The art of giving life to flowers, or Ikebana, has lived beside me, a little within me since I can remember. I have a grandmother with a rare talent for flower arrangement and appreciation, an eye for detail and beauty. She understands colour, tone, co-ordination and has demonstrated it with every outfit and occasion for home decorating in my living memory. She knew what to select, reject, how to place, position, tweak. I remember the joy of plummeting my index fingers into the selection of sodden oasis resting in the kitchen sink. The moss green foam squeaky and cold, preparing to take every stem and twig she pierced into it. There was an elegance to her floral arrangements, a delicate hand, a subtle use of colour, envied in the village when her interpretations were installed in the local church for ceremonies and festivals. I must have watched her, although I remember little of her approach. Yet the joy they brought was memorable. My grandfather would take countless photographs on his SLR of each composition, attempting to capture the simplicity, colour and form in their prime.
Within days of arriving in Fukuoka I accidentally found myself in an exhibition of Ikebana on the top floor of a department store, while searching for a Hyakuen (100 yen) shop. My eyes were treated to radical, intense displays of contrasting leaves, fruits and petals, crossing seasons and continents. Daring shapes, minimal buds, towering branches, contorted, wild, balanced. Each arrangement was created with such intention, in silence, with an appreciation of the natural world. Each one a meditation. Each one exuding a feeling of warmth, familiarity, of language-less language. I kept returning, until each arrangement expired its giving, wilted and disappeared.
In ode to Grandma Muriel, master craftswoman of Barrow on Humber, I buy whatever on-their-way-out buds I can for ¥300, select a borrowed vase and meditate on that special skill she had at making everything in life look beautiful. She will turn 90 this month and this is how I keep her close to me.