Shimoda Surf

Shimoda, Japan. March 2014.

Yokohama is on the sea, it’s true, but there’s sea and then there’s sea.

We took the train this weekend, down to the bottom of the Izu peninsula, to Shimoda, a city in a small town, a place more the size of the one I grew up in, than the one where I currently live.

It felt like sliding into an old pair of jeans, the ones with the frayed hems and the paint-drops and the many-times-laundered stains of a life, the small (unfashionable) tears at the knees. Not respectable jeans for wearing out, but the ones you change into when you’re home and have nothing to prove and know you can stay a while.

I grew up near beach towns. Something about their off-season solitude and in-season crush that makes beach towns themselves ephemeral, permanently temporary. Places where the human endeavours aspire to good-enough-for-now and perfection is left to nature, and the time saved between is spent in lazy appreciation of now, before we pack up and drive home with the sand still in our eyelashes.

I was a windsurfer once, but these days the lick of the wind on my face is pleasure enough, and to sit and squint my eyes and read the swells and watch the surfers dance along the break.

Nourish 2014

Yokohama, Japan. February 2014.

I have a lot to catch up on. I designed this poster for this year’s Nourish conference at school. It is a Saturday workshop about wellness, and this year’s conference was, well, nourishing. In no particular order, some reminders from the day of the things that nourish us:

• Community – what we give and receive with those to whom we belong.
• 6-Second Cuddles – longer, if you wish.
• Passions – football and coffee specifically, but choose your own.
• Making a place your own and becoming a regular.
• Running – for exercise and meditation and the practice of noticing.
• Self-awareness – for understanding yourself and others.
• Not making any one thing too big – it’s all just stuff that needs doing.
• Spark – identifying that thing that makes your life hopeful and meaningful.

I left the conference thinking of a lot of things that have nourished me, one of which is a love of cinema. And then I thought of Stranger Than Fiction, a film I was teaching in my English class, in which the closing monologue goes like this:

As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.

What nourishes you?

After the Typhoon, Part II

Yokohama, Japan. September 2013.

As is turns out, we slept through typhoon 26 in the safety of our well-engineered apartment tower. We woke in the morning to clear blue skies. On the right, a brilliant rainbow sprouted from the cloud-capped shoulder of Mt. Fuji. On the left, a daunting wall of grey rain and clouds hovered over the bay. I wasn’t sure if we had missed the typhoon or if it was just about to arrive.

Before long, we learned that the worst of the storm passed through a couple of hours earlier, between 5 and 6 am, leaving only the uncommonly clear skies of an atmosphere scrubbed zealously clean.

But elsewhere in Japan, Typhoon 26 caused landslides that killed at least 17 people. It is a strange and heavy thing, to sleep restfully through something others will never awake from.

These are the last photos from after Typhoon 18, the ones that I took with my regular camera. The wake of the storm, the day laid to rest.

After the Typhoon, Part I

Yokohama, Japan. September 2013.

We are expecting a typhoon tomorrow. Typhoon Wipha, number 26. A big one. A once-in-ten-years kind of blow-down throw-down. Apparently the last time a storm of this magnitude came through, they had to pick up the front gate of our school down the street from the parking lot of the gymnasium. School has been cancelled, we bought some groceries and are battened down for the night.

There was another typhoon, number 18, in September. In its wake, the particulates of industry were washed out of the air, nature’s version of high-definition clarity. The windows were covered in dried-in-place drops of salt sea-brine, and as the sun set, the colors lit up a cloud-painted sky.

The Night Market

Chiang Mai, Thailand. February 2011.

There is an energy about night markets that is simultaneously soothing and invigorating to me. A rush of things in suspended time. For me, this photograph captures that. Something soft, something kinetic at the same time.

Pass Words

Barcelona, Spain. June 2011.

I really love text. I love it because I love words and stories and poetry. I love big ideas concisely and precisely evoked through the choice of exactly the right images, the right words. But I also love text visually. I love typography and the extension of typography into art, from advertising design to graffiti.

One of my favourite features of la Sagrada Familia is the set of doors you pass through as you enter the church. They are metal doors, hand-carved in Catalan with the story of Christ (at least, I think that is the story, as I don’t read Catalan), the words a perfectly imperfect texture both bold and modern, and artisanally human at the same time.