Guest Post By Kevin Spenst
The evening reduces solitude to a chill while heavy traffic tears through the rain. I’m walking along Granville to the Joy Kogawa House. Three bags of groceries in my left hand and an umbrella in the other. I’m walking through my new neighbourhood for the first time towards my new home. Home as hearth, place of warmth.
“Pay attention to moments of grace.”
— Janet Rogers
I turn right on 64th. I’m pleased to pass French Street as I’ve recently started studying la belle langue again. Très bien. Quelle coincidence! French is easy. It’s like English but with at least one guess most every sentence as to the masculine or feminine nature of a noun. Otherwise, it’s like skipping instead of walking. Trippingly. Mais oui, je jest! I also studied a tiny bit of Japanese long ago and when I arrive at the Kogawa House and I press the code to let myself in, words leap out of my mouth to fill the empty house: “Tada ima!” The direct translation of this Japanese expression is: here now. A minimal way of saying: I’m home.
How lovely that I long ago learned these words that would so perfectly fit this silence. As for their pronunciation, Japanese kotoba are like French mots in at least one respect: each syllable is pronounced somewhat evenly, distinctly. An English word is like a bag of groceries in one hand and possibly one, two or more umbrellas clustered together in the other. An awkward feat of coordination.
French and Japanese words are all groceries or all umbrellas. (Parasols perhaps.) And here I stumble headlong over the absurdity of my analogy: we have to imagine French and Japanese speakers as having more than two arms. A surreal fable for another day. With my two hands, I close the door behind me, take off my shoes, hang up my coat, turn the heat on, and solitude expands into the house, an immersion of time, space, and language.
— Kevin Spenst
Featured image: Parasols in Pontocho Alley, Kyoto. Photo by Andy Metten, 2018