Three nights ago, after I had spent a good deal of time pouring over images of Katsushika Hokusai's prints, (which I quickly became enamored of), I dreamt about them. In my dream, I found myself living inside them. It was as though I had become part of the images, living a life set amongst these scenes with the people who inhabit them. We shared an unspoken communication, which made me feel deeply connected to them. There was nothing disturbing about the dream, just a sense of tranquility tinged with sadness that comes from knowing how tenuous life can sometimes appear to be. I was moved by their ability to remain quietly joyful.
Hokusai's most well-known piece is called, "The Great Wave off Kanagawa." It brings to mind the earthquake and tsunami that wreaked such havoc on Japan a few months ago. This past Sunday night on 60 Minutes, Bob Simon visited a town that had been pretty much obliterated by the tsunami, a town where entire families are unaccounted for and presumed dead. There were some horrendous images of its after-effects, including large boats on tops of buildings amid devastating destruction, but his conversation with a man who had lost everything, everything, and was still able to smile, captured my heart.
In the narration, Simon talked about how in Japan it's considered a weakness to allow severe emotions to take over one's life; they believe they have an obligation to put on a very brave face and maintain a positive attitude, and yes, there is a downside to this part of their culture, but I was still amazed at this man's resiliency. During the end of the segment, he pointed out where his house had once stood. There on its site a hydrangea bush had small green shoots pushing their way out of the rubble-strewn ground. He showed them to Bob Simon, pointed at them, and with a smile said, "This is hope... We are living."
When I look at Hokusai's prints, I am awestruck by the work involved in carving a relief in wood of what is really a mirror image, which is then used to create the print. It's an interesting process that I don't fully understand, but I've been doing more reading about it and find it intriguing. I've discovered I have an affinity for them, along with a desire to better understand his passion for this work. I see it in the meticulous and loving care he's given them and I can't help myself, I'm smitten.
I encourage you to click on each image to see a somewhat larger, clearer view of them and if you're interested in doing any further reading you might want to start with these: