Culture: 315 posts

Art, travel, books, history

Wind Through Green Leaves Aoarashi

Imagine right now standing under a tree and hearing the wind rustling through its leaves. If you enjoy this vision, I would like to share a Japanese poem with you.

Wind blowing through green leaves
I see a shrine
And I pray

青嵐神社があったので拝む
Aoarashi Jinja ga atta node Ogamu

Japanese haiku are full of seasonal words, which serve as a guide to the reader. For instance, this charming poem by Ikeda Sumiko (池田澄子, born in 1936) contains the word aoarashi.  It means wind blowing through green leaves and it’s a seasonal word for the fifth month.

Continue reading →

Frida Kahlo and Shalimar

“They thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality,” Frida Kahlo once said. An artist is inseparable from their art, and this idea is particularly dramatic in the case of Kahlo, whose body of work is based on the explorations of self. Of the 143 paintings Kahlo left behind, 55 are self-portraits, brutal, honest, startling. What’s more, Kahlo was conscious of the power of the image, and she also fashioned self through her choice of clothes, colors and accessories.

I admit that I didn’t appreciate the importance that Kahlo assigned to her clothes, jewelry and perfume until I saw the exhibit of the artist’s possessions at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The image of the Mexican artist—the colorful skirts, the flower-decorated braids, the unibrow—entered pop culture to the point that we risk forgetting the artist behind a fashion icon. In order to understand her art, is it necessary to know that Frida Kahlo wore Guerlain’s Shalimar and Schiaparelli’s Shocking and draped herself in Mexican dresses and Chinese silk?

Continue reading →

Bulgaria Travel Reading List

Some of you will be joining me in Bulgaria’s Rose Valley this May, and I’ve received a couple of requests for reading that would prepare you for a trip. Bulgaria is one of the largest countries in the EU, and yet like so many places that fell on the other side of the Iron Curtain, it remains  terra incognita. Yet, it’s a place with an ancient history, delicious food, beautiful music, picturesque churches, and of course, roses. Bulgaria supplies 50% of the world’s rose essence.

I’ve decided to put together a list of non-fiction and fiction books that would be interesting even if you have no plans to visit Bulgaria and simply want to learn something new. These novels and travel accounts present a fascinating and rich land, a place where many different cultures, influences and traditions meet.

Continue reading →

My Article about The Shalimar Gardens in Oh Comely

Paradise comes from the ancient Persian word pairidaēza, meaning ‘an enclosed garden,’ and in arid land, the idea of an orchard filled with the sound of water, the glow of ripening fruit and the perfume of flowers was indeed a vision from the celestial realm. Persians perfected the art of gardening and their ideas influenced the way orchards were designed around the world. To see one such garden, I traveled to Karachi, a bustling port city in the south of Pakistan, continued my journey along the Indus River, and navigated the mad traffic of Lahore. An orchard may not be worth such an effort, but the Shalimar Gardens were no ordinary place.

I have a new article in the magazine Oh Comely. It follows me on my travels through southern Pakistan to reach the fabled Shalimar Gardens. They were created in the 17th century by the emperor Shah Jahan and while many changes have befallen them, they’re still one of the reasons to visit Lahore, the city that was the jewel of the Mughal Empire. My article is in Issue 48. The spring issue has fruit as its leitmotif, and if you read my article, you’ll see what the Shalimar Gardens, the founder of the Mughal Empire, emperor Babur, and fragrant mangoes have in common. And the Shalimar perfume, of course.

Continue reading →

How to Learn A Language by Reading and Listening

In my first two articles outlining my methods for studying languages, I mentioned that I rely on reading both to learn new languages and to maintain the ones I already speak. However, I wanted to explain what I do in more detail, because my strategy differs from the more usual ones found in language books and classrooms. Generally, we’re told that we should just start reading, look up the words we don’t know and just slough through the book despite the difficulties. In the same vein, we’re advised to watch foreign films and listen to music.

The problem with this approach is that it takes a long time to learn a language in such a passive way. Of course, we should plunge into books we want to read as soon as we feel that we have enough of the basics and we should watch films and songs. The latter is especially important to get used to the rhythm and melodies of the language you’re learning and to create your own language bubble. (Watching films with subtitles, by the way, is not particularly effective, since our brains use the path of least resistance and effectively tune out the incomprehensible by focusing on the familiar.) I often tune into German, Portuguese or Japanese radio stations and listen to them as I cook or edit photos.  However, if your goal is to learn to speak the language, then you have to follow a different strategy when reading and listening.

Continue reading →

From the Archives

Latest Comments

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2019 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy