Early Autumn Home Light

Days are full of making and though I spend more time indoors, the early autumn light floods through the shojigami and tiptoes onto the walls. It is a magical light time of year and the house still smells of the sun on wood and warm tatami. I anticipate the turning of the leaves during koyo and feasting on chestnut rice and the fruits of the ginkgo tree. October marks the rice harvest, matsuri, bamboo lanterns, pumpkins and the welcome return of steaming onsen on crisp cold days.  It's a time of year to love. 


As we drain the last of our shared summer days, we make time to look, time to make, time to rest, time to read, time to love, time to rearrange. We see everything anew as September beckons us with less balmy arms and promises of a shift, a return to feeling free. I embrace (with all my might) the opportunity to draw, carve, print, sculpt, write and notice all the wonder of here. I am fierce with it. 

Nagasaki gateway

Three Chinatown kakunimanju
Misplaced canal-side yatai
Wooden historical Dejima
Cable-car nun-nightscape
Peace peace park
rose shaped ice
Koi river wonder
Texting sailor high-rise

Hashima / Gunkanjima / Battleship Island

Set sail from Nagasaki port to a tiny island abandoned, 
Coal mining community long gone,  
architectural skeletal remnants. 
The 'Nations first high' rise still standing, concrete.
But sea beaten, typhoon whipped, sun bleached. 
Haunting emptiness, tempting exploration.
Decades of decay prompt snapshot narratives, 
BondJamesBond villain comparison.
Head count on, head count off.
Head full of Bond girl fantasies.

On Okinawan time

Okinawa tastes of ice cold 'Orion B', of satiating Awamori roku, of prickly goya cucumber, of juicy green skiikwaasaa, of sweet purple benimo. The soundtrack to everywhere is a captivating Sanshin, the beat of a drum, the melodic chant of locals.   

 Snaking a line from Naha to Nago, past the long U.S bases we see shisa lion-dragons, we feast on miniature tacos, we visit ingenious kilns and pottery workshops.

Nago is early Obon. Nago is Eisa dances at dusk. It's waking from a tatami hut and padding to a cove for a pre-breakfast swim. Nago is the generosity of new friends, of secret snorkelling spots, of burning sun and shady tropical trees and the cooling taste of love.

Ishigaki jima

Dining on famed Okinawa soba and coffee kakigori. Secret breakfast tofu sets in the heart of inaka.

Hours under the sea at Yonehara beach befriending schools of luminous species. 

Eye-swimming in Kabira bay's turquoise sea and moonscape coral seen through glass-bottomed boats. Stray David Bowie eyed cats beg for a lick of ben-imo soft cream.

Cycling around Taketomi island, counting 'shisa' lined roofs, swerving ox, searching for star shaped sand.

 Dusk snorkelling at Sunset Beach in the company of poisonous yet shy scorpion fish and bikini-matching zebra varieties.

*Ishigaki jima is a short flight south from mainland Okinawa, closer to Taiwan and China, geographically and culturally, than the rest of Japan, and absolute paradise.

Fukuoka Ramblings

The hazy days of Fukuoka's August, where salary men unbutton their dampened white collars and their pace slows to an amble. Where everything green grows wild and unruly. Where gargantuan watermelons wait to be sliced, their redness relished. Where only sushi stalls can satiate the thirst for cooling the city's tongue. Where neko-chan search for shaded stone to stretch out and unfold their fury limbs. Where cold soba noodle shops beckon, providing shade for my squinting unaccustomed blue eyes. Where terrapins bask in the afternoon heat, heads bobbing atop a box on a backstreet. This is Summer in the city.

Typhoon Numbers 8 & 11

Much of the Japanese Summer is punctuated by threatening typhoons spiraling up the coastline. Typhoon watch is a daily news worthy intermission. We sit, windows rattling in the first winds, skies imminent with storm-calm, umbrellas dancing inside-out. And we wait, eyes glued to over-analytical reporters with anxious hypotheses of the brewing clouds. Stay indoors. We pick up the ukulele and compose Typhoon symphony Number 8, over a soundtrack of Japanese TV, as we await the arrival of not only the winds but of far away friends blowing in from the West with gifts of news and embraces from a land I love. False alarms, we venture out, to the sea, to the shops, to examine the sky and ask where Number 8 blew. We mark our rain drenched indoor Summer by changing the Shoji gami panels, to let all of the light in. We are lucky to be sparred the typhoons, the landslides, the unpredictability, the fearful reality of this Summers weather. 

Hold Fast.

