Scotland: sunsets and other wonderful things

Living is a wonderful thing.

A couple of months back, in the short space of four days, I was able to rekindle that warm, soulful realisation.

With friends, I travelled to one of the many western peninsulas of Scotland, to a small cottage overlooking Loch Sween: a narrow stretch of water outlining several inlets. There was a jetty; from the rocks there I watched the tide come in, and absorbed the painted, raging colours of the ephemeral sunsets that soon enough, faded away into a deep midnight blue. Before the light faded each evening, for what seemed like a fleeting moment, everything in view was etched with a delicate, golden lining of light. Everything in those moments was still.

We swam in the freezing cold sea, saw seals, went on long walks in wellington boots, laughed in the rain, found an abandoned boat shed hidden in the overgrown verdure of early summer, ran and stumbled on rocks, saw the mountains of Jura (the island where Orwell wrote 1984!), got left on an island travelled to by boat; it was pure wonder, and I would not have changed any of it for the world. And for that, I am most grateful.

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All photos were taken with my trusty Nikon D7000

 

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19

I turned 19 two days ago. I thought I’d scribble a few things down to look back on for myself in a year or two, or even five. It’d also be nice to think that others could maybe find in these coming paragraphs something noteworthy; so here goes:

  1. It’s August already, and I have come to find that staying in bed until twelve in the afternoon doesn’t exactly help to savour the little time that we have in each day— even if it can sometimes seem tedious.
  2. Time is fleeting, and you’ll want to set yourself unlikely goals. You know your limits – so stick to them and work with them. I think you’ll accomplish the most in you favour this way.
  3. Take any given opportunity to travel. The very essence of knowing the world is to see it.
  4. Do things that are invaluable to you. For me, it’s this: draw as much as you can, whenever you can.
  5. Create artwork, and you’ve got to learn how to use oil paints soon.
  6. Savour the world around you at times. It can be wondrously refreshing to relinquish everyday thoughts and just stop and look. There’s a wonderful quote to accompany this one: “When you weren’t looking, the sun got behind you! The only way to keep things slow was to watch everything and do nothing! You could stretch a day to three days, sure, just by watching!” – Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
  7. Read more. Read as much as you possibly can.
  8. Do what you can for this planet. Let it know that you are doing what you can.
  9. Write more— be it blogposts or letters, essays or marginalia; take time out of your day to do something worthwhile.
  10. Don’t try to adhere to societal standards (whatever they may be); start and stop when you want to; do what you know is right.
  11. Don’t dream your life; live your dream.
  12. Understand that people do things because they think it’s right; people don’t change for you when you want them to. Sometimes, they can only learn themselves, so be forgiving.
  13. Everything is here and happens for a reason; whether people may agree with you or not, please never lose faith in that.
  14. Be kind to others, even if they do not return it, and do not expect anything in return for favours; be generous.
  15. Practice languages other than English; never forget Japanese or Italian.
  16. Speak to your grandparents more. They hold so much more wisdom than you think.
  17. Don’t hold onto the past; relinquish past misunderstandings and mistakes; live right now.
  18. It’s okay to feel misunderstood and precluded. These kinds of things happen. The most important thing is to learn from them.
  19. Finally— live to enjoy every minute.

Houkokuji Temple: Princess Kaguya

In my last post, I introduced some recommended temples, shrines and tourist attractions in Kamakura (which if you’d like to read, you can here!). I mentioned that Houkokuji Temple was quite special to me, and this is why.

The following would probably be best described as an anecdote which I can’t quite seem to shake off.


 

I can’t help but think after precious moments like these that, some things are meant to remain in our memories for a very long time.

My friend and I had just finished taking photographs in the small bamboo grove that we planned to circle for the second time (because, well, we couldn’t get enough of its beauty). I slung my camera on my left shoulder along with my unnecessarily heavy rucksack which I seriously regretted bringing with me that day, and we began to walk back towards the entrance to the small wood.

As I looked towards the light streaming past the bamboo canes, I lowered my gaze to the shaded area which the bamboo trees began, when something small and pink caught my eye. It was a girl. She was probably about three, and had somehow managed to wander into the forest alone.

It wasn’t long before her seemingly angry parents noticed and called for her to return to them, but in those few moments I was overflown with such nostalgia that I couldn’t help but be fixated.

Flashes of pictures from Studio Ghibli’s 「かぐや姫の物語 」(Kaguya-hime no Monogatari) appeared in my mind; beautiful streaks of watercolour and traditional Japanese-inspired brushstrokes. The scene before me was stripped into a simple drawing with dashes of green and the girl’s pink figure was replaced by the similar-looking main character, Kaguya-hime, as a child.

e7a2b1b8481d7edc6583df5febf2210cKaguya-hime no Monogatari, meaning The Story of Princess Kaguya (also known as The Legend of the Bamboo Cutter), is an extremely well-known legendary folk tale in Japan, which is also considered to be the oldest known Japanese prose narrative. Studio Ghibli presents the story a little differently to the original, but it is wonderful.

