Recently in Personal Reflections Category

Happy 2017

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25 Words

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Half century joys: circus successes; drawing again; driver's license; warm neighbors; loving husband. Sorrows: multiverse branched and Zoupi vanished; my heart broke; mould ruined everything.

And all the 25 Word entries I've written since 2001:


A new era began with Japanese eijuuken and freedom to do anything! We quit Tokyo for rural Chiba. Now we have time, space, and ease.


Our 25th anniversary. Eyes opened in Ireland and India to a new life together. More adventures, independence, inventiveness, alliances. Yes, yes! The ayes have it.


Running away to the circus confused me. Spent ten months wondering "What next?" Tried resting, contests, midwifery - not my things. Travel, teaching, performance? Yes. Circus.


Hooping took me up to Tohoku, down to Niijima, and around the world on tour. Ukulele, yoga, improv, songwriting, skating, visiting, & fundraising filled the gaps.


Mother Earth trembled and futures fell apart. Uncertainty ruled us for months but in the end I'm still in Japan, married, hooping, and feeling happy.


Lived my hoop dreams, wheeee! Connected, created, collaborated, choreographed, costumed, capered, camped, coordinated, but then crashed hard. Ouch. Healed and found my truth. Full circle.


Rose petals in blue sky and the scent of muddy elephants conducted me to presence. An intense upwelling of joy revealed the universe inside me.


I made dresses, meals, 100 necklaces, friends. Grew food. Witnessed a birth! I am greying, wrinkling and fading, but I started hooping, so who cares?


Food ruled 2007: went almost vegan, developed recipes, and lost 10 kilos. Also sewed Morsbags, made political statements with robots, and explored Tokyo real estate.


Forty was a pleasure/pain year - a roiling emotional sea. Heartbreaking anguish half drowned me but also un-dammed a flood of patterns, photography and creativity.


This year, a lesson in

How to bear pain and loss.

Travel doesn't cure heartache;

Friends ease the agony.

Healing and peace flow like water.


Did more, finished less.

Strengthened friendships and traveled.

Constructed 18 videos, knitted scarves,

Shared my pencils and my love.

Still seeking realisation of my principles.


Hello Tokyo finally done

Neon Chopstix now begun.

'Twas mostly work but also fun.

Hosted friends from far away.

Another visa for three years' stay.


Celebrating four years in Japan, I exercised my right brain and my poetic voice. I filmed then procrastinated. I waited for the axe to fall.


Spent seven weeks on holiday in Maui, China, mainland US. Wrote lots, taught many, earned little. Saw the inside of my head. Didn't do enough.

Open 2017

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My guiding theme for 2017 will be Open.

Some years, choosing the theme word for the year involves a lot of thesaurus consulting, debating and mind-changing. But this year it came to me in a flash and I haven't considered anything else. Open is just right: honest, undecided, unobstructed, obvious, objective. I may find myself beginning something new, or exposing something hidden. 

Here are my guiding words and themes for previous years:
2010, connect:

Last year, I noticed a two year lag in the words and it seems to have held true again. Though my theme for 2016 was "realise," I feel that 2014's "develop" was more appropriate. So I suspect 2017 will be all about "explore" and with our new driver's licenses, Tod & I already have plans to do that.

Evolution of Christmas Spirit

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This year end has been hectic and stressful with driving school, health issues, a broken fridge, blah, blah, blah. I was not feeling the usual "I hate Christmas' mood this year as much as I was completely indifferent and almost ignorant of the holiday coming up. 


Boxes arrived from family overseas. I stacked them up. Topped with a bottle of wine, there's our tree for the year. Good enough. I was not interested in being creative.


But inspiration finally struck on Christmas day and I designed a tree out of the cardboard from the boxes. I scissored, taped and slotted to create a three dimensional, self-standing tree. Sort of Suessian, it echoed the shape of the two origami balls we received from the 3rd graders at Nagasa Elementary school.


A string of lights completed the look. I'm rather proud of this tree that came from nowhere. It is whimsical and no-waste. 

We completed our holiday festivities with a lovely dinner and opening the presents that family sent. Tod & I agreed to not exchange gifts this year - the first time in 28 years I didn't buy something for him - but he surprised me with a stollen from one of our local bakers. 


Creole duck breast, mashed potatoes, greens, and wild rice. Yum.

