This latest addition to my published list is a rather cryptic, enigmatic little non-fiction book called The Pillowbook of Prudence.
A million miles from what I usually write.
I am prompted to write on envy because I look at my daughter’s skin and wish mine was as smooth and unmarked, with far less cartographic detail of my life’s journey. Sometimes I wonder if people look at that wrinkle and wonder at what vicissitude might have caused it. Or those freckles there and think ‘she spends far too much time in the sun.’ Because that is inevitably the kind of thing that I muse upon when I look at someone’s face or hands. What caused that? What happened there?
Somewhere in one of the Chronicles of Eirie, there is a statement by a male protagonist about love and the corollary of loss. I wish I could remember where it is because I haven’t the inclination to flick through the pages of three novels to find the line.
It’s an age since a Pillowbook has appeared on the blog. A Pillowbook, if it is in the style of Sei Shonagon, is a sharp-eyed look at life, maybe even acerbic. The last few months have been too… soulful for me to be acerbic. I re-learned how grief can pull you apart. How kind attention and love can put you back together. How loyal friends stick by you, how loyal readers keep you focused and stay loyal no matter that the book you have promised them seems like a mirage.
Inspired by The Pillowbook of Sei Shonagon.
Things that I hate:
Living in the city. Traffic lights and lines of traffic. Tarmac paths. Crowds. Being away from the city in a quiet village and finding that some selfish little 20-something has decided to have a party with boom-boom music which he feels obliged to have at full volume. No doubt he is from the city and is returning to the city on Sunday. I wanted so much to have the peace of wind, waves and nightbirds this evening. (Perhaps it will rain, driving the Spoilers and Soilers inside.) Realising its getting a little chilly to wear red shorts. The smell of garlic the next day. Autumn leaves. Missing my husband. Having no daylight saving. Having to go back to the city tomorrow and leaving House. Black clothing.
As new subscribers may not know, I just want to explain what the pillowbook is. Last year I read an ancient Japanese journal entitled The Pillowbook of Sei Shonagon. It was filled with observations, witticisms, self-denigration and acerbic comment. Thus I decided to create my own journal for the blog and you’ll see it pop up every now and then. Really it’s just a bedtime diary …
Things that relax you… are the most perfect things in one’s life. Eclectic things: waves shushing in and out, a light breeze blowing through the leaves of a tree, the sounds of snowy silence, a dog asleep under one’s hand. There are sinful things as well: chocolate, a good wine, even medication when one has a serious ache or pain. But then there is massage: preferably a Bowen massage, the pressure of kind fingers, ambient music playing just within earshot, warm towels being laid over one’s body.
Things that bear closer observation:
Whilst having a midmorning cup of tea, we sat on the back verandah in the sun and watched the resident swallows. Have they flown all the way from Russia, we wondered? They have renovated their nest above the security light and twisted my horse’s tail hair all around. They take it in turns to nest, one in, one out. Whilst one is in, the other sits on the powerlines and they sing and chat with each other. Occasionally they fly off together, not far, but with aeronautic tricks and tumbles. They are old friends and we welcome them every Spring. We also noticed that the ewes and lambs had pushed a gate open and let themselves into the paddock that they had begun lambing in seven weeks ago.
When I first read Sei Shonagon, one of the things I noticed and deplored, was her misplaced arrogance. The arrogance of the nobility of a thousand years ago. But one can never ignore her acuity, her powers of observation. It is this particular aspect of her work that I love and which I try to emulate in my own Pillow Book.
Things to think about:
How quickly the body loses its fitness and how relevant is the old saying ‘Use it or lose it’. How my old dog asks for so little in life . . . food at regular intervals, a comfy bed, a walk once a day and the need to know exactly where I am at any given time. How incredible it is that newborn lambs can survive rain, a southerly change and then frost and temps of zero degrees. How valuable is friendship. How maybe the story isn’t too bad . . . that it could entice readers. That winter is over and we are launched into the heady scents of Spring. How all sensations of any sort, good or bad, are impermanent. Life is short and worth the effort.