Komorebi

It is delightful to discover words in other languages that do not exist in your own language. I found a collection of untranslatable words in this Medium article that first introduced me to the word komorebi 7 years ago. I immediately fell in love with the word that is used to describe sunlight being filtered through the trees or “the interplay between the light and the leaves”. It has a sense of discovery in it. There can be all sort of reasons for a word existing or not existing in a language, but that is not my point. I am just charmed by a word that can teach us to open our eyes and minds to beauty everywhere.

Soon I was noticing komorebi all the time when out walking. When I visited Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum a few years ago, I realised that Bessie MacNicol, one of the Arts & Crafts’ Glasgow Girls, knew what komorebi was. Sure, the description of her painting, “Under the Apple Tree” talks about “dappled sunlight”, but that phrase doesn’t have the same magic to me as komorebi.

Image of Bessie MacNicol's painting Under the Apple Tree with young woman sitting under a tree in dappled sunlight
Image of the painting “Under the Apple Tree” by Elizabeth (Bessie) MacNicol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

PS I wanted to post this article simply to record some old notes I had. In the process, I learned that there is a new definition of the phrase Glasgow Girls that has nothing to do with art, and yet has been turned into art. Glasgow Girls is also a group of young women activists who raised awareness about human rights issues for refugees in Glasgow back in 2005. The story of their activism was turned into a musical on stage and on television. It’s worthwhile hearing their story 15 years on in a video prepared as a learning resource by Education Scotland. I sense that discovering this modern Glasgow Girls story is somehow connected to the magic of komorebi. Dear Reader, I leave you to figure out that connection. 🙂

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