Mono no Aware – Definition: the awareness of impermanence or transcience, and a gentle sadness or wistfulness at their passing.
Red. The colour of our youngest child’s puddle suit. It’s like a second skin to her that winter. Puddles are an irresistible draw. Ditto mud. The post box red soon turns to sludge red, to brown.
The first summer we take her to the little bay on the coast, we have a wet day. The suit comes out. The waves kiss the bottoms, leaving white surf marks along the legs.
Eventually, the puddle suit legs become too short. Her denim-clad ankles peek out of the bottoms, and the top of wellington’s leave a gap. Time to let it go, along with her pushchair and soother; the baby words she uses that we have, as a family, adopted.
A hot summer at the bay, the puddle suit replaced by a Hogwart’s t-shirt, cut-offs, and Crocs. Her older sister, now a teenager, is soon reduced to a child again as the shore works its charms. The unusually warm weather has brought in jellyfish. Purple, blue, pink, fading into translucent gooey bodies. The smallest the size of a fried egg. The largest specimens sprawl on the rocks, brought in by the tide.
The youngest is thrilled. We tromp around, rescuing the stranded, after the lady in the Coastguard museum tells us they will soon dry out and die on the warmth of the rocks. She now makes this her mission: she must rescue the jellyfish. She has one in her yellow sandcastle bucket, one of the larger ones, which I notice she seems reluctant to return to the sea. We peer over the rim of the bucket, examining it together. It is pink, its tentacles bent to accommodate the smallness of the bucket.
She has named it Bella, she tells me, because it’s clearly a girl, it’s so pretty. I gently explain that it will die without returning to its home in the waves. That it cannot survive as a pet. That we are lucky to have held it so close; been allowed to share in its beauty at all. That eventually, we have to let such beauty go.
We tiptoe to the water’s edge together. She tips the bucket gently, prodding Bella out with the end of her spade. The jellyfish merges with the water and begins to move away. We watch together, sea rippling gently over our toes, until we cannot see it any longer.
Heading back up the beach, hand in hand, she tells me her heart hurts a little bit because she really wanted to keep Bella safely with her. I tell her I understand. I understand completely.