Centred around Kaguya-hime, the mysterious protagonist who was found by a bamboo cutter in a glowing bamboo stalk, her life quickly unfolds in a series of wonderfully illustrated scenes. She encounters love, but also sadness; the narrative is compelling, with many implicit denotations that possess such rawness and beauty. There’s just no way my explanation can do the story or movie justice! If you haven’t seen it already, please do.

The music is also so beautiful, just like every other Studio Ghibli movie. Here‘s a link to the theme song, 「命の記憶」(Inochi no Kioku), directly translated as ‘Memories of life’.

When I saw the girl, after the scene had transformed into a series of watercolour illustrations, this music started playing in my head. And I just can’t seem to forget it.

Midnight Radio

It’s currently 2:23am in Japan. And they’re playing Studio Ghibli music on the radio. And I think I’m in love.

今日本ではもうすぐ朝の2時半です。スタジオジブリの曲をラヂオで流しています。そして、私は恋に落ちてしまったと思う。

Japan: Artistry

It was beautiful. I had never thought that so much thought went into the art of tea

Since I arrived in Japan last week, I have experienced so much, yet, I feel this was one of the experiences that really encapsulated the essence of traditional Japanese culture and authenticity. 

As with most customs in Japan, deep thought is put into every step of almost anything you could think of. It is at times overwhelming, but extremely refreshing. 

Here are some photos I took!

   
    
    
 
Taken with the Nikon D7000

Drawings of my Secret Garden

 

Olive trees and lemon trees were painted across a rustic landscape as I made my way to the secret garden. As I drove, the summer-coloured fruits of the many thousands of fruit-bearing trees streamed past my vision, like vivid dashes of watercolour on the pages of my sketchbook.

I really miss those views. Sometimes, I think that all I have left of them are old pictures and the paintings in my crumbled notebook that I took with me so often upon visiting.

When we arrived, I sat in my usual spot: under the aged, now withering grand olive tree. He had looked over me for almost two decades growing up. I dug out my sketchbook and started, as I always did.

I can never quite forget my last glimpse at him. There was a sense of betrayal. His impenetrable resistance to my attempt of conciliating his anger pained me.

As time went by, I had produced pages filled with oblong leaves, dotted with its ovular fruits. Splashes of rich green and yellow hues, and flecks of gold coalesced to create its form.

I one day wish to return there, to my secret garden. But for now, I will relive those moments through my drawings.

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Mediums used: watercolour, pencil

Reading Khaled Hosseini’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’, I was reminded of the symbol of my childhood – my olive tree. It rests in my old countryside home in Sicily, and I wish to draw it once more.


 “Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.” -Rumi

 

Travel Memoirs

I found myself rummaging through one of my mom’s old boxes, when I came across some of her travel memoirs from two decades back. Packed in a grey, dull looking box, I initially put it aside. I eventually opened it, and I found photographs. They were in the form of slide pictures – the kind that are inserted into a projector, so they can be displayed for the world to see.

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_DSC3730They were beautiful; a hundred photographs from the unknown land of Petra, Jordan – a place I long to visit. Rustic, sandy and arid colours were exposed, with a wave of reticence. These photos were concealed away in the depths of her memories. I sat qualmishly for a moment, hesitant, wondering whether I should have seen these pictures of her travel memoirs.

That's me. I'm marvelling at one of my favourite photographs.
That’s me. I’m marvelling at one of my favourite photographs.

_DSC3627I don’t think my photographs or words will do them justice, but here are some of my favourites with a collection of my thoughts.

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A portrait of a boy. A nameless boy, lost in the abyss of oblivion in my mom’s memory. “I wonder where he is now; what he looks like, how he is…” she says as we stare at the small image together. I wonder the same. And that’s what I write in my journal. I wonder if this is how fictitious characters are created: from lost memories and a portrait. Bringing back to life what once was lost, perhaps. His gaze tore straight into my heart; I could feel the captured emotions running through his face, though indiscernible to me.

The boy in the photograph reminds me of a young character in ‘And the Mountains Echoed’, by Khaled Hosseini. (I’ll be writing more about that marvellous book soon!)

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My mom standing by the towering landscape, leading into a two thousand year old city of the past.
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Though slightly blurred, the deep hues of gold pigmented in the landscape caught my eye. I yearn to see them for myself.
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Carvings and ancient construction in rocks that once overlooked a civilisation of the past.

Photography – sometimes considered a menial and an all-too-common pastime, but there’s something about the reveries and pleasant thoughts that something so small can leave you in. I can only wish to capture photographs with so much meaning and emotion, as my mom did.