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a tale for the time being & taking time

I’ve been reading a novel by Ruth Ozeki, a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest whose works were recommended to me by my lovely friend Zen (a most thoughtful soul who has a knack for finding the most compelling authors).

One thing I’ve learned about myself, is that a book’s title hold a powerful amount of sway for me as to whether I’ll read the synopsis or pass it by. A good title can draw me instantly in or completely repel me. Instead of heeding the warning, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” a more applicable one would be,“Don’t judge a book by its title.”

When Zen first mentioned Ozeki’s work, she recommended a book called My Year of Meats. The title itself felt cringy, but I from the way Zen described Ozeki’s writing and storytelling style, I resolved not to let the title deter me. Yet, while looking Ozeki up online, I discovered a book whose title was one of the most poetic ones I’ve encountered in all my days: A Tale for the Time Being.

Within moments, I’d read the synopsis and added it to my wish list, and on Christmas, I opened a gift from my folks to find a cover that drew me in further still. I added it to my stack of “To Read” volumes on my bookshelf, and looked forward to when it would be a tale for the time being.

Friends. It is wonderful. Such layered storying. Such thoughtfulness. No wonder it was a Booker Prize finalist (I only question why it didn’t win and what could possibly have beat it).

Since I first cracked the cover on March 31, I’ve ended each long day with a new set of "next chapters", and there’s rarely one that doesn’t make some impression on me. Whether a new connection to my Japanese culture, an old reference long I’d forgotten, a new idea or understanding of something I hadn't quite grasped before, or some turn of phrase that has me pausing to find a pencil and carefully underline it, just-so, because the book's far too lovely to for a sloppy underline.

Here in Southern California, we’re in the midst a heat wave and a 103°-afternoon that has even the smallest of errands feeling like a whole ordeal. Nearing the end of a week of caregiving requiring more emotional energy than I was able to give and after several sound points and well-taken reminders from my thoughtful therapist, I’m allowing myself a reprieve from the stuffiness of my upstairs studio (heat rises after all).

Descending the stairs, I feel some of the mental weight begin to dissipate (or at least to pause its whirring). With each step, the temperature drops a few more degrees, and I can hear myself think again.

I make for the couch, and in the company of my calico tabby cat Nadia (more commonly known as Mimo), I type this letter for you dears, and somewhat guiltily pick up A Tale for the Time Being, let it fall open to the place I last left my bookmark (a cozy design by Raahat Kaduji, one of my favorite artists), and take care to take pleasure in the reading words of Ruth Ozeki… in the end of the middle of the afternoon.

And in this moment, I’m very aware of time and how it can feel both heavy sometimes and ticking-by far too quickly at others. And this is my tale for the time being today.

Friends, may you find moments to take care, recover from hard things, and refill your energy stores when it’s truly the best way to carry on. And may you feel a little more sure and a little less guilty for doing so.

♡ Kimberly Kuniko

P.S. I will be reading My Year of Meats in the future because the writing of Ruth Ozeki leaves me no doubt that I absolutely must.

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Words, Art + Photography by

© Kimberly 國子Taylor-Pestell


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Welcome to the personal blog of of Kimberly Kuniko, a Nikkei American illustrator, collage artist, poet, and host of cozy, virtual guided creative retreats with a new theme each month.

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