After my mother’s funeral, my father and I had promised each other a trip to the “Field of Voiceless Flowers” as a means to reconnect with one another and mourn mom’s death.
My father was the UN’s economic consultant for underdeveloped countries, so his work took him to a lot of ignored places in the world. He loved his jobs since it allowed him to listen to stories that otherwise would have never left a village no one’s ever heard of. He would tell me those stories during the short months between trips. The one that resonated with me the most was about the “Field of Voiceless Flowers”.
During the Vietnam War, there was a supply route in Laos that was ideal for vehicle transportation, naturally, the American’s immediate reaction was to napalm it, gain vision over the route and bomb it whenever someone drove through it. This route was nicknamed “5th Ave” since it was “one way only”. As the war progressed and the battlefront shifted over and that deforested area became an ideal route to move US troops across. The Vietcong were no fools they made sure to position themselves so that the ideal route for the Americans to take was “5th Ave”. One morning 300 Men walked into “5th Ave” thinking it was another hike, it was riddled with hundreds of landmines. 50 had died by sunset. Panicking troops lead to a chain reaction of mines. They were stuck not knowing if they were at the edge of minefields or the dead center. A helicopter evacuation was not possible since they couldn’t secure a landing zone. The wounded couldn’t be carried out and the rest we shackled by fear. Most of the wounded died slowly unable to receive treatment. Desperate men ran across the field, many of them successful on their run, but some turned to pools of blood. It took the army 3 days to get all the troops out. A lot of bodies were left there.
Decades after the war ended my father went out to “5th Ave” for groundwork on mine discovery and disposal. The locals took him to the “Field of Voiceless Flowers”. Not really “there” but at a visible distance down from a hillside. Along miles of thick tree lines, there was a clear border where the trees ended and a hoard of wildflowers littered the minefield. It was called the “Field of Voiceless Flowers” since there was no one there to hear it and nothing there to make a sound. My father said it was the most well-composed view he had encountered in his years abroad. He used to dream a lot about taking a stroll through the “Field of Voiceless Flower” but chuckled that they turned to nightmares since he would wake up after stepping on a mine. Not the best story to tell an 11-year-old but it engraved a mystical scenery in my head.
During my anxiety-ridden teenage years, when I wanted a moment of silence in my head I would imagine what it would be like to take a stroll across the “Field of Voiceless Flowers”. Under a clear blue sky, I embraced every step I took on the dirt. Avoiding the flowers as much as possible. Skeletons scattered along a thick path of wildflowers. Step after step I start to forget there are mines hidden under every flower root. I pace faster and faster until I’m running, kicking flowers one bush after another. I fly up in the air and watch as my body scatters over the mosaic of colors. I close my eyes and imagine what colors my flesh will be once I rot and become one with the dirt. I usually ponder which body part would land on the floor first.
My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I had just turned 34. I was employed by Google as a network engineer at their Japanese headquarter. I picked up Bonsai gardening in my spare time. My favorite part about growing a bonsai was that it was never complete since it always kept on growing. It was hard for me to leave my Bonsai plants to go care for mom with dad. I’d asked my landlord, who had gotten me into the hobby to take care of them while I was gone. Mother would die 3 weeks after my return. I went back to Japan the night after the funeral.
At noon in Laos, half a year after my mother’s funeral I and my father had climbed up the hillside overlooking the “Field of Voiceless Flower” and set up for lunch. We had gotten some chicken Ba Mihn from the nearby village. The villagers were very happy to see my father since he had helped them set up a fruit business that allowed their children to go to school. I told him the villagers are your Bonsai. He said, “yeah sure”. After we finished our lunch, he jokingly said: “hey do you want to get a closer look?” I said why not.
After a week in Laos I returned to Japan, I had not anticipated my extended stay and many of my bonsai were dead or had overgrown. I had to start a new vase.
My illustrative work revolves around narratives that use mysticism as a means of exploring conventional norms. Following the works of Yuki Urushibara & Hitoshi Iwaaaki, I hope to explore the complexities of the human condition through the weird and the strange.