This is my own Pillow Book, inspired by Sei Shōnagon's famous Makura no Sōshi - written during the Heian period while in she served in the court of Empress Consort Teishi. The book was possibly transcribed in a competition against Murasaki Shikibu's work The Tale of Genji.
The Pillow Book of Elizabeth Paich
1. The Freshness of the New Season
In the middle of the first month, if one awakens before the sunrise, it is such a delight to witness the thin layer of frozen dew on a freshly trimmed grass field. The morning frost seems like sugar crystals, delicately powdering the deep emerald underneath it. As the sun rises over the mountains, the morning begins to warm up and the sky’s hues slowly turn from the dark indigo of night into the warm glowing peach shades of dawn. I alone enjoyed such a refreshing scene before I would head to school.
But there are other girls, those who attended the same school as I, who spent their idle time dreaming of becoming mothers and raising their own families. Though not yet women, they nonetheless knew what their future sons and daughters would be named. How presumptuous! Such girls speak as if they are going to be great entrepreneurs on the one hand, yet they believe they are able to handle such a task with little children grabbing and crying for them, begging to suckle! I knew myself that I would never dare share the same fantasies as these rambunctious girls so desired. Such girls still pester me, asking how I can possibly live without clinging to the dream that in the future I will become a mother and bear children. After their persistent interrogations, I still refuse to agree with them. Flustered, they all agree amongst themselves that with time, I will eventually change my mind about the entire matter. How deplorable! I shudder to think that so many young girls cannot keep their minds quiet and enjoy the freshness of the new season. Rather, they warm themselves with frivolous thoughts of families they do not yet have. Most unbecoming! Young girls must learn to be more grateful for the world around them, rather than dreaming how they will produce perfect families. How cold and ugly the world must be for them, that they can only think of the great pains of child birth making their lives complete. After such days, I would return from school only to go alone into the field of grass. At dusk, the grass smells fresh, renewed by the melted frost of the early morning. The sky’s colors change from the warm orange of sunset into the dark blue of night, and I alone take in the splendid scene. Moments of such beauty never fail to escape my enjoyment.
2. Awkward Things
− Small rooms.
− A first kiss.
− When one spills something, especially something sticky. When there is no easy way to clean up the mess, how awkward one must feel!
3. Things that Make One’s Heart Beat Faster
− Opening a letter. If the letter is from someone unknown, of course one’s heart must beat quickly, but when expecting something, how one’s heart beats even faster!
− Crossing a busy street.
− Realizing that one is another year older. Truly this makes one’s heart beat faster!
− Hearing the words “I love you” from someone who is not a member of one’s family.
4. Depressing Things
− A night sky with no stars. Dark grey clouds that swallow the sky on spring day.
− When one waits patiently for a long period of time, having their patience tried. However, if the person is certain that what they are waiting for will arrive, they continue to wait. How truly downtrodden one must feel if what they are waiting for never arrives!
− When one loses a pet that one treated as an equal member of one’s family. Truly depressing.
− When one craves something to eat, yet such a flavor is nowhere to be found in one’s kitchen. How upsetting!
5. Things that Give A Clean Feeling
− To catch the glimmering shine of one’s own hair in a reflection after bathing. How clean one must feel!
− Holding a cool piece of polished jade in one’s hand.
− Newly cleaned windows. If one happens to look out of a large glass window that has recently been cleaned on a summer’s day, how lovely one must feel! Perhaps one has planted a garden beneath the window. One can see begin to see the ripened buds of flowers trying to look back into the very room! So delightful!
6. Enviable People
− Those who appear to know everything about everything, and actually do! How enviable!
− When one is alone and longs for company, yet all one can see are amorous couples all about, how one must envy those couples!
− People who have many close friends and appear to be amiable with anyone. Those same people never suffer from disagreements or petty conflicts of interest! How enviable!
− When one studies diligently because they are passionate and strive to genuinely understand the subject. Yet everyone else studying the same subject around that person does very little, or perhaps nothing, and yet they receive lavish praise or gifts for their ‘efforts’. How one must envy those people and their luck!
7. A Treasure Trove
It was a warm evening and rather than sleep, my mother was awake sorting through old boxes and small chests in her bedroom. I had heard her shuffling about and making comments to herself as she went through box after box. I decided I would join her and discovered a treasure trove of jewelry. My grandmother had recently passed away, and now my mother was sorting through all her mother’s fabulous jewelry that my grandmother had been trying to sell. It turned out that the baubles and necklaces actually had actually belonged to my great grandmother, and my mother was delighted to sort out the precious pieces from the costume jewelry. My mother and I delighted in trying to remember whether either of us had any recollection of any pieces, but whether or not we could remember, we found ourselves trying on the jewelry! Some pieces were recent, and showed a lack of quality in their creation. Yet, how interesting that the oldest pieces were true gems! They maintained their beauty and style with only a little bit of tarnishing that could be easily cleaned. To think that mother and daughter appeared as two young girls in their hearts, accessorizing with pieces of jewelry! It was truly such a delightful time! My mother would explain how the mix of true gems and costume jewelry would give my foremothers such an air about them that no one could ignore their presence! They would be lavished with gifts and compliments by many men. Then she generously offered me select pieces that she knew would catch my eye, to which I graciously accepted! How honored I felt that my mother granted me such sentimental pieces!
Written for Prof. Long's JPN034 - April 21, 2009