Omens, Talismans, and Offerings

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I am solidly superstitious, though usually pretty quiet about it. Omens are things of legend and talismans are for the weak and foolish. Despite that, I've always had a feeling that there are objects and actions that will improve any situation.  Yesterday, when I went to the Driving License Center to take my final exam, I was well armed:

  • I'd dreamed about my hair in big, bun-like knobs, so I styled something as close to that as possible. 
  • I put on a matching bra and panties. I feel more confident if I am nicely dressed on every layer.
  • I wore a necklace that keeps me calm and safe. It is visible in my driver's license picture and that is sweet.
  • I polished my boots to honor my father who taught me not only the value of shiny shoes but also was my driving inspiration. 
  • I was thrilled to see Mt Fuji clearly en route to Makuhari; for me, she is a herald of good things to come.
I am certain it wasn't actually any of these actions or objects that caused me to pass the exam. I prepared with study, practice, and review to pass the test. The scientific side of me says superstitions are rubbish. However, they can't hurt and they do help me through the nervous bits of challenging days. So thank you to my talismans, omens, and offerings for ensuring that I passed the test, completed the paperwork correctly, and received my license.

8 Streetlights, 12 Spiderwebs

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I love walking in the night. Tokyo made me forget the beauty of darkness, but the countryside has awakened my enjoyment of evening calmness. It isn't pitch black, even on a cloudy, new moon night,  but photos don't capture the dull glow of sky, the faint reflections in the rice fields, or the shy blinking of fireflies. On my way from Satoyama Design Factory to home last night, I watched my feet on the grey paths, observed the diffuse glow of distant windows behind heavy mist, and counted the sparse streetlamps. 

Changes of Season

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Before we left Tokyo seven months ago, I had a concern about the seasons, of all things. After almost 18 years in the city, I was tuned to the nature there and the procession of plants and weather created a visceral annual timeline for me. If I moved somewhere else, I'd lose my sense of time and it would take years to get it back and, and, and...panic.

And yes, it is true. I have no clue yet about whether I can plan for sunny days this month or what weather is heralded by iris or whether the plums bloomed at the normal time or not. The general brush of the seasons is different here. We're only a couple hours away from Tokyo, but the southern Chiba mountains are a different ecosystem entirely.

I love it. I swear that every day I go out walking, I notice a flower suddenly in bloom everywhere, a caterpillar cruising along, grasses rising up from the verges. There is myriad detail in this parade of nature - so much richer than the city where everything was planted on purpose. Here, layered over what Nature does on her own is what man does with Nature - preparing, planting, maintaining. 

So in this first year of living in the country, I am observing and recording without understanding or anticipating.  Someday, years from now, I'll get it all put together into an internal calendar again. Until then, taking it one day at a time is not as disorienting as I thought it might be.

Practice makes perfect, if you do it...

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Today, thanks to a friend's share on Facebook, I read a great article on practice and how simply practicing isn't enough to achieve mastery. I recommend that you read it here: Not All Practice Makes Perfect by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.

I found the article to be simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. Their main take away is that practicing with focus and purpose improves your skills sometimes to the point of doing what might seem impossible or has never been done before. That's pretty cool and we see it frequently enough with people who break records in sports or invent new things. Practice and improvement is what brings them to greatness in their field. 

Encouragingly, what they call "purposeful practice" is perfectly possible for anyone who wants to do it. There are three main points explained in the article:

  • Make long term goals and reach them by taking baby steps towards them
  • Get feedback on your practice so you can adjust and correct for improvement
  • Move beyond your comfort zone to challenge yourself
I have done this recently with bicycling. 

When we moved to Chiba, I was petrified to ride a bicycle. Six months later, I find myself cruising along with more power and less fear. My long term goal is to be able to ride all the way to the beach at Kamogawa and back (about 16 km one-way). I'm not there yet, but I have hit a key intermediate goal of riding alone to the market about halfway to the beach. My baby steps included short rides to and from local spots like Satoyama Design Factory and the post office. Tod gave me feedback about how to ride more effectively - focus on cadence, make good use of gearing, and encouraged me to get out and ride to build muscle memory. His feedback helped me to ride to the market with Tod many times. I set and met another small goal when I climbed the biggest hill without having to get off my bike. We took a few rides off the usual route that I considered extra challenges to push me out of my comfort zone. And finally I got myself to the market alone. So now I need to break down the remainder of the ride to the beach into small steps. And after that, I will set a new long term goal - maybe a ride into the mountains. Eventually I expect to become a proficient and even skilled cyclist.

