A slower pace

by Radio Somewhere


Back in 2001, I was given a starter calligraphy kit as a present. I’m not sure why it was chosen for me, but I decided to give it a try. I went to an art supply store to buy a pad of paper and a suitable board to work on.

I had something in mind to try and went through a couple of weeks of experimentation. I wasn’t working at the time, and I found this a very wonderful occupation for rainy January afternoons — with a glass of wine at hand — and the sound of daytime TV for company.

I would start by inking the gold spacers. The figure only shows part of the sheet. There are two blocks of 27 rows x 9 columns of these. At first, it took me over an hour to ink just one sheet, but I got faster with time. The gold ink dries to a metallic finish and looks rather striking. Then, I’d take a break to pour the first glass of wine.

I don’t know where I got the characters from. They just came to me spontaneously as I worked. And after a while, I fancied I was starting to know what they meant. I started keeping a “dictionary” as symbols took on meaning and built a crude vocabulary — which I somehow managed to lose — and then forget. I only did this for a few months, but have quite a collection of these pieces.

Some symbols still mean something to me. The one above the “8” (which isn’t the number eight by the way, but just ends the paragraph) is an alternative version of Om and I take it to refer to God. The “V” represents happiness while the upside-down “V” means despair. The lambda symbol means good, while the lambda written backwards means bad.

The thing that looks like a Q represents the soul and the cross means death. Other symbols in this paragraph are to do with weather, agriculture and food — and the importance of them to human well-being. And the liaison that connects two repeating characters is for emphasis — the equivalent of using italics.

Once summer arrived, I took a break. Summer sunshine didn’t set the right mood for this kind of work. I kept meaning to get back into it, but once I got a kitten, I realized it was going to be out of the question.

I’d love to get back to it one day. And I hope that the meanings and interpretations would come as readily as they did last time. Meanwhile, I enjoy looking at these every once in a while — remembering a very, very precious part of my life.