. Good news about friends. A bubble bath.
Things that are not splendid:
Exhaustion after a hard day. The realisation that one grows older. At the end of a hard day the wrinkles are etched more firmly in one’s face. Aching legs and sore feet. Filthy clothes. Having to get a meal. No chocolate in the pantry. Craving a slower pace.
Fridays are the end of the week and whether one is busy or not, it means that a week draws to a close, that Friday night dinners are relaxed and may finish with a block of Cadbury’s milk chocolate. It also means that I may head to the coast tomorrow to walk on deserted beaches with the dogs and think of nothing. Today I saw a woman walking her dog. She was dressed in black from head to toe which I thought was a pity as it is dour and grim and did nothing for her complexion. Today is a sunny day filled with the rays of optimism and so she should wear a colour. I will wear sky blue and then no one can tell the difference between me and the perfect sky.