Swaying spikes of grass: Notes in Idleness 26
[No English translation available]
Natsuo Giniro is a poet, artist, photographer and author with a huge backlog of books, many with her characteristic illustrations. She has been publishing her journals for decades now, and this is her 26th volume. They are perfect bedtime reading as they are bite-sized. Giniro writes with great humor about her 14 year-old son Sako, who is ostensibly studying for his high school entrance exams, and her 22 year-old daughter Kaka, who attends vocational school and has her own apartment but finds her mother’s house much more comfortable. The entries are sometimes funny, sometimes more meditative and sometimes just a catalogue of what she ate that day, but always entertaining.
I have translated a few excerpts from January and February 2014 below because I found myself wanting to read bits aloud, and when you find yourself reading aloud to your dog (who doesn’t understand much English, much less Japanese), you know you need to find a better audience.
January 7, 2014
Afternoon. Kaka is sleeping, as usual. Sako is playing video games. I watched a TV show about how to make a fish tank, and then did various tasks.
I went out and got some takoyaki [fried octopus balls], which the three of us ate together.
Reading a book at the kotatsu,* I said to Kaka, “I always used to think that something good was suddenly going to happen, but I don’t think that way anymore. Now I know good things don’t happen in that way. Lying about like this is my definition of happiness.”
Kaka (completely uninterested): “Hmmm.”
January 16, 2014
I’d like to travel again. When my time is my own again, I’ll travel all over. I can’t travel now since I have Sako to take care of, but once he graduates from high school I’ll have time. In fact, I could probably travel when he’s in high school a bit. Something to look forward to. But when I remember that now is the only time I have to take care of Sako, I realize I’d better just enjoy it.
Now that I think of it, it’s very strange that my cute baby turned into this clumsy Kaka. I asked Kaka, “Where did that baby go?” Children are really just a limited-time phenomenon. Actually not just children, all people are temporary. Too temporary. It’s a waste to just let time slide by without noticing it. Good times, bad times, they’re all precious.
February 14, 2014
It’s snowing today. It looks cold. The weather forecast says it will keep snowing.
Sako says he doesn’t want to go to school and he’ll just study at home instead.
I’m not sure what to do, but I figure he’ll study more at home so I tell the school he has a cold and let him stay home.
Sako: X from my class has been absent from school for, like, ever to study for the [entrance] exams.
Me: Since when?
Sako: Just forever.
Now he’s studying at the kotatsu. Sometimes he looks at videos and plays around with his guitar for a change of pace. When I tell him that he seems quite suited to studying at home at his own pace, he readily agrees.
*A kotatsu is a low table with a heavy blanket draped over the frame and the table top laid on top of that. A heater is attached to the underside of the table so that when you sit at the kotatsu, with your legs underneath the blanket, you stay warm. Kotatsu just might be Japan’s most clever invention.