My biking example was done from necessity but it came naturally to create small goals along the way to a bigger one. I find it encouraging to see that this process works. Hurrah!

And here is where the discouraging part comes into play for me.

I do too many things. Thanks to years of experience, I'm adequate or even "pretty good" at many of them. Real mastery and skill, though, requires time. I can't see how I can possibly practice all my activities to a level of being properly skillful in them. There is always SO MUCH to practice, and I have trouble focussing when I do. If I am juggling, shouldn't I be hooping? I love to draw but certainly yoga is better for my health in the long run. Singing brings me pleasure, but wouldn't I be wiser to focus on a skill that could earn me an income? Anyway, because I don't practice anything with commitment and purpose, I have stalled on all of my things at a level that is becoming dissatisfying.

Should I make a decision to drop some of them? To specialise? Frankly, that seems boring. And that is my disappointment and difficulty.  If I stick to a wide range of abilities, I rarely get really good at anything. I have come to terms with that over and over and over through the years. Being a generalist has many benefits. Now that I find myself in close contact with people who have specialised in a craft (all of my incredible neighbors and collaborators), I am feeling inadequate. 

Can I just practice everything more, somehow? Maybe in rotation: Mondays for music, Tuesdays for yoga, Wednesdays for circus, Thursdays for art, Fridays for writing, Saturdays for... Is it possible to be that disciplined? What if I've forgotten something? I used to make jewelry, to cook, to edit video. How do backstage performance arts get practiced? Curriculum development? How do I fit in all the other things that require my attention like gardening or laundry?

Perhaps I need a time machine, extra lives and a clone. Or I could try to lower my standards and develop more patience.

Honestly, I am not sure what solution is going to be easiest to achieve: rigorous practice, impossible technology, or personal growth. Maybe I'll just go have a nap now.

A new age demographic

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I feel I ought to have something impressive or profound to say about becoming 50. However, no wisdom has settled down like a crown upon my head. I have not grown eyes at the back of my head or turned into Janus overnight. 

I like fifty so far. It's a half century! I've looked forward to it for a year. I get to tick a different box in the demographic surveys. I can definitely say I am middle-aged and nobody disagrees. I am, in fact probably 5/8ths of the way to the end now, statistically speaking.

In a long-running annual ritual, I tried on the short brown dress from 1990s. It's not tight at all this year and my legs still look OK sticking out of it. Maybe better than usual, with all the bicycling I do these days.

Fifty is bringing changes, for sure. My mind is a little loose these days. I lose words and my focus drifts. Is it OK to blame Facebook for my attention deficit? Probably not.

My skin is looser, too. Drapey. It sort of hangs under my chin and around my eyes. Should I do something about that? No way. I'll do nothing but embrace it. My hands are rougher, too, and the finger joints ache more. That I can blame on technology. Smartphone arthritis. I can do something about that.

My spirit is as young as ever. Somehow, I think that is true for everyone, everywhere at every stage of life. At least, I hope so. I like being 8 on the inside. :-)

Equinox Creativity

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Our annual Spring Equinox barbecue was a great success among new neighbors and old friends. We were fifteen people with food for 30. There was an abundance of cheese from around the world, plenty of bread including some delicious loaves locally baked, mushrooms (we ordered 2 kg online!), herbed mayonnaise, dips, vegetable sticks, and lots of wine and beer. 6 hours of feasting ended with a cake. 

For me, the equinox is both a celebration and a solemn day as I note the anniversary of my father's death. And this year, our friend Paul, who attended many equinox parties in years past, was also in my thoughts. So I had a private cry as I missed these two good men.

I cannot host a party without a creative activity and this year we drew postcards. All the guests wrote down addresses of friends and family who will unsuspectingly receive one of the cards pictured above - not necessarily one drawn by someone they know. I suspect there will be some very bemused recipients. "Equinox greetings from who? In Japan?"

One thing that I learned this year, is that living in Chiba completely changes the guest list. It's a long way from Tokyo and only one family made it. Which is fine, but it does indicate it is going to be challenging to keep old friendships going. 

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