I’ve been feeling strangely autumnal this winter. Taking late afternoon walks with Little James hasn’t helped this sense of displacement. I live in a place where seasons don’t have boundaries. At the local park, Lilly Pillies are still blooming, their red and white powder puffs make Little James squeal in delight (It’s not stealing if it’s on the council strip!). We also pass bare frangipani stumps poking out of the ground like antlers from mythical earth-dwelling stags. 

But back to my sense of autumnal nostalgia. I was chatting to a girlfriend online the other day about the proposal she’s putting together for her PhD. Without thinking much, I imparted some advice which my PhD supervisor had told me many years ago when I’d started out on a similar creative journey. My friend marvelled at my advice. On my end of the chat window, I was left suddenly speechless.

All of a sudden, I realised that my PhD supervisor, who is also my good friend and mentor, has gone and will no longer be passing on gems of knowledge to future students. Now when I say she is gone, I don’t mean she’s passed on to a better place  (she’s an artist, so half the time she’s probably already in another realm). All I mean is that she has retired from her teaching post at university. I must have been one of the last remaining doctoral students she put through. I’m also being a bit dramatic because I still see her regularly and can acquire more gems of knowledge whenever I please.

I was more sad thinking about the cycle of knowledge. How it is acquired and lost and the responsibility of those who have knowledge to transmit it to others. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I wasn’t really sad. I was ‘sad-wise’. I was happy that I had gained wisdom but also sad because it is at the expense of getting older and the inevitable change that happens with time. 

And I jumped on to Facebook and asked all my friends if there was a better word for what I was feeling, and this is what they came up with:

Mono no aware

Something in-between Wehmut and Entwicklung




WhileI love how other languages have words that don’t have an exact English translation, the best explanation for me came from my friend Tim who I hope won’t mind that I’ve copied and pasted his idea (he’s a lawyer so he could totally sue me).

He says that simply ‘wisdom’ is the word I”m looking for. It’s just the sadness/ time part of it isn’t understood until the reader gets there themselves. So all of these growing older/ growing wiser sentiments were brewing inside me as I welcomed my uni students back into the classroom today for the first time since Covid, and I played my role as a cog in this whole great cycle of passing of knowledge. 

I’m so glad there’s only a few more days of winter. I will post something a bit more hopeful in spring.

Meanwhile, here’s a photo of those pesky earth-dwelling stags. (You can only see their antlers on account of them living underground).