Wednesday, November 13, 2013


After more than eleven years as my trusty companion, my backpack is retiring. It's been on every trip I've taken, large or small, from going to school to walking Kailash. I can't quite imagine myself without it.
My grandfather introduced me to the concept of built-in obsolescence, but I don't feel it applies here. I don't think this one was designed to wear out, though I suspect I've shared my life with it much longer than the marketers at Timberland ever planned! Still, I was interested to observe that, after yeoman service, the backpack hit some sort of limit in the last months and several parts of it started to go. The zipper started going wonky at just the same time that the stitching gave out.

In Japan, tools and other objects which have formed an important part of your life aren't just thrown away but commemorated with a ritual of 供養 (kuyô), an interesting mix of gratitude and apology. This rucksack, which was too close to me even to have been given a name of its own, definitely deserves one. In more than punny ways, it had my back.

What might an appropriate kuyô be? I've put it in an armchair (after letting it get some sun, above), but that's not enough. I think I'll let myself be inspired by tailors' and seamstresses' 針供養 (hari kuyô), kuyô for sewing needles, which, after a lifetime of having to press through hard fabrics, are finally passed through soft tofu. One day soon we're going for a walk in the park, just the pack - blissfully empty - and me.

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