Water, lightning, rumbles of thundergods that loiter, swirling in circles over northern Virginia. Downtown DC is flooded. Was scheduled to go to Silver Spring MD this a.m. to teach, but there is water and mud over so many roads, and it is difficult to journey out of the woods, then on to a place called civilization. So class is rescheduled, and I sit here among the trees, in the saturated night, and write.
Margaret senses when more thunder is due. She finds me, and burrows her big black head against my leg, and she shakes and whimpers a little until I put my hand on her side to comfort her. She then lays under my desk, puts her chin on my foot, and falls asleep.
This rain reminds me of a masterpiece. It is called "Night Rain at Omiya", and it was created in 1930 by a Japanese artist named Kawase Hasui. It is a woodblock print; ink and color on paper.
I first saw it in late 2004 as part of an exhibition called Dream Worlds: Modern Japanese Prints and Paintings from the Robert O. Muller Collection at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC. All the prints were made the "old way"...cherry wood, horsehair brushes, sharp steel knives to cut intricate blocks.
Hasui was part of the Shin Hanga movement. These artists merged traditional Japanese woodblock printing techniques with European Impressionism. Standard subjects like landscapes, animals, and people were used, and particular attention was given to light and the depiction of individual moods. This collection of woodblock prints breathe.
It's a stunning piece of work. When I first encountered "Night Rain at Omiya" at the gallery, I looked at it for a very long time. I could feel others around me, competing for position to have a closer view. I stood still, and did not move. How'd that Zen dude make the rain, those beautiful reeds, that reflective water?
It continues to remind me that even when surrounded by darkness, solitude sheds a small light into the night. That it is possible to be warm and dry and happy in the silence.