Newsletter 017
Hibernal Solstice 2021

Leaves Fly Like Birds.




Leaves Fly Like Birds.


It is said the act of catching a falling leaf before it touches the ground is auspicious.

I was out around, gazing at the not too distant mountains, the wind blowing south to north. One of those unusual days when the wind feels warm, when by all accounts should feel cold.

Autumn is persisting with us, as day by day we walk these mornings my cat and I. He, following the line of fields — I, watching the snow line creep closer and closer.

First, covering the higher more formidable mountains in the distance who rarely show their faces, but when they do, how unreal that shift in scale is — I gasp inspiration. Now, the calmer hills closer to home, one by one brown trees turning white — all pink at sunset. As Autumn surrenders, how cold will it get?

I freeze in place, lost in thought — looking, a gust draws leaves from trees across over the other side of the now empty rice field where my cat is digging a hole, and throws them weightless into air. Birds rise up noisily startled mingling midair with the leaves.

A second.

The leaves fly like birds and the birds float like leaves.

Mesmerised — reaching hand into air catching.

A leaf.

Satisfaction.

We, my cat —white paws turned brown— and I, walking side by side, tail in air, leaf in hand, returning to the comforts of morning at home.





Sidetracked.


I promised two books, did I make two books? No! Did I make one book? Yes! Was this the book I was planning to make? No!

Funny how things don’t go to plan — talk about expectations. I thought I could trick myself into working with a promise to produce. It worked to some extent to the detriment of low level anxiety. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overestimating one’s aspirations and underestimating the sheer amount of work needed to pull them off. Life has the habit of getting in the way like that.

Renegotiating with myself — Can this year be a year of zero promises — to you, or myself? Zero expectations, aim to do-nothing? If by some chance something gets done, then and only then talk about it. And then again — maybe not.





The book. It’s finished and living as an ePub file in my dropbox waiting to be downloaded. It also exists as a completed Indesign file waiting to be printed and bound. Here with me, I have two printed copies, test editions to; test it’s in-hand bookness and readabookability. How does it feel? It feels okay, perhaps good, great without question to be holding it. But, there’s always a designers but. Amidst all the positive qualities I can’t overlook the details in need of improvement —typos, misprints and all. Font choice, fonts size, margins, paper-stock and most likely a cover redesign. Not too daunting, all within reach. I actually feel quite motivated by the experience of producing these print on demand editions. Not expected to be perfect, just a test, low risk, quick, easy and cheap. I shall pass one to a friend for trusted scrutinisation. Go ahead, pull it —me— apart so I can put it —myself— back together. The horror! But essential to rise up from that’ll do to the satisfaction of doing one’s all.





What’s the book about you ask?

I wrote this in the front matter.


Closing my university office, leaving my apartment and moving into my car, I set out on a journey into the confused mind of someone letting go, to understand what was important to hold onto.


And this, in the end matter.


Thanks to my car and the convenience of free campsites, trailhead parking, Michi-no-Eki (Roadside Stations) onsen, and fresh water springs that made it possible to live semi-homeless for nearly two years while holding down the position of Associate Professor at a graduate university —almost— without anyone noticing.


It’s called: Note On Living Outside Cultural Norms.

Will it be available, digital-physical — for free or otherwise? Perhaps.



In a recent conversation my friend and editor said “Media is something you do.” thus changing my perspective immediately, easing that universal resistance felt inside.




Movement.


As the days grew colder the rain turned to snow and my yoga mat turned into a sheet of ice. So on mornings when the neighbourhood is covered with a fresh blanket, a good hour of snow shovelling has replaced my yoga. Meditation is frequently done under the blankets of my bed, more than often my cat curled up next to me. Just our heads sticking out. Breaths synchronised, his two cycles for every one of mine. Cycling is out; just too cold, windy and wet, but saunas are in; slow deep warmth and fast tingling cold in invigorating repetition. The neighbours think I’m crazy. On fine mornings it’s straight out the front door. We walk, my cat and I, once down through the village and back along the fields separating us from the mountains. Once is usually enough, sometimes twice.



Nutrition.


My neighbours are kind, word got out that I like vegetables so in regular intervals, freshly picked and delicious produce arrives at my door. Literally seasonal hyperlocal field to belly nutritious real food.

One particular neighbour drops off a few homemade onsen tamago which are enjoyed from time to time atop brown rice, steamed vegetables or with organic soba noodles. Another has supplied enough daikon to last the winter, demonstrating how to keep them fresh by covering them with soil until needed. A row of onions too have been promised, now quietly growing and arriving in spring.

All this and the farmers —local more than fashionable— market, I’m able to keep my plate diverse and colourful. Not too strict, not too fussy, just trying to be fresh, clean, delicious and predominantly, but not always exclusively plants. Now reading Staying Alive in Toxic Times, refreshingly English and -ism free.



Community.


Community has been found through conversation this year. Sober meaningful, in-depth, honest, humorous conversation, but not too often. I have, I am enjoying the quiet solitude of living ever so slightly away from the focus of anything. Geographically and digigraphically speaking.

I can’t keep up and give up attempting to follow the threads of conversation from people who’ve lost the art of communication. Digressing into incomplete inconsistent indecipherable monologues.

I was listening to the A24 Podcast the other day where Mike Mills (director) was talking to David Byrne (musician) and said “And more and more to me, art is a way to make friends or have connections with people.” Describing my 2021 in a nutshell, making new friends and deepening relationships with old friends, slowly and not too many at once.




Purpose.


Three Papersky stories and three personal accounts about purpose from 2021.


I’ve wondered what my purpose was enough times in the past and came up with no answer, and ended up in a very good place. That I feel like I know better now at this point not than to question what my purpose is. To just keep moving, I think that's what running is all about and that's what life is also all about — Just keep moving. 
My dog doesn't have a purpose.

Rickey Gates (Ultra Runner)


I believe that my aim is for people to recognise me through the expressive activities that I have carefully thought through.

mikikurota architects


Of course I have a purpose, but I also like to deviate from that purpose. I think about the purpose of the trip before I go, but it's more interesting to encounter things that are outside the purpose.

Naoki Ishikawa (Photographer Mountaineer)


What do I think about purpose this time around?

All of the above and more and much much uncertainty, questioning and discovery to be made I’m sure. I’ll end this newsletter with an excerpt from a letter written by Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse. Sol LeWitt is one of my all time favourite artists and while looking around for project inspiration I found this.



From your description, and from what I know of your previous work and your ability; the work you are doing sounds very good “Drawing — clean — clear but crazy like machines, larger and bolder… real nonsense.” That sounds fine, wonderful — real nonsense. Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines, more breasts, penises, cunts, whatever — make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your “weird humor.” You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you — draw & paint your fear & anxiety. And stop worrying about big, deep things such as “to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistent approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end.” You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO.


…and so it goes.


James














Nutrition Movement Community Purpose

Photographs series:
Following Naoki Ishikawa to Yamabushiyama.
Okunoto, Ishikawa, Japan 2021


This is an Arukari Newsletter sent out each full moon.