My spirit has been riding in this body for forty years now – I was born forty years ago next June but I would have had brain cells and such by this time, forty years ago, even though I hadn’t yet tried the outside air.
It hit me hard today. As I was reading an article about craft traditions that are now practiced by a bare few, I realized that it’s my turn to bring the things that I value into the future. I want a college student twenty years from now to fall in love with Sumi-e, or to feel the touch of washi paper, or see a real indigo dyed piece of cloth, or paint with oils, or know how nice it is to write a letter with a real pen.
It’s not a burden to bear alone, thank goodness, but I can do a great service to the future by adding my interest and support to the traditions I want to see continue. So can you, if you want to. Every one of us who loves something and shows it, helps it stay in the world and not be forgotten. Maybe for you it’s your grandmother’s sticky bread that nobody else knows how to make just right, or a breed of dog that’s rare and misunderstood. Maybe it’s something else.
So I’ll keep baking my own sourdough that never knew the touch of a stand mixer. I’ll practice my ink painting. I’ll keep shifting my own gears and cooking on a gas flame. I’ll keep learning about oil painting. Sometime, I’ll save up and buy an iron tea kettle made lovingly by hand. When I can, I’ll buy real washi paper from Japan, not an imitation, and make sure to get it from one of the places that still uses the old methods. The money used to buy those things will help crafters and tradesmen keep the lights on just a bit longer.
It doesn’t take a huge effort, it doesn’t have to become some kind of holy cause. I accept this burden, which isn’t so heavy after all, this torch, to keep and guard and carry so that someone can take it from me in the future.
The painting here is my first full size oil painting. I see a lot of issues with it, as with any first effort, however there were also some of the fabled happy accidents and I learned from it. The sumi-e up in the header is another thing I’ve picked up again, my first painting in that medium in quite some time. I promise I’ll get better!