Friday, March 2, 2007

dutch courage

When I was 19, I spent a few days in Amsterdam. I stayed in the youth hostel across the square from the train station and tried to fill up the endless mornings and afternoons by walking around or sitting at cafes, drinking hard cider or coffee from very small cups. For some reason, I wandered into a gallery and saw a beautiful late-19th century Japanese woodblock print. The gallery owner told me it was by Yoshitoshi, which meant nothing to me, but I was entranced by the scene it showed -- a man with a sword, fighting a swarm of demons, as they all fell from a great height towards the sea below. "Look," said the gallery owner "There are the ships." I looked, and, yes, the tiny white triangles in the corner were sails. "They fell for three days," said the gallery owner, "trying to kill each other the entire time." The print cost the equivalent of around $500 and, though I'm sure I couldn't possibly have afforded it, it's one of the very few things I've ever regretted not buying.

I suppose I was thinking about this because I've been picturing my struggles with grief as something akin to building dikes, reclaiming land and pushing back the sea.

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