Sunday flowers

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A bouquet of lavender.

I trimmed some of the lavender growing in large pots on the terrace, as temperatures are expected to drop to zero degrees Celcius at night next week. Where I live, lavender flowers all year long but we are almost 2’000 meters above sea level so the nights can be chilly.

I regularly make small, very simple flower arrangements that I place on the kitchen table. It need not be sophisticated, just a few sprigs of herbs or vine flowers or even left over flowers from a withering more grandiose arrangement.

Try it! It will brighten your kitchen or desk, or wherever you chose to place it.

Kenza.

Photo – Kenza. 

Kisetsu – 季節

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Kisetsu (季節) is an important concept in Japanese culture. It literally means “a certain time of the year” or more commonly “season.”

In Japan, seasons are an integral part of life and the change of seasons is reflected in the arts, poetry and everyday activities.

At home, the change of season is traditionally respected by replacing items of decoration. In old times and even today, it is common to change the main hanging scroll in the common area to reflect the season. The scroll, known as kakejiku (掛軸), may have cherry or plum blossoms in Spring, and persimmons or fall foliage in Autumn.

Changing the scroll brings about harmony with nature and highlights the impermanence of things, both key concepts in Shinto and Buddhist thoughts.

“All beyond recall
Cherry blossoms have scattered,
So that my garden,
Once the home of joyful spring,
Looks now like an empty house.”

Ki no Tsurayuki, Japanese poet, Xth. C.

The same can be done in our homes by changing an item of decoration such as a painting or objects on tables, putting away some carpets in the warmer months while spreading earth colored pashminas on the sofa in winter.

The idea is to harmonize the home with nature, all the while eliminating clutter and giving a sense of freshness and renewal several times a year. One benefit is that the items that are set aside will be all the more appreciated once back in display. There is no need to have all our objects out all the time.

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At home, as the cold days are approaching, I have replaced some items on the walls. To be frank, I have very few and have placed a red colored painting more prominently, while taking away two simple Chinese fans. Two Persian wool carpets that were kept away, are now fully opened. Of course, the pashminas are handier. The ginger plant on the balcony is now inside the kitchen looking at the sun through the window, just like our cat Bluu.

This is a simple idea that will not only create harmony within a home but also with nature even if one lives in an urban environment.

Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts and any similar ideas. I would love to hear from you!

Kenza.

Illustrations:
“Maple viewing at Kai’anji Temple” by Shibuya Zeshin (Japan, 1807-1891), hanging scroll (ink and color on silk) – via The Met, NY.
“La vaca roja” by Juan Ezcurdia (Mexico, 2017).

About elegance

This is a plea. I can find no other words.

A plea for elegance as I see it eroding around me.

Elegance is not brashness, or dressing up in fashion, or gold or any of it. Elegance is a way of behaving.

Elegance is gentleness in words. It is looking at people in the eyes. It is arriving on time at an appointment. It is having clean and proper clothes. Elegance is simplicity in things and how these things are used.

Elegance comes from the inside. It is not luxury. I think I saw some of the most elegant women and men in some of the wretched parts of the world. It is not Madison Avenue or Avenue Montaigne. It is not brands or trying hard to be different. You need not be thin or tall or have bleu eyes to be elegant. It is not in the appearance of things. No matter how many Chanel clothes you wear, if you slouch when you sit, you will not be elegant.

Elegance some say is innate and cannot be acquired. I tend to disagree. Just change polyester for cotton and you will be elegant. Change brashness and clingy jewelry for simple items, and you will be elegant. Change your thorn jeans and your flip flops for proper clothes and you will be elegant. Change your language from vulgarities to respectful words and you will be elegant. It does not take money. It is a state of mind. Be yourself truly, and you shall be elegant.

Elegance is how you move gently and without brashness. It is how you speak choosing your words so as not to offend and without vulgarities. It is how you sit and walk while keeping your back straight, because when your back is straight you can think properly and you are being respectful towards yourself and others.

Elegance in many ways is simply being polite towards you, towards others and yes, towards the environment. No matter how sophisticated you want to try and look, if you use a straw that will end up in the sea, you will not be elegant.

Elegance is as simple as eating without leaving crumbs and saying thank you after a meal. Elegance is answering emails and making that extra gesture of kindness when one is kind towards you.

Elegance, you see, is just another aspect of being aware whether someone watches you or not. It is something that starts within you. You have to feel elegant when you wake up in the morning and when you take your shower, no matter how disheveled you are. You have to feel elegant when you send a note with all the proper “dears” and “thank you” and greetings. You have to feel elegant when you open a door, when you set-up the table, when you arrange flowers, when you lit a candle, when you breathe. Elegance is being one with the gestures you make gently, softly and with your full being.

Elegance is not loud. Elegance does not entail conversations of intellectual brilliance. Elegance is not obvious; rather, it is subdued and it is perceived. Just look at nature. A flower, a bird, a tree, they are all innately elegant and they do so by just being.

So this is my plea. It may not change the way you are and you may simply lift your shoulders and raise your eyebrows dismissively, and that is fine (but not elegant…). Yet, elegance is not an illusive notion as in our many ways, we all wish we could be.

Thank you for reading.

Kenza.

Simplicity

Simplicity -perhaps a term not easily defined except by silence.

Silence as in truthfulness and harmony, all rare commodities these days.

Our social relations are filled with noise via social media, busy schedules and multitasking. Filled indeed yet very often empty of substance or care, as many rarely take the time to just sit, talk, enjoy a simple cup of coffee. A like on a photo is not caring.

The world is increasingly filled with noise through constant sounds —cars, music in stores, adverts— and visual pollution with screaming advertisements, loud and clashing colors and dare I say, spelling mistakes!

Our everyday environment seems to be artificially crammed with as many sensations as possible. Coffees now have ingredients that a priori have nothing to do with coffee, computer screens are filled with jumping images and sounds, clothes at times resemble publicity panels, and more.

So what is simplicity and how can we bring some into our lives?

The most important thing I believe, is that it has to be done effortlessly. And that may be the key to simplicity. The very moment something entails hardship, it no longer is simple. Effortlessly does not mean a lack of diligence, rather the opposite. It means that it is done naturally, and hence with care and full attention.

If we are to clean a table, then let us clean it thoroughly. And while we do so, it is all we do: clean the table.

The same goes for cooking. Ingredients are chosen fresh, they are chopped by hand to take in all the aroma and colors, they are cooked with care slowly letting flavors rise.

If we are to dress, it is reducing the number of accessories to a minimum as well as choosing a non brash pallet of colors, sticking to one or two at the most away from primary colors.

I will write more about all this as the blog evolves. But in the meantime, understand that when we do things in a simple and honest way, our state of mind gets infused with that simplicity and honesty.

As we eat wholesome food, as we reduce the noise, as we do one task at a time, our thought process calms down. As we are attentive to our gestures and words, gentleness invariably comes along.

So after all, simplicity is rather simple don’t you think?

Thank you for reading and please tell me what you think as this blog is meant to be an inspiration to all of you.

Kenza.