That’s the challenge, isn’t it. To live while there’s still time. To feel that you have had some agency over your life and have not just lived a paint-by-numbers life. There’s nothing like a pandemic to focus the mind. Life can seem like such a repetitive chore, but no one really knows what might come tomorrow.
I have been watching a lot of Chinese historical dramas on Netflix, Yanxi Palace, The Palace, etc. and they usually take place in the Forbidden City and involve the machinations of a stifled albeit beautifully dressed people. All the comforts and riches in the realm, but the strictures of palace life are stultifying their lives. Murder, mayhem and madness ensue. Did they have toilet paper? Was there enough?
Things are pretty stultifying around here these days, too. No murder, yet. The prevailing joke is, either I come out of this with the body of a fitness trainer and the house filled with the results of my handicrafts, or twenty pounds heavier and with a serious drinking problem. I’m veering towards the latter scenario, with the additional moral failure of discovering, and eating, mountains of fabulously flavoured potato chips. Where have you been all my life, bacon, sour cream & onion chips? Take them away from me. Please. They are the devil’s food. Kpop band BTS has likewise branded Nutella “the devil’s jam”. I fully concur. Boys, if you want to keep dancing, throw those jars away. Your instincts are correct. Nothing in nature should taste that good. Likewise my chips. They’re an abomination against nature.
I just got off the phone with my youngest daughter. She feels ashamed and disgusted with herself, as well. Although God knows why. She’s 24/7 looking after two small children. I’m just pleasing myself. Though even that is proving harder and harder. She just finished talking with an old girlfriend. This friend has decided to speak nothing but French with her husband for days while they repaint the whole inside of their house, room by room. Educational for themselves and their two children. I’m sure there are thousands of similar revolting stories out there. Please keep these highly commendable stories away from me, and my couch and my bacon, sour cream & onion chips.
Just forced myself to go for a stroll down our forest paths while I can still muster the energy to waddle down them.
Sudden gusts of wind have brought me back to the house. Mustn’t overexpose myself to the elements, or a falling branch.
My mum went to England for the last time when she was eighty-three. The highlight of the trip apparently was being outside on a windy, rainy day for a little while, waiting for a bus. It was exhilarating, she told me, to experience the raw elements on her face. And when she was expressing this to me with real joy, at the memory, the word “purda” flashed through my mind. Many years lived under a kind of self-imposed purda. Like ancient Japanese court ladies kneeling behind their “curtains of state”. Not for her whole life, of course, but the last, say, 25 years. I can feel it gradually happening with myself. Always going for the comfy chair. A natural self-shielding impulse taking over. Not wanting to experience any slight discomfort.
When my husband came from Japan, a hundred years ago, he did nothing but complain about how hot people’s houses were. These hot houses represented in his mind a moral turpitude of some kind. It was winter. Surely the house is meant to be cold and the people in it, although warmly dressed, suffering and chilblained. Shouldn’t a small brazier filled with glowing coals suffice? Or perhaps an electric blanket laid on the living room floor, to sit on. The fall of the West cannot be far away with this kind of practice. And what’s with the gigantic fridge? How much are you planning on eating? Dryers are decadent. What’s wrong with drying racks?(No dryers in Japan. Even 40 years later.) It was like I was living with the reincarnation of Sitting Bull, or Confucius. When I listen to the Dalai Lama speak he reminds me of my husband. I expect his next words to be “and what is with these huge fridges? Is it for jars of your sinfully-flavoured Nutella”?
George Orwell had similar views in 1930s England. People were getting too soft and spoiled by modern comforts like fridges and radios. Wringer washing machines. It was distancing us from the natural world. We should get out there and feel the wind and rain on our faces. My husband’s views are culturally shaped by Shintoism, which translates into english usually as “nature worship”. I don’t know what was influencing George. But it is certainly invigorating to be in nature and it can feel like a spiritual experience.
These are hard, strange times we are living in. Wouldn’t it be nice if some societal good came into being because of this awful virus. World governments might be forced to help their people more. The 4-day work week might be ushered in. More people might permanently be working from home. Schools might be restructured. People’s lives might be more fulfilling and less hectic. There could be a return to family life, and cosiness around the dinner table and more human warmth in our lives, generally. I hope so. Take care. We’re all in this together. And all men are brothers.