new year, new black

2009 for many that I have spoken with, as well as for myself was filled with tremendous loss. It is not the onset of a new year- a flip of a calendar that one can simply move on, and say they are no longer in mourning. In Western Civilization it has been customary to wear black during times of mourning, as written extensively about here by Justin Nobel in his week blog funeralwise. In Japan the customary color for mourning is white.  This may cause a little bit of confusion, as the woman wear white to their wedding, as Western's do.  The process of being married in Japan deals with the bride's loss of her birth family, and her new role as a servant to her husband.  As time passes, and she is comes out of her mourning and develops into her new role she wears gray and pastel colors.  In India, blue is associated with mourning and bad-luck.

The use of the color black in Japan, at least in the Heian period, might seem extremely strange to a Westerner.  Most significant was the use of black paint to color women's teeth.  Since they painted their faces white, black was seen as a more desirable color to contrast with the skin than yellow- as their teeth are described.

My wish for the new year is that we may mourn however we deem is appropriate to us- without judgment, time limit or cultural restraint.  With the onset of loss, I find that it is most important not to loose ourselves, but to use the mourning time as an opportunity to know ourselves that much more intimately.  The color of black is comfortable for various reasons, it has been common for centuries- really as old as mankind.  It is also in this state of loss that we feel absurd feelings not felt before- ineffable.  So I offer this image of inspiration and comparison.  Here Catherine de Medici in her ruffled mourning of the 1500's, and a ruffled ensemble from Junya Watanabe circa 2000 (already a decade old, yet, timely as ever.)  Each offers the opportunity to live in the present- sticking out in a crowd for different reasons, Catherine, for her visual display to tell all she is in mourning and for Ms. Watanable to tell all that the wearer is feeling the ineffable, both in their own right their own, with their own lives.