I was talking to the guy next to me tonight at the Lan Su Garden lecture. One of the things we were talking about is how glad he is to be old. (He's glad about that for a number of reasons, but one of which is that he doesn't have to find a job now, in the current slim pickings of micro-specialized possibilities.)
It's not something many people say, that they're glad to be old; not in those words, anyway. My partner talks — quite often, actually — about how glad she is not to be in high school anymore, or not to have to go through adolescence again, or whathaveyou, but that's kind of a different level. Maybe.
Anyway, one of the things that struck me most about the lecture tonight — and a very interesting lecture it was, "Lost in Translation, Found in Place: Identifying Traditional Cultural Elements in New Settings at Lan Su Chinese Garden" — was a couple of pictures of old gardens in China, in our sister city, Suzhou.
These gardens had a look of Age. It's a look I love; a look, I think, coveted and admired in many cultures, and one which is probably impossible to replicate. I guess it's as much of a feeling as it is a look, which might explain the non-reproducible quality. I've seen it in old teapots, too, and maybe even in trees, people.
These gardens, the teapots, seemed to have been worn down by time and by use, to have become thin in some essential way; like the molecular fabric of which they are made has been washed threadbare and porous. But there's something else, too. I think the feeling part comes from what replaces those lost molecules; it seems as if — just as the oils from tea leaves permeate the porous clay of an unglazed pot — it seems as if the walls and pathways of these old gardens have been permeated by the moods, the memories, and spirits that have inhabited them for years upon years upon years.