Your one wild and precious life


With deep gratitude to the participants of Geography of Now.

There’s a voice
in our heads,
a nasty piece of work,
that says:
“Don’t you dare”
“You’ll fail”
“You’ll look foolish”
“People will think
you’re too big
for your britches.”

If you let that voice tell you how to live
you condemn yourself
to a life of

An existence
rather than
a life.

{People will judge you
no matter what you do
but that is none of your business.}

So what have you
been dreaming of?

What’s the first step
to creating it?

And how would it feel
to silence that voice
with extravagant happiness?

*The phrase “your one wild and precious life” comes from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day.


A Gratitude List


For the faces
of Japanese children.

For freedom.

That my school day starts
at 8:30 a.m.

The chocolate wafer cookies
from Family Mart.

For gentle courtesy
and clear umbrellas,
school kids in bright yellow hats
and hard leather backpacks.

For blue skies after the typhoon
(the second in a week).

That people can change
if they want to.

For my work
and our small school.

Red shoes.
The films Amelie
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
Live Music.
My iPod.
My Beats.

in October.

Elizabeth Gilbert
Brene Brown
Sarah Selecky.

Rie Kono and her decadent balloons
at the Ikeda Museum of 20th Century Art.
Our painting of Margo.
Our art-gallery apartment.

Tap water I can drink,
Kirkland Cheddar from Cost Co,
Kalamata olives,
Maison Kayser bread
and pumpkin soup.

Gentle vacations in

Megan, Laurie, Mom and Dad
and the concentric rings
of family and friends
that grow outward.

The man with the orange backpack.

The ability to create.

Jeans and black sweaters.
Anne of Green Gables.
The golden light in Italy.
Japanese toilets.
Silk scarves.
Cafe latte.
The Internet.



*Canadian Thanksgiving was Monday 13 October, 2014 and we dined on Kentucky Fried Chicken, not turkey. Sometimes, when you live far away from your home, it is challenging to honour your traditions. But I am grateful for many things and this is list is a way to give thanks.

What’s on your list?

Typhoon Doppelgängers


The afternoon
that Typhoon 19
arrived in Yokohama
we’d been urged
by school admin
to go directly home
but there were
a few more
emails to send
and a student
with a last minute
and so it was
after five
when we left
the building.

Darkness fell
like a net
and the afternoon mist
to its job as rain.
A colleague splashed
down the sidewalk
in pursuit of a taxi.

As we walked
through the park,
our clear
Family Mart
of the other
umbrella people
as they scuttled
for the dry
of the metro station

At the intersection
near our apartment
a young couple
held hands
waited for green.
The man in a black coat
and the woman in cream
leaned into each other
under a canopy
of merged umbrellas.
Beyond them,
the wets streets glistened
in puddles of light.

In that moment
what I felt
to be true
was that
we were this pair,
DP and me.
We may not look
like this
on the outside


it feels
to be us.


The Orange Backpack


“When you talked earlier about after a few years how a couple would begin to hate each other by anticipating their reactions or getting tired of their mannerisms ~ I think it would be the opposite for me. I think I can really fall in love when I know everything about someone ~ the way he’s going to part his hair, which shirt he’s going to wear that day, knowing the exact story he’d tell in a given situation. I’m sure that’s when I know I’m really in love.”

~ Celine to Jesse, from the film Before Sunrise


play like you live

“Play like you live” ~ Performance advice from judge Harry Connick Jr to a contestant on American Idol.

I love to watch children play.

There is a graceful madness
in the creation
of new worlds.

Prairies of freedom.
Explosions of imagination.
Thrones of power.

What part of growing up
makes us forget
how to play?

Typhoon Train Story


We planned to leave Ito
at noon on Sunday
but it rained
all night long
and the windows
shuddered in the wind.

We woke early
and caught
the local to Atami.
Across the aisle
sat a woman with a tight bun,
excellent posture
and a navy blue suit.
A Japanese doppelganger
of my Inner Editor.
{The one who whispers
nasty things
while I write.}

At Atami
we boarded
the green car
on the Tokyo train.
Reserved seats,
chocolate wafers,
my iPhone and
my moleskin.

At every stop
along this route
that hugs the sea,
people rushed
from the train

{umbrellas exploding}

seeking shelter
from the advancing storm.


Photographing Japan


“Everybody’s face tells you about the society they live in, and what they’re feeling inside. Faces are maps.” ~ Sue Ford.

People ask why
I photographs strangers:
train people,
school kids
and people on the street.

I don’t think of them as strangers.
These faces are Japan.

The Japanese live by a code of conduct
held in place by a spiders web of obligations.

Whether saying hello or good-bye,
most greetings are a version of I’m sorry.

When moving into a new home
you buys gifts for your new neighbours.
The gift itself is unimportant.
Only the message matters:
“Hello. We’ll do our best to be quiet,
to respect you. To live harmoniously beside you.”

When asking someone to a gathering you realize
that even though they’ve said yes, they actually mean no,
you must begin the gentle cutting
of the invitation thread.

Regardless of how crazy or drunk another person is,
you do not comment or call attention to this behaviour.
You act as though this violation of the rules
is not happening. You look the other way.

We foreigners learn to observe these rules
but it’s not natural, not written in our DNA.
We lack centuries of this story shaping us.

When living here is hard work, my face shows it.

With the Japanese,
mostly their faces
are calm
like water
but sometimes the sorrow
or joy
gets through.
Ripples appear.

When I photograph them,
I photograph Japan.