dimanche, novembre 13, 2005

_Kitchen_ by Banana Yoshimoto

"...a kitchen, some plants, someone sleeping in the next room... perfect quiet. At peace, I slept. ... p.16"
So BY writes about Mikage's own experience recovering from the death of her last family member. Me, reading it, I thought about the weeks after Yehuda's death, when I took comfort in having people sleep over in my living room.. somehow they provided me with peacefulness that I think someone who is sensitive to some degree might understand. I take comfort now, despite Sheena's berating me for leaning on people too much and Dalia's disapproval, that other people, too, who have felt such pain have also taken refuge in the same kind of things I did. That for a handful of people perhaps, such slight alterations to a situation keep the aura of death at bay until the pain can be handled more easily.

I found this book to be so cathartic and so good at pointing at how I felt that I was relieved and happier for having read it. Recovering the will to live after so many traumas in a row, beginning with Dave's death, Carrie's death, and leading up to this point where the tolling bell came to be so painful for me, is a journey in itself. I found that reading of MIkage and Yuichi's struggles and then Satsuki's struggle, too... it reminds me of the bits I went through on my own, too. Grieving is so personal in a way. When Ilana asked, meaning to be kind, how I was doing... I just thought to myself, how can I tell this person who doesn't know me and doesn't know what I felt or took into my heart, ... but who also doesn't know what my life's past has been and why it mattered to me so much. It hurt like you couldn't believe that people who aren't grieving stare at you like you're a freak and they judge you for things they don't know and don't feel. No one seems to "get" it. And the grief is renewed again and again for each person --I don't think that grieving gets easier when more people die. It's just different. I remember the numbness I felt when Ronald Marshall died. That numbness was nothing like the chill that grabbed my heart when Carrie died. It was worse when Yehuda died. It comfotrts me that other people feel the same heart stop when they see a reminder them.. maybe it's a laugh, or a joke, a hand mannerism, a moue, an object, or an article of clothing, somehow the little pieces that we hold in our hands... how we don't let go, how we let go, but then are called back to remember, ... pausing for pain happens continuously, because we don't ever really forget ... and how people further down the line in our lives will never understand why a red pickup truck might make me sad, or why a black leather vest or a black hat might cause me to stop breathing for a moment longer than normal,... but that people down the line in my life wont' know, won't udnerstand, won't see past the curtain of superficialtiy.

Yoshimoto writes on p. 20" No matter how dreamlike a love I have found myself in, no matter how delightfully drunk i have been in my heart I was always aware that my family consisted of only one other person. The space that cannot be filled, no matter how cheerfully a child and an old person are living together --the deathly silence that, panting in a corner of the room, pushed its way in like a shudder. I felt it very early, althgouh no one told me about it. ... When was it I realized that, on this truly dark and solitary path we all walk, the only way we can light is our own? Althrough I was raised with love, I was always very lonely. Someday without fail, everyone will disappear, scattered into the blackness of time. I've always lived with that knowledge rooted in my being..."

That passage speaks to me so strongly I am not sure I have the words to convey it well to anyone else what it conjures within me.

Living with the Tanabes, Mikage finds that "little by little, light and air came into [her] heart." With the peace in their unobtrusive company, she slowly reacclimated herself to life. This emergence into light comes with something that Mikage only slowly recognises within herself, though.

"Even I, slow as I am, finally understood his excessive unnaturalness. When I took a good look in his eyes, I understood. He was terribly, terribly sad. Sotaro had said that even though she'd been seeing him for a year Yuichi's girlfriend didn't understand that slightest thing about him, and it made her angry. she said Yuichi was incapable of caring more for for a girl than he did for a fountain pen. Because I wasn't inlove with Yuichi, I understood that very well. The quality and importance of a fountain pen meant to him something completely different from what it meant to her. p.29" She sees it first in Yuichi who is mourning the loss of a parent and his own family. Yuichi's tender protective care for his fountain pen seems to the outsider -even to the girlfriend- so weird. The fountain pen though is a symbol of something steady, reliable, trustworthy, and meaningful that isn't true of the girlfriend. She doesn't understand him and becuase she doesn't understand who he is, she doesn't "get" how to meet his needs and get her needs met by him.

"If a person wants to stand on her own two feet, I recommend undertaking the care and feeding of soemthing. It oculd be children, or it could be the houseplants, you know? By doing that you come to udnerstand your own limitations. That's where it starts." so said Eriko to Mikage p.41.

"...if a person hasn't ever experiences true despair, she grows old never knowing how to evaluate where she is in life; never understanding what joy really is. I'm grateful for it. p.41" (Eriko, also to Mikage) (personally I agree with that line.) p.42" There are many days when all the awful things that happen make you sick at heart, when the path before you is so steep you can't bear to look. Not even love can reascue a person from that. ... As I grow older, much older, I will experience many things, and I will hit rock bottom again and again. Again and again I will suffer; again and again I wil get back on my feet. I will not be defeated. I won't let my spirit be destroyed." Mikage promises to herself that she will learn to be happy in the moment and to take the pleasure today and the pain tomorrow, the pain today and the pleasure tomorrow. that this piece of life will be again and again.

