During my between-colleges waitressing days, I met a man named Roger. He was a bear of a man, who handled the tools of his forge and the thick ceramic coffee mugs at the diner with equal poise. Roger introduced me to Japanese architecture with a book titled ‘The Elegant Japanese House’. I pulled that book out this morning, and when my husband walked by he chuckled, ‘No matter where we move, you’re taking that book with you aren’t you, even if you have to smuggle it in the cat carrier’. Yes, I said. This one will always go with me.
I opened ‘The Elegant Japanese House’ after watching the short video, ‘Minka‘. It had been featured on the front page of the NYTimes online the past few days. ‘Minka’ (which means ‘people’s house’ in Japanese) is the story of the lifetimes of a house, and of relationship, and of time. I thought I was going to be watching house porn. Instead, I ended up with tears in my eyes at the tenderness and beauty of the story, and the restored Japanese farmhouse that forms its vessel.
The narrator of ‘Minka’ spoke with reverence about the moment he first saw the great curved beams of the condemned farmhouse. The interior was very dark, and the old beams revealed themselves only gradually as his eyes adjusted to the low light. Years later, he was inspired to become an architect, and to rescue and refurbish minkas for new owners. Towards the end of the movie, there is a wide shot of a thick stand of tall trees rising above the building that houses the minkas awaiting reassembly at new sites. At the foot of the hill, horizontal stacks of the no longer usable beams and bones of ancient homes lie quietly decomposing under a blanket of melting snow and steady rain.
I feel~ in the beams of my bones~ deep urges to uproot and reconfigure once again. There is enough structural integrity and raw material to perhaps divide in two, building something to the East, and something to the West. Satisfying the desire to re-enter the embrace of family and friends, and honoring the wanderer who wants to traipse amongst trees and paddle new seas and taste the air of Other.