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Lions Roar : March 2013
48 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 WHEN YOU’RE A writer or an artist, nothing is wasted. Even the most painful and difficult situations in life can be recycled into mate- rial for a project, and it’s the artist’s job to be awake, aware, and oppor- tunistic. This attitude might sound a bit cold and calculating, but it’s not. Quite the opposite. Art, when it comes from dark and difficult places, gives us a means to fully feel our most powerful human emo- tions and transform our suffering into something meaningful. The death of my grandmother was a painful and difficult situ- ation. My mother didn’t want to go to Japan for the funeral, so I went instead. I arrived too late for the cremation, but in time for the interment of my grandmother’s remains in our family plot at the temple cemetery. On the morning of the ceremony, my aunt took me into the living room where my grandmother’s urn was waiting. Using a pair of disposable wooden chopsticks, she picked out three or four of my grandmother’s white bones and put them into a small Tupperware container. This she sealed and then handed to me, instructing me to take the bones home to my mother. This tradition, called honewake—“dividing the bones”—is pretty common in Japan but not in America, and fulfilling my aunt’s wish was not easy. My mother, while ethnically Japanese, had spent most of her life in the United States. She had no use for these old Japanese customs, and in addition, my relationship with her was strained and difficult at the time. When I called to tell her that I had brought her mother’s bones back from Japan and wanted to take them to her, she did not sound happy. So I dropped the subject, and the little Tupperware container ended up on a shelf at the back of my closet. Years passed, and my grandmother’s bones, this skeleton in my closet, began to haunt me. Finally, I decided the only way to deal with the situation was to turn it into an art project. Nothing Is Wasted If you use your difficulties to create art, says RUTH OZEKI, it will give them meaning. Tales of Trauma and Transformation Inspiring Stories, Helpful Methods