Hours of the Moon

Guru Baba gave his assistant Sami the day off, “But only the day!” he said. “Tonight you will stay up working!”

“May I ask doing what?” said Sami. He was accustomed to Guru Baba’s mysterious utterances, but there was no harm in trying to glean some extra information.

The bearded sage adjusted his orange robe beneath the waist in an unseemly manner, and smiled. He said, “You will see!” He also adjusted the tilt of his turban. “You will see!”

Guru Baba’s first year of retirement to “the nice village with the white mountain above it” had been a confusing period. There were concerns that this famous holy man was suffering from dementia. Many global leaders had come to see him, thinking that he may soon die – it was a valuable PR opportunity not to miss out on! – but here he was in tip-top shape. Sami had given up trying to understand the man. He had developed a deep fondness for him, even when he was being very annoying, like now.

Sami didn’t want to have the day off and work all night. He made another attempt at extracting information. “Guru Baba, what for?”

“What for? What for? Because I said so! I know more than you! Come here at six o’ clock tonight or don’t ever bother coming here again.”

Sami spent the day watching movies and cleaning the house. He should do it more often, not let it build up like this into a disaster zone. Did spiders really think they’d catch sumptuous dinners in his apartment? Bug screens kept all the insects out, but seemed to have no effect on fluff and dust.

Sami appeared at six p.m., as instructed, at the Transparent Temple. Guru Baba said cheerfully, “Come on, let’s go for a walk.” They walked along the canal trail for a kilometre before turning off into a field. “Look,” said Guru Baba. “There’s the moon.”

This was true. Though it was not yet dusk, a full moon had appeared, more grey than white, in a pale blue sky. Guru Baba said, “You will be learning lessons from the Man in the Moon tonight.” Then he produced a sketch pad and pencil from beneath his robes and said, “Draw the moon.”

“But I can’t really draw,” said Sami. He’d never enjoyed art class.

Sami recognized the signs when Guru Baba was angry. His nose drew up and he shouted, “Draw it! Drawing is just looking! Look at it!”

Sami did the best he could. There was nothing to draw really, just a circle with some shading. “Well done,” said Guru Baba in a conciliatory fashion.

They continued looking. The sage said, “Do you know the Japanese artist Yoshitoshi? He made a series of woodblock prints called One Hundred Views of the Moon. They are very beautiful, and so surprising and original, with lovers, warriors, old women, children, farmers, and monkeys all looking at the moon. They are entranced by it. I want you to always look at the moon like that. Yoshitoshi was the last master of woodblock printing before photography and other forms of mass reproduction destroyed it. His life represents one man’s struggle against time. He eventually lost. We all do. But while he was alive he was always looking.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: