A house of snow

Residences. Abode. Such lawful (limiting?) words. Habitat. The two-sided impression of where I live is also the imprint I leave on my microscopic geography.

And while there is the rotie de porc / lechon paradox: I think it's pretty safe to say no one would have them on their plate at the same time, I am beginning to think that the lines that draw one definition, one word, apart from another, are also connecting them. You can see this in black and white drawings. Residence is only a beginning.

In "Unwearying Beauty," Chomei writes about how we can add beauty to where we are through what we remember. What I like about this passage so much is that these memories do not impede him from looking and feeling what is around him, but merely accents his thoughts towards the end (here is the end):

When I see :the mountain deer approach me without any fear, then I understand how remote I am from the world. And I stir up the embers of my smoldering fire, the best friend an old man can find by him when he wakes. The mountains themselves are not at all awesome, though indeed the hooting of the owls is sometimes melancholy enough, but of the beauties of the ever-changing scenery of the hills one never becomes weary. And to one who thinks deeply and has a good store of knowledge such pleasure is indeed inexhaustible.

So here is my tribute to Chomei.

I am far from the world in that many people don't know how to find this country on a map; others, even those of days past who travelled here, projected onto it their many cannibalistic imaginings, it's oral poetry is said to have stirred the Germans away from the rational restrictions of the Enlightenment to find their own voice, I wonder if it is secretly linked to the birth of nationalism, which has strangely become a bad word in a world that still has passport control; where I live is so far that well-read, intelligent people asked before I came, "You're going there?!" And when I began to see where that question came from, I had already begun to find a set of yarns here that have kept me occupied...

When I see the market every day, now that I know which vendors are where, the sprawling mix of stalls is familiar, not daunting; it is a small enough place that one begins to recognise everyone after a while, there are some vendors I just say hello to, some who are greedy for money and will make up any tale to convince you to open your wallet, some grannies will not hand you your produce until they have added a few extra vegetables, the butcher gives you a discount if you smile consistently, the old grandpa who sells the potatoes, crushed chili powder and garlic does not like his relative who sells from the same stall during his absence when he returns to the village, there is a stall with Swiss couverture-grade chocolate, another with imported slips and robes with slashed labels - and prices...

There are days when most stalls are emptied from the cold wind, when singing can be heard, and new faces appear, willing to sell anything the villagers had left before they scuttled home at a lower price. There are times when the pigeons take off from the eaves of the stalls in unison, and one lifts one's eyes from the narrow pathways between the stalls to the wide, open sky. Spring brings the kiss of colour to those green metal structures, that explode with sprigs and bouquets. It is not possible to feel alone in the market, nor can one hold onto any intellectual idea that didn't make sense to begin with. And to one who thinks deeply and has a good store of knowledge, happiness can be found when buying produce for lunch.

So, this is my home, I live right by a market. I translated a novel last year for one of the most poetic, melancholic souls I have ever met, a politician by trade, which makes for an argument that this country is in fact a poem; there is no mathematical model that can explain how it continues to plug on, and while it may be the case that the genius loci cannot be translated, how is it that I can say in my native tongue "house of snow" and have this phrase be intelligible? Fiction writers show us the vitality of the metaphor, and where reality gets oppressive, the women of Medieval Normandy take to their tapestry looms and depict scenes of the war their knights would go on to win. Or perhaps, this is the stuff of legend, too.

graphic: pugly pixel; photo: original

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