Full moon 12:28pm Dec 30th. JST
Movement Nutrition Community Purpose.
We passed the winter solstice and… here we are, the end of 2020. This the 10th newsletter marking the end of season 1... and in a couple of weeks I will reach the ripe old age of 50.
Writing this now... in the back of my mind... pondering on how to celebrate that day when it arrives... rest assured, I’ll be doing it outdoors... moving my body, eating nutritiously, sharing the experience with this community, while doing something unforgettable with purpose.
I thought for this newsletter we'd take a look back at those four pillars, buckets or whatever you might call them... just to see how full, tall or however they are.
Hello, I’m James Gibson and this is my newsletter, where you help me become a better person.
The only movement that’s been going on recently, is the movement of my ever expanding belly! I've let my daily 5km walks slip, and it’s a barefoot struggle to get on the yoga mat these cold mornings. History has proven that walking and yoga are so well established habits that valleys and peaks of enthusiasm are of little concern. As last January, the new year starts with a 30 day yoga course. Why not give your YouTube algorithm a workout and join me?
It was during the first half of the year when I found myself most active. Even to the extent of keeping a 9 week workout schedule. Aerobic, anaerobic, strength and all.
The reason for this is, I had joined a Mapping the Afghan Pamirs Expedition. A few weeks of hiking and horseback riding into the remote corner of Afghanistan that is the Wakhan Corridor. At more than 4,000m I seriously needed to get in shape, hence the training schedule. Well, I don’t need to say that things didn’t go to plan and all was cancelled. On the bright side this training plan inspired a closer understanding of my local Mountains. The Suzuka Mountains divide Shiga from Mei prefecture, a demarcation visible in accents, dialect and attitudes between west and east Japan. It is on the west side where I reside, beside the lake called Biwa. From here an hours drive can take me to the trailheads leading their way to the Suzuka Seven Mountains and more. The expedition training gave me the motivation to open up routes and tick-off peaks, the whole time building a concise mental map of my backyard range. As I reach one peak, I would gaze out in all directions reciting the names of passes and peaks already walked and those to be walked. Each time feeling lucky to have so much space open on my doorstep.
And then there was the bike ride: 4 days, 3 night bikepacking around Biwako. What a refreshing escape that was. Just me myself and I peddling slowly around the coastline exploring lowland communities taking photographs and filming along the way. The real joy of this micro-adventure being the act of traveling human speed. Fast enough to get somewhere, yet slow enough to see people's faces, stop and say hello. My car is in serious danger of being sold. I’ve already ordered a new bike for my 50th birthday present. It costs more than I’d like to say, but will afford me longer —distance & time— bikepacking journeys. I have grand ideas to ride the length of Japan… north to south, as riding down seems mentally easier… we’ll see?
2020 was the years of soups and fruits, and a tightening my local-seasonal circle. After reading The One Straw Revolution, I’ve adjusted my perspective on nutrition and healthy foods from: nutrition first from any source — to seasonal first from local sources. The fresher fruits and vegetables are the more nutritious packed they are, as flavour and nutrition peaks at the time of ripening. To get it ripe is to get it local. The aim here is, to reduce the time from picking to plate as much as possible. As picking early, transporting and false-forced ripening at a later date stunts the nutritious value and flavour. Essentially stopping it at the time of picking. Yes, not only is local environmentally & economically supportive, but is healthy and flavoursome.
Seasonal foods connect us to the here and now, to the ecosystem which we are naturally part of. The more local-seasonal you are, the more interconnected you become. and the closer to natural you go, the more beneficial it is for all.
So I’ve been making the effort to follow the season, buying local and cooking some of the most delicious soups I’ve ever tasted. And the fruits, I’m now enjoying kiwifruits and lemons from Masanobu Fukuoka Local Farm. I had no idea kiwifruit could taste this good, or that they were in season during winter. And the lemons —wow— my salad dressing and juices have gone to a level once unimaginable.
Alcohol, what can I say about alcohol? Easily overlooked when thinking about nutrition, as sharing a bottle of natural wine with that local-organic meal is a delightful experience. But I think it’s time to address this elephant in our room.
Throughout the year I experimented with extended periods of not drinking alcohol of any kind. This may sound strange to some, but being English and growing up in a society where this socially acceptable social lubricant is simply part of daily life. It gets confused with growing up, coming of age, being a man, an adult — celebration, commiseration, socialisation, obligation, and escapism.
