Sunday, February 7, 2010

Number 88

DHS 88/100

On what seems like the first sunny day of the year, it was a perfect afternoon to write this DHS. As you can see by the picture (click on it to enlarge it), the sun was streaming in through the windows as i wrote it. In addition, it was warm enough today that the furnace wasn't running as often as it usually does, and since i live in a smallish older house, when the furnace is running, you can hear it everywhere. Today, it was sunny and quiet in the house.

Why do i point that out? Unless you have ever written with a calligraphy brush, it may be hard to understand, but two of the thrills for me when i'm writing are when i can hear the brush scratch across the paper as i write and when i can see the ink shining brightly as it makes contact with the paper and then quickly fade to a dull black as it is absorbed. Because of the weather and the furnace, these are a rarity of late.

When it is very quiet, both outside, in the room, and inside, in my head, you can hear the brush very, very quietly scratch across the paper, almost like the very quiet sound you might get if you very lightly scratched one of your palms with the finger nails of the other hand. Unless you're paying attention you might not hear it. Certainly other people won't hear it. But if you listen carefully it's there. On these quiet days it seems as if the brush is talking to me as i write. There is this one sound that tells me when i'm writing with the tip of the brush, a little heavier sound when the brush is telling me that i'm using too much pressure, and almost a light chattering sound when i'm not using enough pressure and the tip is coming off the paper in the middle of some strokes.

It has been rare this winter when i write on days when it is sunny or at the right time of the day when the sun might be coming in through the window. But on those days, if you pay careful attention you can see the ink flow off the tip of the brush and onto the paper as you write, leaving a dark shiny black character, only to fade in less than a second as the paper absorbs the ink and it then diffuses. But for that split partial second, the ink seems to be trying to catch your eye, with each character shouting "free at last," as it breaks free from the brush's bristles and adds it's meaning to the page.

I'll never be a very good calligrapher, but on these perfect days, i have to tell you, the pleasure of sitting down and writing is almost indescribable. The peace of mind, the calm, collected effort, the focused energy, the wordless connection between your mind and your fingertips, and, on special occasions, those days when the brush simply writes the characters by itself, as if i wasn't even there, or, as if i was nothing but an impartial observer, oooh'ing and aaah'ing over characters particularly well or poorly written. Those are magical days.

So, as i come to the magical number eighty-eight (as in Shikoku's 88 temples), i have to start looking forward to the end of the week after next when i reach number one hundred. What do i do then?

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