Stories

道の人 — Master of Tao

道の人 — Master of Tao

A snippet of artist Shirley Liu's childhood, written by herself for the Vestige Story collective. The original piece is written in Japanese.

Shirley moved to Japan at the tender age of four, and eventually immigrated to Canada  where she spent most of her adult life. The following story, however, takes place in XiAn, China, where she was born. Despite the faint memories of her toddler days, the four years Shirley spent helping her grandma sew and make steam buns became the bedrock for her creative paths today.


道の人

生涯の師匠、私の思考と行動の原点となったのは(母方の)祖母である。一つ半から四つ半までの間を祖母と二人で過ごした。 

祖母は明晰で器用な人だ。祖母の一挙一動を私は見様見真似で覚えた。細胞の記憶がやがては知恵と術と化して、今の自我に至る基盤となった。

祖母は一日の大半を台所と裁縫部屋で過ごした。私は金魚のフンのように祖母にくっついていた。

台所。細長い間に、壁伝いに伸びる台は全体がまな板で、常に小麦粉の層で白い。この地方では米より麺食が主で、数十種の麺は全て小麦粉から作られる。生地の塊が百変化するのが楽しくて、小麦粉から食卓までの全作業を幼い私は手伝いたがった。祖母は私に、踏み台、エプロン、小包丁、そして祖母の隣の位置を託してくれた。祖母の、生地を捏ねる力強い手を、綿棒を回す素早い手を、包丁を刻む正確な手を、よく見て真似た。怪我したことが一度もないのは、祖母の安守の手が何時も側にあったからだ。 

裁縫部屋。祖母はよく母に服を作り、残りの生地で私にもお揃いの服を作った。祖母の手に掛かれば、母は映画のスターに、私はお姫様に変身した。生地の毎一寸がボタンとなり、コサージュとなり、リボンとなり、腰帯となり、布の切れ端でさえ無駄になることはなかった。生地が形になる過程でも私は祖母の良き協力者だった。視力低下した祖母のために、針に糸を通す仕事は私が担当した。少し大きくなって、型紙の作り方について祖母に聞いてみたことがある。どうやって型を思いつき、どうやって平面図に写すのかと。そしたら祖母は、すでにある服を解剖して学び得た基礎に自分の好みを加えるだけよ、と言っただけで、具体的な解説は特にはなかった。それから自分なりに祖母の言う通りにやってみたら、意外と目と手が勝手に動いてくれた。祖母は見通していた。祖母の一挙一動を追っていた私の目を、針に糸を通す私の手を、見極めて信じてくれていた。

祖母が教えてくれたのは料理と裁縫の技術ではない。一袋の小麦粉から、一枚の布地から、無限の形が生まれること、それが四歳児の宙を拓いた。大人になった今、空間を設計する時、スケジュールを組み立てる時、週分の献立を練る時、遊ぶ時、全ての言動の元には祖母の示しがある。ただ、知識を伝えるだけが教えと限らない。想像力、自力で学ぶ術、そしてその基盤を築く環境を、祖母は私に与えてくれた。物事を理解し、己の可能性と実力への信念を養う過程を、祖母は見守ってくれた。それこそが真の教えであると私は思う。そして祖母はその道の人だ。

 

Shirley is wearing our Baroque Top in Japanese cotton.


Master of Tao

The way of thinking and being, as I live now, is enlightened by the way of my Grandmother. My master, whom I met when I was one and a half, and lived with until four and a half.

She is a modest woman, wise and dexterous. I would watch her and mirror every action, like a monkey, until it’s embedded in my muscles. The memories held in my muscles then overtime have transformed into the core of my conscience today.   

Grandmother spent most of the day in the kitchen and at the sewing table. I followed her around everywhere.

In the long and narrow kitchen, a thick plank of wood placed along one side of the wall was where the magic happened. From one bag of flour, she could make all kinds of noodles and buns in hundreds of many shapes and textures. I had my place too on the long counter, with a little stool. I liked to help her, and so she let me. Really, it was playing dough for me, but Grandmother gave me a full set of tools just like hers. I had an apron, a stepping stool, and a little knife. I watched closely Grandmother’s strong hands kneading the dough, her quick hands rolling the pin, and her precise hands chopping the knife — as she watched closely my little hands right beside. 

Grandmother would make clothes for my mother and dress me with the remaining fabric. She used every inch of the material to make my mother a movie star and make me a princess. An inch-square piece turned into a button, and an inch-wide strip turned into a corsage. From head to toe was a coordinated outfit with matching details. Here too I was a good little assistant. My grandmother had a hard time seeing the needle hole, so I would thread it for her. I’ve asked her how she comes up with shapes and how it’s translated into patterns. She said it’s just the basis figured from decomposing clothes, and arranging it to her liking. One day I followed her words. Surprisingly my eyes and hands knew exactly what to do. I realized then, that she had always known, since the first day I threaded the needle.

So I learnt how to cook and sew. But moreover, my Grandmother’s imagination to create anything from a bag of flour or a piece of fabric had opened a whole wide world in front of a four-year-old. I am an architect now, and whether I am designing a space, or planning a month’s schedule, or preparing a week’s meals, or playing, behind my mind there is my grandmother’s hands kneading the dough and her hands cutting the pattern, conducting me to the most efficient, effective and tasteful way of executing the work with minimal resources to waste. This is merely the hard skills I inherited from her. I am fully grown up now, being able to reflect upon the path, but the very essence is that she’s always treated me as one full person from the first day. She’s watched me closely, and put full trust in my capability. This, is her tao.

Shirley is wearing our Thales Apron (coming soon), with the Architect tea towel peeking out of its pocket. 

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