Waterfall Koi Fish, Kyoto, Japan
photo via golden
I always enjoyed watching him paint— I would sprawl on the tatami, the patterned straw imprinting on my hands, perfectly still. Watch him choose the brush, grind the colored ink on each special watered stone until it had reached the right consistency. Then he would study the paper intently, his eyes crinkling in the corners, the brush in the ink— I would hold my breath— until finally he moved, lifted the brush, and in a single perfect stroke infuse life into the alchemy of ink, water, and pigment.
With the coming of spring he’d been painting bamboo near-constantly, yellow and green since it was the season where they switched their leaves. He said it was because bamboo was the hardest to paint, and he needed the practice. It was exciting to watch in this season, too, with the falling yellow leaves falling among the green, flashing like swords as they fell through light and shadow.
Today, though, it was fish, white and orange and coin-gold, young dragons full of sinuous motion, swimming into life on the paper— a single stroke each. It was lovely, but rather surprising— the season for koi was not for another two turnings of the moon. “Fish? Why fish?”
He freed the paper from the jade weights and lifted it carefully. His tabi whispered faintly as he stepped from the tatami and the age-polished wood of the veranda, then into the geta left on the stone step; clacked musically across the stones to the edge of the water. “The pond needs restocking,” he said in his controlled way, and carefully tilted the paper to pour the koi into the water.