Tag Archives: Risk-taking

The Geography of Now {An Online Course}

bus stop

i
A calmly golden morning
at my bus stop.
A Tuesday.
A man reads his book
as if sitting in his own
living room.

This is the Japan I love best,
the Japan that few outside the country
talk or write about.

There are certain places in Japan
that get love
out of proportion.
Shibuya Crossing
where thousands traverse
each minute.
Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion
the house Zeus would have chosen
had he been Japanese.

Those are the rock stars.

Myself,
I’ve always been a fan of the poets.

I love the secret corners
of Japan
where proud home
and business owners
grow red geraniums.
I love to watch conveyor belts
at sushi bars,
ballet for raw fish,
as small pastel coloured plates
shuttle by
on repeat
and try and try to earn my love.
hello, hello, hello.
I love that even the line
in the grocery store
is a study in restraint
and courtesy.

The Japan of the gloriously mundane,
this is my Geography of Now.

As a woman living outside her country,
my acts of observing and recording
help me
occupy
this particular time and place.

Although I am an outsider in Japan,
gaijin,
I still belong here
in my own way,
in a manner that is entirely my own.

This is my Japan.

ii
I’m in a state of wondering.

I’ve been wondering
if others feel affected
and enchanted
by their Geography of Now?

And I’ve been wondering
if others
{YOU, actually}
might wish to explore
this form I use,
this pairing of photos
with words
{skinny prose, I call it}
to create a record
of your neighbourhood + home
for yourself,
family + friends
and those you don’t yet know.
A chronicle of who you are
and who you are becoming.

I’ve been wondering
if you would like to join me
in an online course
on the Geography of Now,
a small adventure
with low risk photography
accompanied by
skinny
prose.

It’s true… I have not yet
worked out all the details,
the widgets and squidgets and such,
but what I know for sure
is that the course will be fun
and affordable
and make us feel more connected
both to where and who we are.

So I’m releasing this idea
into the universe.
A red balloon.

Please leave me a comment,
a little love note,
if you might like to join me.

Thank you very much.
{Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.}

Art, vulnerability + purple flying cows

12

We’re having an art exhibit
at our school.

We display student art
all the time,
in classrooms
and in hallways,
but this show
is different.

The art in this exhibit
was made by adults.
Parents and staff.

DP printed three photos from Beijing.
Beautiful blurry-on-purpose photos
against the clay-red backdrop
of the Forbidden City.

I chose two shots
from a perfect Paris afternoon.
Seated outdoors at a Rue Cler cafe,
we saw the clouds roll in.
Waiters scurried to beat the rain.
Rolled down transparent plastic sheets
to protect the cafe-clan.
Pedestrians drifted by
in a rain-distorted
dream world.
Muted by droplets
and ripples of plastic.

Friday after school
our library
changed its bookish stripes.
The book worm spread
fragile
iridescent wings,
became an art gallery.
There was sparking juice
and crackers
and the vibe was buzzy.
“I didn’t know she was a painter.
Her work is gorgeous.”

Some of the artists were
very
shy
about their art.
Embarrassed.
Dismissive.
“It’s no big deal.”

I want to say that
ART
is
a
very
big
deal.

The younger kids
at our school
think of themselves
as artists.
(Also
Pirates.
Explorers.
Opera singers.)

The younger they are
the more fearlessly
Warhol
Picasso
O’Keefe.

Years pass.
Some lose our way
back
to Neverland.
Narnia.
Wonderland.
We relinquish our place
in those dreams of
imaginary gardens,
labyrinths and castles
floating on clouds.
We forget the names of fierce dragons
we fought as four-year-olds.
We grow too big for
art-dreams
of purple cows
flying through the air.

Years pass.
We become judgmental
about what makes good art.
We develop criteria
to discuss the ways
in which a piece
is flawed.

We grow fearful
that our own photos
and doodles
don’t meet those standards.

We quit.
Pack away our crayons
and paints
in faded shoe boxes
labelled
“Childish Things”.
Turn towards adult pursuits
that pay the rent.

On Friday afternoon
adults at our school
sent their inner critics
to detention
and let their artists out
to play.

Vulnerable,
we were,
with our purple flying cows
exposed
for all the school to see.

Shy
and also
happy
like little kids.

Isn’t this how school
should be…
where the
adults
also
take risks
and play
and grow?

pecha kucha, interiors & an invitation

part i: in which the blogger gives a pechakucha talk
Last weekend, about this time last Saturday night actually, DP and I waded into unfamiliar waters when we each chose to deliver a PechaKucha at our school’s PechaKucha Night.

Here’s how the folks at pecha-kucha.org define this event:
PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities around the world, inspiring creatives worldwide. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of “chit chat”, it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. It’s a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.

Here is a link to my talk. It’s called “Interiors” and is 400 seconds long.

Photograph by Jamie Raskin

I want to slow down here and tell you how nervous I got… primarily as a result of the PechaKucha time constraints (I normally have time to tell stories and wander ever-so-slightly off-topic) but when it was finally my turn and I got up in front of my colleagues and other community members, I could feel them rooting for me. It was a pretty blissed-out experience, especially for a public speaking gig, and that is definitely a tribute to the positive environment created and nurtured by the staff and families of Yokohama International School. (Yay YIS!)

part ii: in which the blogger asks for your help
In the last slide of my talk about interior design, I showed my hand… dreamed a big dream out loud… made my intentions clear.

Here’s what I wrote for slide 20 (which is more or less what I said):
I’ve been blogging since 2006 and my blog has become a kind of home for me. What I’m dreaming of right now is to publish a weekly feature in which I showcase photos of the homes of lovely international teachers/couples/families – along with their thoughts about “home”. Please let me know if you are interested in participating.

That’s my pitch. If this idea is interesting to you, I’m looking for photos of your home (taken by you… or by DP and me if you’d prefer and if we are nearby) and the answers to about ten questions. You would pick the questions from a long library of questions I have been compiling and/or respond to your own questions. Each feature will be as unique as the international teacher showcased and I’ll run the first edition in January 2012.

I’m still working on a title that is as cool as this idea is… so don’t hesitate to share your ideas!

Please comment below.