Golden Week Gold

May in Japan is beautiful. Warm Spring light tempts tentative sea dips. Pink petal Don Taku bonnets  are seasonal celebrations. Golden Week brought Shrine wonderings, Soba devouring, Mountain meanderings, Onsen indulging, horizon thinking, parasol protecting Kyushu magic. 


It felt like waiting to be loved or waiting to fly home. But home was flying to me and so was love, so was blood. I took to the beach and practiced chords, waiting for her to come. 

April Unzen Steam

April always signifies a new year for me.  The warmth penetrates my winter skin, I shed my woollens, and migrate to every sunlit square of any room. In Japan April is the beginning of the academic year where families sport their Sunday best pastel shades to attend annual school enrolment ceremonies. Tiny, proud, uniformed children tentatively embark on the year ahead, hands clasped tightly on their way to the new.  

To mark Spring I headed South, to Unzen, to Jigoku (Hell's  Springs), to steaming volcanic mountains, to onsen tamago, to romantic hikes, to warm and wispy clouded skies. 

to be loved in spring

Some days I get overcome by the beauty in people.   In fact most days I feel that tenderness and I am raw to the touch.  I often find it too close to articulate and it's safer to be silent and just observe. I am very lucky to feel loved. I sometimes don't deserve such affection in people, yet I am grateful.

The Pinkness is present

Fukuoka's nature is gradually, gently, tilting its cheek from brown to pink. I am grateful for glimpses of tiny sakura buds winking from sparse branches as I fly past gardens, en route to the everyday. Japan's Winter presented so many culinary wonders. I will miss the abundance of nabe dinners under the warmth of the kotatsu, which make the evenings linger with the scent of delicious dashi and long thoughtful conversations.  

March marks the end of the school year in Japan and the elation is palpable in the streets. Futons are being aired, I need one less layer of woollens in this little paper theatre house. The skies are immense and cloudless. The windows slide open and blow all of my cobwebs free and I have one more hour each evening to inspect the growth of the bulbs and saffron in the garden, nursing a cup of tea and my memories. With each new opening bud of a daffodil, I am reminded of home and that Spring brings with it the same sense of hope wherever in the world it arrives. It has been a long winter without you, but my hair is starting to smell like the wind again.  Welcome pinkness. 

February Light

It can be difficult to survive in this month. The outside otherness fails to tempt me from the heated pit   that numbs my need. Excuses to stay put dance around and side-step obligation. Heat patches appliquéd onto aching muscles or the promise of bird/people/insect watching accompanied by a hot chai can sometimes do the trick. But the indoor innerness of my yearning for warmth and togetherness mostly wins the battle of February. Stay dry and snug. Even the ducks are all head-tucked-tails.   

To Make is to Meditate

These cold bitter crisp days, lend themselves to being indoors, legs plummeted in the kotatsu, thermal, knit ware, scarf clad. Days of learning, hours of making. Friends full of generosity arrive and share their sushi and tempura skills, gathered from their foremothers, to be relished by generations of aspirating mothers. 

The hospitality of a Japanese sake brewer is like no other. Surprises sit opposite and see into souls through the bottom of empty o-sake glasses. They shine light onto loneliness and honeyed voices soothe the losses so obvious to no one but you.  Massaging rice at dawn, the warmth of sticky steamed nourishment shoots tingles to the heart. We sweat in the heat of fermentation, are chilled on the factory floor, sheltering from the rain. We stand rooted, awe-struck by the septuagenarian superman who climbs into the steamer in his shorts, shovelling the warmed rice into sunshine buckets.

In the bleak mid-winter, it's a selfish kind of love. These are heart swollen days, where the love inside cannot easily be expressed to the ones that deserve to feel it most. It is too cold for much. To my valentine: no sushi, no sake, but a dense dark chocolate cake in the making, with a side of welsh tapestry covered hot water bottle to make up for lost heat in these February winds. 

One month of local

The first month of this year.
Kyushu crisp January cobalt skies. 
The local ducks flock from green river to wispy clouds. 
A kettle of hawks impress. 
Power lines guide the lonely bicycle past futons airing,
pink pillows waving,
past pedigrees in earmuffs, with hoovering manes.
Parallel to power lines hypnotic, 
umbrella twirling joggers 
while 'mama charis' balance patiently at the lights. 
Slippers in sunlight, Shochu tasting, statues in scarves, stray cat affection, 
and a long awaited balmy Saturday dozing.

The story of looking

Glaring through the countless misunderstandings of the days I see the beauty around each corner. The ladies, like rare butterflies, flit to and fro hurriedly with wooden shoed elegance, their lives lived on a sprung dance floor. The effort that it takes to be so lovely inspires my daily effort to be brave. I see the beauty in bravery, in looking, in being looked at, in looking lovely. I reinvent some days, creating a version of (little) Edie Bouvier Beale, turban donned, clogs, tights and shorts. 

