GIFTS OF THE SEASON

Driving into the city this morning, I was greeted by a most spectacular sight – the snow-capped Olympic mountains in full view, rising majestically against a clear blue sky.  

It took my breath away, but also filled me with delight.

“What a gift!” I thought  to myself.

Apparently, the ritual of shopping for, and wrapping gifts was on my mind. ‘Tis the season after all.

In the whirlwind of holiday activity, it’s nice to slow done once in awhile and appreciated the simple beauty of nature, or the familiarity and warmth behind our annual traditions.

In a few days, families across the country will be gathered beneath the Christmas tree, enjoying the end result after weeks of shopping and holiday preparation – including, of course,  the unwrapping of presents.

Have you ever noticed that there are various ways to unwrap a gift?

For example, some of us might tear into the package with gusto, leaving a pile of shredded paper and ribbon on the floor. Others are known to unwrap a present ever so carefully, with the intent of saving the paper and bows to be used again next year.

On a recent excursion to a museum, I was introduced to the ceremonious creation of a Japanese scroll painting.

Compact and lightweight, a Japanese scroll hangs effortlessly on a wall. Yet it is preceded by a complex process.

This unique work of art – carefully rolled up and tucked inside a custom made box – is subsequently removed from its’ box in a ceremony steeped in tradition, very much like the unwrapping of a present.

It might surprise you to know the effort that goes into producing this exquisite art form.

To begin with, a highly skilled and respected artist creates the painting, typically applying black or colored ink, onto a silk ground – the equivalent of a Western canvas.

Upon completion, the painting is taken to a master craftsman, whose one and only task is to expertly mount the masterpiece onto exactly the right patterned silk background, thereby creating a scroll.

Next, the painting – now officially a scroll – is entrusted to another artisan, whose expertise is crafting custom boxes.  This box maker will create a perfectly sized box into which the rolled up scroll will be stored.

You might think this is the end of the process, but it isn’t.

The box still needs to be inscribed. This is yet again, a separate artisan who is master of his craft.

When looked at in this way, the entire process is quite humbling. I can think of nothing in Western art that comes even close.

What is particularly intriguing to me about this entire process is the final ceremony of how a scroll is carefully taken from its’ box and just as carefully unfolded to reveal the masterpiece inside.

Exactly like a treasured gift.