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  • by Janet St. John

Art & Soul Short #41

Utagawa Hiroshige.(1797–1858 Tokyo) Edo period (1615–1868) ca. 1833–34. Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper. 9 15/32 x 14 in. (24.1 x 35.6 cm). Rogers Fund, 1918. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Open Access).

Sudden Showers

It is an uphill climb, the kind that doesn’t seem so daunting until you undertake it. Wind is not at their backs, though the rain slants that way. Backs angled like trees in storm, like bamboo stalks, everything that bends. The day’s limbs akimbo. Elbows bent. Legs twisted, off balance. One umbrella inverts, a parachute dragging a man backwards. Someone stops. Tries to help. But some journeys do not make space for assistance. Even if you travel in a group with others on the same trip, the experience is yours. Her sore wet feet, hers. His chilled bare back, his. And the weight of what two people carry, together, between them. One is holding the heavier end for too long, feeling the strain more than the other who pulls, puts head down, and drives forward. Mountains in the distance. The roofs of houses peak like hills. Slopes grade steeper, unexpectedly.

He says, “There are miles to go.”

She says, “I must rest, retreat, or relinquish.”

He says, “I am hungry too. We will stop ahead.”

She says, “The light is fading. We must carry on, cover a little more ground.”

When the rain pauses, they lift their heads. Hat brims flip up and flick the rain away from their faces. Hats, their poor protection from what drenches, soaks, seeps in. They see a hole in the clouds—window of sky—where sun through atmosphere is still blue as the blue they always trust to return. Afternoon. The day still moving forward. These travelers know the cycle. They rely upon it, try to align with it. For a moment, a section of rainbow. A block of colored lines too soon disappear. The day’s layers build the way different ink hues spread across carved woodblock. Pressed grey on near-white paper. Overlaid with blue. Followed by peachy beige. Finished with a red square stamp that seals the day, stops motion, halts travelers, sets a time, place, setting, and characters in time. Their story. A journey.

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