Monday, August 03, 2009

mono no aware

My Mom often used to laugh that Finnish music is always in a minor key. That is probably an over-generalization, especially if you consider more modern Finnish music. That is my problem as an ex-pat, (a confused one at that, whose parents were wandering the world when I was born, but always spoke Finnish to each other at home and had sometimes ambiguous memories of home) cut off from what is current in the "old country", developing a nostalgic gap as wide as the ocean that separates one from the "mother country"!

However, I rarely heard my Mom sing anything but the saddest melodies! One of my fondest memories is of my Mom working away in the kitchen, singing this song or another traditional one, often wavering off key. She usually managed just a line or two as she couldn't remember all the words, so her voice would fade in and out over the sounds and clatter of pots and pans, the hissing of the pressure cooker. Soon wonderful aromas filled the house.

This version, with the particular qualities of Anna Mutanen's voice, the slow, lingering tempo, reminds me most of my Mom.

In my mind, the dark side of the Finnish nature is what I understand and recognize in my musical roots.

I couldn't help but associate the longing notes of this song today to the idea of mono no aware, a fundamental aspect of Japanese poetry, sometimes translated as the "pathos of things" or the "ah-ness" of things. It is that bitter-sweet evanescense of last night's sunset that disappears even as you look at it, the colours changing moment by moment, until light fades into darkness, like a kiss that must end.

It is also perhaps why I love gardens. If I were to compare, I'd say I liked perennial gardens vs gardens filled with bedding plants of annuals. But even that would not be precise. I just love gardens that manage to embrace the changing seasons, gardens that celebrate the ephemeral, often exuberant blossom, and have room to contemplate the shattered petals that have fallen, the dying colours of autumn, the ripening fruit on the vine, the bare branches of winter.

For it is always with a pang of sadness that I enter a beautiful garden. I long to hold on to the moment. Perhaps that is why I take so many photographs. But I know the moment will not last. The flowers fade. Seed heads form and are carried away. And even in the stillness of winter under the snow, life is renewing itself under the ground.



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