Death has always been a part of my life, a specter that haunts as much as it spurs me on. Mother committed suicide on my seventh birthday, which happened to be her thirtieth. She left behind a husband who found his courage in bottles of alcohol, and his friendship in those who shared this enslavement. Soon after her death, he fled in the middle of the night, leaving me to the care of Grandmother.
Children have a difficult time recollecting events from a young age, but for me it is just the opposite. It was I who discovered Mother’s cold and lifeless body lying dead in the fetal position on a tatami mat one bright spring morning. They say that death brings the closure necessary to move on and forge a new path in life. Mother’s death did not do that for me. Instead, like an incomplete painting, I could not help wondering what the empty portion of her life’s canvas would have looked like had it not come to a halt in mid-brushstroke.
Perhaps because I wanted to celebrate her artistic achievements independent of the turmoil that was the unfortunate anthem of her life, Mother’s death became my tableau-objet, a way to mollify the guilt and fear that have stayed with me; guilt for having somehow played a role in her suicide; fear that the same fate awaits me. Sadly, morbid thoughts like this often cloud the few rays of sunshine that are leftover from my youth.
Beauty embraces me as I come to the entrance of the gallery. The shrill cry of ten thousand cicadas rings out in waves. As they do every morning at this time of year, the azaleas which serve as a border between the gallery and the sidewalk captivate me. Each flower is as pink as a virgin heart, and just as fragile. Off to the side, lotus flowers dot the surface of a pond whose waters are replete with tiger-striped koi. Beyond that is a small rock garden that was at one time perfectly manicured, though has now, I am afraid, fallen into disrepair because of my own shortcomings as a gardener.
Between the entrance and the pond is a single ginkgo tree I had planted in Mother’s honour. The ginkgo tree had been a natural choice for me because, as a species, it has no close living relatives. It was an obscure fact that provided some comfort at the time; an only child by birth, my last living relative died with Grandmother’s passing two years ago.
I am not a religious person by nature, but on mornings like today, when the sun is out in full view and the few clouds in the sky look like works of art sculpted by the gifted hands of Michelangelo, it is hard not to imagine a Grand Painter on whose canvas we all live. Surely such ethereal beauty could only have been made possible by an entity far wiser and deft with a brush than ourselves.
I come to a stop and look high above, raising a hand to shield my eyes from the sun. A tiny ray of sunshine filters through my fingers, a reverential silence enveloping me. In that moment I see something I have not been able to verbalize in the past. There is no such thing as the present, I marvel. The present is merely an invisible bridge between the future and the past, much like desire and fear are tied together by a manmade notion called happiness. It dawns on me then that it is only with death that the present becomes real in the eternal, and that happiness is born in the resulting bliss.
Harmony between the elements is the secret to this gallery. I slip the key into the lock and turn it gently. The ends of my fingers trace the numbers on the security code panel that turns off the alarm system. Silver Apricot is the name I finally settled on for the gallery after months of indecision. It is dedicated to the hundreds of paintings that Mother left behind, including the piece that brought upon the fame which was to be her eventual undoing, Fervour of Spirit.