January 2010


Sunlight on the Snow

The snow falls every year, here in the north. Winter comes with a sombre promise to take and give nothing back. But we are stubborn people. We hold on to our homes, even when it costs us dear.

South of us the valleys stretch out, welcoming warmth, sheltering it in a cradle of trees and soft grasses. But we have the mountains and the spaces in between, the small cracks where we find what warmth we can.

In the summer the frozen rivers melt and flow again in the deep ravines. The water filters through the rocks until it’s pure and sparkling – the best water you ever tasted. It nourishes the roots of the trees, and the deer drink from the streams. We kill the deer, and the snow hares, and the mountain lions. We eat them and we take their pelts for warmth.

We survive in our mountain home.

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Chihiro and the beleaguered river spirit in Spirited Away

2010. It’s the beginning of a whole new decade. I want to start this decade by being more like Chihiro, the young heroine of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece, Spirited Away. There are many points I could draw from the film – especially as an example of fantasy that has reality, truth and humanity at its heart – but I’ll be content with just one, for now.

Forced to work in a bath house run by Yubaba the witch, Chihiro has to undergo many trials in the hope of rescuing her parents, who greedily ate the food of the spirits and were turned into pigs as a result. On one particular occasion, a stinking monster comes into the bath house. He wants a bath, and he has lots of gold to offer in return. Greedy Yubaba likes the colour of his money enough to ignore the foul sludge which oozes from him, filling the bath house and scaring off the other customers.

Chihiro is given the rather daunting task of making the guest feel welcome and escorting him to his bath, which she does with heroic determination. As the monster soaks in the hot water, Chihiro realises that something is stuck in his side, and it won’t budge.

With the help of Yubaba and the other bath house attendants, Chihiro succeeds in tying a rope around the mysterious object. Then she pulls. And pulls. And pulls …

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