And some days I want invisibility, skin, cotton, eyes of truth. On Tuesday, whilst invisible, I sipped a cup of familiar, while Jazz lulled me to another island. While there, away from the looking, I remembered and gave thanks to the women I know that encourage the many facets, the many versions of beauty to be visible every day, be it butterfly or caterpillar. 
Today is a slug kind of beauty, but it has not stopped raining for three days and a mohair jumper is my skin.

Beginning to let the light in

The laptop is not a welcome guest in my ancient glass veranda. It precariously topples aloft an imperfect wooden stool, commanding a more linear clean surface than it's designated wabi sabi perch. There is a thin cobweb dangling from the bamboo pole being teased by the breeze. The sun shines once more through the cloudy glass and bathes my toes and wrists in the glorious. I am beginning to notice what I need. I sometimes buck the structure of the day, rearing my head to the learning of the Japanese language, choosing instead to watch the plants, the light. I want to notice nature as much as the Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji that dominate the world outside these paper walls. In turn I am also examining myself. Without the people, things and rituals that provided daily definition, I turn my eyes to the rest. It is a discovery, as though each day I explore both within and around, but struggle to articulate my findings. I take afternoon strolls to get lost in the newness and attempt to start dialogues about all I observe. Those dialogues, that I have always needed to have, wherever in the world I have been, have taken place over tea, across bridges, in parks, on sofas. Here they are all virgin thoughts, some naive or ridiculous, others obvious or contrary, some are laced with wonder and awe. And I feel reluctant to give them flight. In search of where they could reside, without them causing distractions, I wonder and wander. 

There has been a shift here in this dreamy country since the earthquake. I feel that, though I have never visited Japan before. I read about a change in attitude for the future, for the better and I read about the feelings of futility expressed by some. The futility of love, of connecting with another person. I am fearful and then I am inquisitive and questioning. I turn these thoughts into ideas on wood. I study, draw and carve a woodcut in hope. Perhaps this is what Japanese craftsmen have always done. 

Ideas into wood. Concepts to nature. Nature into understanding.

I spend a good deal of each day with my nature. 

one month of looking

As the sunlight dances around the wooden veranda overlooking the wild, un-manicured front garden of the paper-glass house I now call home, my heart is finally regulating. The contemplative 'Tete' compilation pulses in my ears and behind me sits my love, practicing his Kanji diligently. This light is my lubricant, I cannot study when my cold northern skin, deprived of light for this long yearns to be warmed through. Still, in October the day requires no coat, no woolen layer, no protection against the elements here. I am free. The nine neglected coiffured trees soak up my sun too, their swaying leaves kiss one another in the breeze. Tiny winged butterflies flit in the bamboo. The smeared thin glass and mosquito net frames sandwich the dust of living. The Grid of bleached persimmon cloth carries traces of turquoise, maybe yellow in the history of its former curtain glory. A faded sewing machine, stained vanity case, a water marked box, sepia dotted linens are my accompaniments in the warmest corner of here. Being present is what I am here to be. They all let me in, respectfully. 

I seek imperfections. I am at home with the beautiful flaws that surround me. The way that wooden screens stick/slide, the discreet/secret worn wooden locks, the gaping holes between uchi/soto (inside/outside). Everything here requires delicate attention to make it work. It is removed from the ease of modern living, and insists on an attentive mindful way of being. It is wonderful. 

The fear bouts come, they hit me hard and flaw me. They arise from my inability to understand, to be understood, to express. Involuntary muteness has never been a friend of mine. The choice in being silent is another matter entirely. That, I have always craved and required and practiced since being a child. My voice, therefore inaudible, is here in my head instead. I witness and examine, identify, store and house the moments I need, as a reference. For so long ideas have become buried. Piles and stacks of other more pressing matters, distractions, frivolity, ambition, resilience, have silenced them. I am excavating now. Lucky I am to be free of the attention deficit disorder I have lived with. Here I am naked of obligation. The only expectation I have of myself is to survive. Perhaps in time to thrive.

Here, my heart swells and tilts to the front of my chest when I experience the rawness. A magical rawness at being alive. I am tucked in tight between the futon and two blankets listening to the typhoon whirling in the moonlight. I soak swim in the depths of the Japanese bathing tub walking my eyes around every corner of pink peeling paint, telling its story. I celebrate and savour each simple bowl of gohan, cherishing its goodness (the teardrops of farmers). 

I see glimpses of my awareness in his reflections of me and I am love.