"I felt that I was the only person alive and moving in a world brought to a stop. Houses always feel like that after someone has died." p.55 oddly this is so true... I know exactlyt he feeling she is writing about.. it is like a shiva house feeling. Amazing to put words to it... because it doesn't seem logical but that is precisely the feeling I felt.

also on p. 55"Truly great people emit a light that warms the hearts of those around them. When that light has been put out, a heavy shadow of despair descends."

One theme for which there is no perfect series of quotations, but for which there is a connection between what BY writes and what I saw and experienced myself is that somehow after a death, people work together to clean things up.. and somehow in the cleaning up.. there is some kind of a sense of calming down.. I'm not sure I know why, but I know that somehow the cleaning motion, cleaning up a kitchen for example is a means of making the world feel okay.

Mikage gets a job for a famous cook... "When I saw the women who attend the classes, it made sense. Their attitude was completely different from mine. Those women lived their lives happily. They had been taught, probably by caring parents, not to exceed the boundaries of their happiness regardless of what they were doing. But therefore they could never know real joy. Which is better? Who can say? Everyone lives the way she knows best. What I mean by 'their happiness' is living a life untouched as much as possible by the knowledge that we are really, all of us, alone. That's not a bad thing. Dressed in their aprons, their smiling faces like flowers, learning to cook, absorbed in their littel troubles and perplexities, they fall in lvoe and marry. I think that's great. I wouldn't mind that kind of life. Me, when I'm utterly exhausted by it all, when my skin breaks out, on those lonely evenings when I call my friends again and again and nobody's home, then I despise my own life --my birth, my upbringing, everything. I feel only regret for the wole thing."p. 59 {personally, i found this paragraph startling in its sharpness, but wholly something I knew the taste of.}

pp.59-60 "No matter what, I want to continue living with the awareness tha I will die. Without that, I am not alive. That is what makes the life i have no possible. Inchin one's way along a steep cliff in the dark on reaching the highway, one breathes a sigh of relief. Just when one can't take it anymore, one sees the moonlight. Beauty that seems to infuse itself into the heart: I know about that."

p.61" Of course there is a relationship. ... don't you think that seeing such a beautiful moon influences what one cooks?"

Eriko explains to Mikage what happened to Yuichi's real mother. and finishes with this soliloquy about how it was just her and the pineapple plant and how event he pineapply plant died and there was no one who could possilby understand her left... p.81-82 "I realized that the world did not exist for my benefit. It followed that the ratio of pleasant and unpleasant things around me would not change. It wasn't up to me. It was clear that the best thing to do was to adoprt a sort of muddled cheerfulness. ..." eriko ends up investing in her beauty and her self, she and Yuichi buy some fun, bbeautiful and tasteful appliances.. things which will make them happy and add a level of quality to their lives. Mikage reflects and says " ...is this what it means to be happy? ... Why is it we have so little choice? We live like the lowliest worms. Always defeated --defeated we make dinner, we eat, we sleep. Everyone we love is dying. Still to cease living is unacceptable." p.82.

p.86 "... it was true that she jumped to conclusions and that her life was a mess --even her earlier stint as a salesman had been a failure. I was aware of all that, but the beauty of her tears was something I would not soon forget. She made me realize that the human heart is something very precious."

pp.96 "Look at you, I thought. thanks to a sudden whim, here youa re hanging from a roof, panting white puffs of breath. You've really outdone yourself htis time. ... pp. 97 Lying there on my back, I looked up at the roof of the in nd , staring at the glowing moon and clouds, I thought, really we're all in the same position. (It occurred to me that I had often thought that in similar situations, in moments of utter desperation. I would like to be known as an action philosopher. We all believe we can choose our own path from among the many alternatives. But perhaps it's more accurate to say that we make the choice unconsciously. I think I did --but now I knew it, because now I was able to put it into words. But I dont' mean this is the fatalistic sense; we're constantly making choices. With the breaths we take every day, with the expressions in our eyes, with the daily actions we do over and over, we decide as thugh by instinct. and so some of us will inevitably find ourselves rolling around in a puddle on some roof in a strange place with a takeout katsudon in the middle of winter, looking up at the night sky as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Ah, but the moon was lovely." p.98

p.101"You see, Yuichi, how much I don't want to lose you. We;ve been very lonely, but we had it easy. Because death is so heavy --we, too young to know about it, couldn't handle it. After this you and I may end up seeing nothing but suffering, difficulty, and ugliness, but if only you'll agree to it, I want for us to go on to moredifficult places, happier places, whatever comes, together. ..."

p.104 "While watching them, I felt a strange, sweet sadness. In the biting air I told myself, there will be so much pleasure, so much suffering. with or without Yuichi."

dude, this post took 6 hours to finish typing up.