June 23, 2010

Rest Well, Old Friend

Sometimes it's hard to let go. Time passes and at some point they just tell you 'Leave me here, I'll be fine. Go on now. Don't worry about me anymore.' You don't want them to go but at the same time you can't bear to see them suffer.

I can't believe I'm saying this about a paint brush.

I've had this student grade sumi brush for about 7 years now. I learned calligraphy with it. I practiced sumi-e with it. Brushes have come and gone but this old brush was the constant in my collection. Now I see signs of its age. The hair doesn't hold ink as it used to. The suppleness is gone. The once strong brush base lost its foundation. The old ink doesn't wash off like it used to.

For some reason, I thought it told me, 'Just one more time,' like in sports movies. The old veteran just wants one more shot before riding into the sunset. It'll have just enough strength for one more piece.

I looked through my sumi-e book for an appropriate figure, and found the chrysanthemum. The chrysanthemum is considered one of the 'Four Gentlemen' of sumi-e, representing fall. When brewed as a tea, the aroma and taste are believed to cure the flu. Chrysanthemums are found in Japan as symbols of the Emperor and the royal line. A dignified way for my old brush to go.

The finished piece is still drying. I will be using the finished picture as part of a larger project.

Oddly enough I want to give the brush a small funeral. In Japan it is believed that certain objects have a spirit (神 pronounced kah-mi). Such spirited objects should be properly revered (not thrown away) lest the spirit comes back to curse you. I'm very sentimental with this brush. A memorial is the least I can do for it.

Rest well, old friend.

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