Thursday, October 04, 2007
Happy Birthday to me
The haiku on the right-hand side of the picture reads:
kazoe yo chiyo no
"Because you're fifty
count the New Year's pine branches
of a thousand ages"
In traditional Japan, people were considered one year older on New Year's Day, which therefore became everyone's birthday. The age of fifty was special because it was considered the beginning of respected old age. Therefore the boughs of the evergreen pine, a traditional New Year's decoration, also carry here the meaning of long life. In addition, the tall forehead of the figure suggests the extended head of Jurojin, the god of good fortune who also represents longevity. Finally, on the back of the figure is the auspicious Buddhist jewel symbol. So for a man reaching the age of fifty, everything about this small painting is celebratory: Happy Birthday, Happy New Year, and Long Life!
Respected old age? This as my son is climbing on me like a jungle gym. It's been said before but is worth repeating: we begin never knowing what the end will be. I have no idea what will happen to us as a family with a father at 50 raising a daughter of 1 1/2 and a son of 4. But whatever it will be, it will not be dull.
To my friends: my love and my thanks. To my enemies: may you always keep me vigilant. And to my children and the shades of my ancestors: hail, and farewell.