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Essays by Prairie Stuart-Wolff

Some Sweet Relief Some Sweet Relief

Some Sweet Relief

Relentless summer has returned. It’s a season we know well, but despite the anticipation, the sense of knowing what’s to come, we experience it with fresh intensity each year. Outside we are met with sweltering heat, with oppressive humidity, with a constant drone of cicadas that beats from within the thick air. Energy wanes and the spirit wilts.
The walls of a home protect from outside elements and the rooms inside are arranged to offer some reprieve. Just as we create warmth inside in winter, there we cultivate coolness in summer. And if we cannot offer coolness itself, we can perhaps strive for an impression of it that might bring a moment of sweet relief.
The room is still, its decoration considered but spare. Consider less the way it looks and more the way it makes you feel. Quiet the mind, set intellect aside, and experience it through the language of the senses. The space will speak to you, not in the vocabulary of your mother tongue but in universal poetics, the sensation of temperature, of light, of scent and sound.

Your arrival has been greatly anticipated. Perhaps we’ve met, perhaps we haven’t, and it matters little. With a nod to the season at hand, a scroll, an object, a flower was chosen for the cherished guest. The overhead lights are extinguished. The burning filaments would only intensify the heat and so the room is dim. Shaded window light and a single paper lantern tucked into the darkest corner is all the light there is. The semidarkness allows for a pure reflection, tinged with the thick green of summer, to fall on the glossy black surface of the lacquer table.
Outside the sun burns bright. Dappled light plays in patches over moss and ferns, over Japanese Silverleaf and stones in the garden. A warm breeze licks the reeds of screens hanging from the eaves. They hold the brilliant rays at bay but allow air and light to slip through. It spills onto a reed mat coving the tatami floor that glows with a quiet sheen, polished by the whisper of footsteps over so many summer seasons.
Rest a moment. Pause and drink the room in. Let perceptions swell and linger an arm’s length away from language. May you find some comfort here, respite from the trials of this season spent so close to the sun, and may you go forth in continued good health.

About the author

Prairie Stuart-Wolff is a writer, photographer, and avid home cook who upon moving to Japan in 2007, immediately recognized the great depth and beauty of Japanese culinary traditions. She produces Cultivated Days, an online journal that investigates and celebrates the ingredients, principles, and practices of Japanese food and culture in context.