Thursday 12 February 2015

The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon

The Pillow Book is not by Sei Shōnagon, it's of her. The notebooks in which she wrote were surplus to requirements at the Imperial Court of tenth century Japan, where she was a lady-in-waiting. Let me make them into a pillow said Shōnagon to the Empress. She wrote her days then slept on them, dreamlessly. A report from a thousand years ago is already a dream. What delights her, what bores her, what is unsuitable or squalid or makes the heart race, today's main stories in the Imperial Court, colour schemes according to season, rendezvous manqués and bedroom etiquette, the sound of a distant flute and how it differs from a flute nearby.

To read The Pillow Book is to re-do your day.

Today's main stories here on the hill in early 2015 are the first frogspawn, the weather turning round to the west, new pruning knife ordered. Encouraging Things: talking to Pat in the farm shop, Mary bagging fondant for the bees, the broad bean bed turned and planted. Delightful Sensations: pulling several feet of pristine bindweed root out of black leaf mould, smelling a sack of newly-dug artichokes. Things that give a poignant feeling: the wind in silhouetted trees in the evening, Mozart about to turn to the minor key.

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