If I’m going to be honestly dramatic, I suppose I’m not the type that likes to loiter in irresolution. So when thinking about alcohol the two choices before me are go all in and become an alcoholic or don’t drink alcohol at all. The Kerouacs and the Bukowskis amongst us, with fascinating escapist tales of personal adventure, have shown us the way things go at the far end of that scale. Although in many ways appealing, this is not the way for me. So committing to the other trail, it is to be.
In my little experiments one thing above all became inexplicably true: my level of productivity was inversely proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed. The effect so dramatic it is the reason I’m considering avoiding the stuff altogether. The health advantages being enough alone, but add to that increased productivity and personableness and Bob’s your uncle. With that I plan to extend my next experiment to 90days… we’ll see?
I’d be the first to admit it: I’m not the best at doing friends. I’ve always enjoyed my own company even from an early age, being absolutely terrible at keeping in touch with the few who broke through my solitude. Birthdays of family and friends alike, I forgot them all. To all of you I apologize… without false promise of improvement.
In our new ‘with Covid’ social landscape I’ve deeply missed those shared days and nights of One Tree Academy-ing & Tent Sauna Party-ing. Yes the sauna experience is great, and something I’ve come to love, but it’s the love of the community I miss the most. And any amount of zoom meetings will never replace the experience of a steaming sauna, a freezing lake and a shared story around a campfire.
I have found ways to connect with people in other ways. One such way was following and supporting a friend Craig Mod on his own creative journey. At first I hesitated, but the experience has been far more rewarding than expected. Becoming a ‘Special Projects’ member and helping to fund the making of books, and the walking of walks is a honourable pleasure. Yes, receiving the members only content is nice, but it’s the feeling of being part of something, something bigger, which is most satisfying. To watch a person grow and creatively develop, is a joyous reward in itself. If you haven't picked up his impeccable book ‘Kissa by Kissa’, I thoroughly recommend doing so. Read it, for it is the writing that pictures a forgotten-hidden Japan seen through the eyes of this walking artist fruitcake. Equally enjoyable to those new to Japan and those like myself who seem to live within the pages of the book. In the past we have uttered words like: walk together… we’ll see?
And now it comes to purpose, perhaps the hardest of them all. How do you find purpose? What is purpose anyway?
For me, it’s that feeling of getting out of bed early —no alarm necessary— because you can’t wait to get started on ‘that thing you want to do’. Knowing all the time, that you will do that thing to the best of your abilities, making a meaningful, traceable, responsible etcetera, etcetera thing. Not fretting over being perfect, nobody is perfect. No project or job is perfect so forget about being perfect for it is an impossible figment of imagination. Instead take small steps in the right direction with a purpose of doing, making and being a little better in all you do every day.
I forget where I heard this, but it has become my daily mantra: “The way you do anything, is the way you do everything”. Think about it, try it.
One such thing was a creative side project with Eko Hayashi & Jan Chipchase: Hamidashimono. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to join such a rewarding project with such conscientious partners. Jan, living and working in mysterious ways with generosity and kindness abundant, has reshaped the way I view this world in unexpected surprising ways.
Hamidashimono was never about making money from selling chopstick-making kits, it was about sharing the experience of work together on a project that had something to say. To get to know each other while drawing attention to the bigger issues of sustainability, environmental impact all the time supporting the local craft industry. We did all this and more as I never expected our little side project would’ve been featured on CNN this December.
So my natural-work-effectivet-work isn't finished for the year, as we’re now preparing our second edition, with hope of spreading the story of this little chopstick factory in Yoshiro far and wide. In any case, everyone is busily making the most of their new years holiday, clustering around visiting this and planning that. No better time than the present to quietly enjoy mornings of writing and afternoons of walking. And — I still have to write that piece on Sen no Rikyū and how disappointing self-esteem and self-importance can be… we’ll see?
A Final Word About Writing Books.
This year saw the start of writing several books, many of which are well on their way. There will be a few eBooks, but most are planned to be physical, held-in-hand books, printed on paper books… Oh boy do they take longer and more effort than expected… Photograph negative scanning, layouts laying out, and edits editing…
I must, with all my creative forward motion keep work on these books going. So here I state: I will finish at least two books next year and it is you who will keep me accountable until you are holding one such book in your very own hands.
Until which time, I remain your most humble and obedient servant,
James Campbell Gibson Esq.
… and so it goes.
Nutrition Movement Community Purpose
End of Year Hike 2020.
Ryozen, Shiga Prefecture, Japan 2020
This is an Arukari Newsletter sent out each full moon.
View all photographs in this series.