My girlfriend Hiroko’s grandmother was the first mochi death of the new millennium, and I knew that this was bad news. Spirits freed from their earthly bodies on New Year’s Day are immensely powerful—it’s winning the spirit lottery—and all debts must be reckoned immediately.
The artists I know are perfectionists, heartlessly so, because that is required. They will paint right over a failed canvas; they will rip out every stitch and start anew. The artist comes to her material with an mix of control and surrender, and her success seems to rely on her ability to grasp a material’s specific demands, while reconciling those with her own vision. There is something there, in the material, that works against you—which requires rigor, but might bring relief.
“Do you remember our first / January at Eagle Pond, / the coldest in a century? / It dropped to thirty-eight below— / with no furnace, no storm / windows or insulation. / We sat reading or writing / in our two big chairs, either / side of the Glenwood, / and made love on the floor / with the stove open and roaring. / You were twenty-eight. / If someone had told us then / you would die in nineteen years, / would it have sounded / like almost enough time?”