Wednesday, December 17, 2014

So much beauty in the gift of a kimono

Last night there was a knock my hotel door. I knew it would be Yukiko, my Japanese translator’s mother, because we were going to have dinner together.

The last time I met her was in the bar of the Traverse theatre over ten years ago, when I was teaching her daughter, Nozomi Abe, on the Queen Margaret University post graduate playwright’s course.

I was her daughter’s professor, John Clifford in those days, and she came with her husband, and the meeting was extremely pleasant. But quite formal.

It wasn’t till she knocked on the door last night that I suddenly wondered how she would respond to this time meeting Jo Clifford…

With complete naturalness and kindness,as it happened. Actually with far more than simple kindness. She said she had a present to give me and began to unpack this utterly beautiful silk kimono, which she then helped me put on.

And this is me wearing it…. Surprised and touched to the very depths of my being.



“You were handsome and distinguished when we first met”, she said, “And then I saw you with your daughter on Facebook at the opening of Great Expectations and you looked beautiful. Like an actress.  And so i wanted to give you this…”

As a piece of clothing, it is absolutely gorgeous; and it all comes with what she called a “happy coat”  also in silk, and with the most beautiful embroidery and calligraphy in the lining.

I don’t think I have ever worn anything so beautiful.

But I think what matters more than the enormous material generosity of this gift is the extraordinary generosity of spirit. The level of acceptance. The depth of kindness.

It is the hugest thing. I don’t think I have the words for it just now.

But I must find them: so I can say thank you properly.

“Arigatou gozaimasu” is a beginning. But there is far more to learn.

Meantime, Yukiko is teaching me to count. “Ichi, ni…” But I quickly get lost.

This is an extraordinary and complex and beautiful world I will probably never really even begin to understand.


But it all begins with kindness….

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