It is late November on Okinawa. It is Saturday and it is a very soft day. There is no wind. There is a gentle drizzle. The sea is motionless and a feeling of calm abides.
I have been entrusted with the family canteen of silver cutlery, the like of which I have never seen elsewhere. It is truly a family heirloom and I take my brief ownership thereof most seriously. It has been a leitmotif throughout my life as my first memory is polishing the ladle as the wind and rain howled and lashed around Low Dunashery.
Here I am again.
Polishing silver is the most enjoyable of pastimes. That which was tarnished and unclean becomes bright and brilliant. It is a quasi-religious experience – forgiveness and redemption.
A Japanese colleague pointed out this Stevenson poem, which is new to me, yesterday. Its melancholy acceptance of missed opportunity suits the mood of this Saturday very well.
The unfathomable sea, and time, and tears,
The deeds of heroes and the crimes of kings
Dispart us; and the river of events
Has, for an age of years, to east and west
More widely borne our cradles. Thou to me
Art foreign, as when seamen at the dawn
Descry a land far off and know not which.
So I approach uncertain; so I cruise
Round thy mysterious islet, and behold
Surf and great mountains and loud river-bars,
And from the shore hear inland voices call.
Strange is the seaman’s heart; he hopes, he fears;
Drawn closer and sweeps wider from that coast;
Last, his rent sail refits, and to the deep
His shattered prow uncomforted puts back.
Yet as he goes he ponders at the helm
Of that bright island; where he feared to touch,
His spirit readventures; and for years,
Where by his wife he slumbers safe at home,
Thoughts of that land revisit him; he sees
The eternal mountains beckon, and awakes
Yearning for that far home that might have been.
So I polish all the silver.
It is so good to do not very much. The contemporary culture of always being busy is much over-rated.