by Mas Nakajima
I was raised in a traditional wooden house in the countryside of Gifu, near the Japan Alps. Our house had three tokonoma (formal display alcoves) in various parts of the house. The tokonoma was a little space for sharing art with family and guests. This fit into the Japanese lifestyle of sitting on the tatami floor, perhaps enjoying the garden through the shoji or the paintings on the fusuma screens. My mother enjoyed her job of making the tokonoma displays, including selecting the seasonal flower arrangements, matching scrolls and other accompanying objects. This was part of the hospitality, along with serving the tea and cookies. Our family really enjoyed and appreciated her artistic displays.
I had been thinking to display this stone in a douban (antique copper suiban) as an isogata ishi or shore stone, perhaps accompanied by a scroll of birds flying. However, the house I built here in California did have a tokonoma, but in a western style living room, along with fireplace, couches and tables. There was no tatami floor and we sat on the couches instead. I tried suiban display and scroll in this contemporary tokonoma many times, and was never satisfied. Probably the atmosphere didn’t feel right and I couldn’t get the same joy and excitement that I used to share with my mother. In English there is the saying that “you can never go home again”, the reality never matches your memory.
At this time I had started feeling so lonely, living in the big house. My four children had all left home for college, and the distance was growing between my wife and me. I wanted to express my feelings through my art, but in a way that suited my American style of living.
Lonely guy sits with his memories in the darkness, struggling to move forward. The moon lights his way with a smile.