Friday, March 15, 2019

Life on the Floor: Little Things

Today is March 16, which means tomorrow is St. Patrick's day.  I like Colcannon and like to make it for St. Paddy's.  So this is a story of my day yesterday, as I went about making Colcannon.

The weather forecast was good yesterday.  That was great as Friday is normally laundry day for me.  People don't use dryers here and I have no room for one.  I need to be able to hang things outside or on racks inside, a very damp and inconvenient process to be avoided whenever possible.  I got the laundry hung outside, rejoicing in my new laundry bar that is set up to let me hang sheets from clothespins and will allow me to simultaneously set up shade against the fierce summer heat and humidity that's coming, so my A/C bill doesn't resemble the US National Debt.

I needed to clean house, a short horse that's soon curried, and do some work on The Dragon Sisters, so I did both.

The forecast for today was rain.  I needed to go to the closest Post Office so I could arrange to pay something directly from the Post Office ATM.  I also wanted to go by a particular 100 yen store and see about picking up a certain kind of bar-hanging hook.  Yes, I sound quite obsessive about laundry, and you would, too, if you lived here.  This planned route would give me about the three mile walk, so great!

The Post Office went well.  I found a dear little vehicle I knew somebody I know would love, so I took its little picture.  It appears to be a Daihatsu Kei Micro Van, and I can't find it's picture, but if you love cute little vehicles, you can now find it.

I walked past one of the two organic vegetable vendors in the long Palms nakamise (shopping arcade; it's very long and complex) and saw celery!  I have found celery very hard to find here.  For 240 yen, I got 2 rather ratty looking stalks of what was unmistakably celery with lots of leaves.  I had a plan!  I also needed cabbage, and they had lovely but enormous fresh cabbages.  I got the smallest one, only about the size of a soccer ball and weighing over 7 pounds.  I also got MANY wonderful Hokkaido potatoes, probably another 5 pounds.   They had a great price on smaller strawberries.  The huge ones cost more, and do taste good, but the little ones taste just as good if not better, so I got some.  Then I realized how much weight I'd committed to carry for a minimum of a mile.  Too late now.

Stopped and got the new bar holding hooks AND some weatherstripping.  We're just about out of the worst of heating season and several months away from cooling season, but I did want to get this.  I dragged my way home and up three flights of steps.

Gomi day -- actual trash, not recycling -- was today.  Oh, dear!  I better get all those vegetables peeled, chopped and cooking!  First I brought in the laundry, put it away and cleaned up the balcony and made sure my garden things were protected from rain.  Moving towards spring; I want to have a shaded sitting area out there, tiny though it is.

Then I started chopping.  I stripped the celery stalks, washed the leaves and set them out to dry so I can have the taste of celery (if it dries rather than molds, but I'm trying.)  I made vast quantities of whisky-deglazed sautéed cabbage and piles of mashed potatoes.  All the outside cabbage leaves and core and all the potato peels went into the trash for taking out this morning (which I did before 7 AM.)

I realized then how different this day was from how managing the same stack of errands in the US would be.  I'd be tumbling laundry dry rain or shine.  I'd be setting up that payment account on-line.  I'd still have to go to the grocery store, but I wouldn't have to carry things quite so far because I would drive.  I wouldn't have to rush my cooking to get the trash out because I could take it out any day, not just the Designated Gomi day.  Little things.  One gets used to them.  One forgets about doing things any other way.  I do have celery leaves drying, and I do have Colcannon, however, and it's every bit as delicious as one might ever want -- and a good thing, too, because I have a LOT of it!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Poetry: It's only their soul

Touch pen to paper or brush to paint or chisel to wood
And create
It has meaning to to the maker and maybe, they hope, others
Art requires communication
Or why bother?

And someone hands it to you but
you don't look
you don't touch
you don't care
you don't respond.

You throw it in the dirt like garbage.
Or that's what it feels like.
Don't be surprised when never look at you the same way again.
It's only their soul you discarded.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Going Native with Dragons

Since I got back from skiing, I have finished the initial draft (draft one plus rewrites and revisions)  of Book 6 of The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, The Dragon Sisters, and it's in the custody of its first set of readers.  I'll get their feedback soon and will incorporate that, then off it goes to its editor so it can and will meet its planned publication date.  I've talked to my Formatter Extraordinaire, and everything's rolling right along.

I'll even be meeting with an artist for illustrations and more next week!  This is very exciting!

The technological developments of the late 19th Century mean that everything changed even more quickly than people had become accustomed to since the Meiji restoration.  Such an exciting time and one reason new and different illustrations are needed.  Seeing how my characters, human and otherwise, managed to cope with this incredible pace is fascinating.  This wasn't just happening in Japan -- the Industrial Revolution changed the entire world.  Japan, because of its previous isolation, its unique culture, and its complete rejection of the notion that it should become a Western colony, changed more and faster  than most, while somehow remaining relentlessly itself.

For many years, I traveled between the US and Japan trying to understand this culture and its people. I will always see Japan through a distinctly American eye.  On the one hand, this gives me the ability to see things a native Japanese person wouldn't because they are part of the social and cultural landscape, so deeply ingrained they're not even noticed.  On the other hand, I am constantly reminded of how little I know and how much I miss.

Yet living here is making me an odd amalgam.  Just the way I've combined my mother's Anglo-Indian Curry recipe with the classic Japanese take on that dish shows me how I'm mingling the cultures -- quite deliciously in that instance.  I had to think quite a lot about the differences between my Western and Japanese characters as they learn to interact.  It's no longer obvious to me how a Prince from the West and a Princess from the East would view monarchial succession, for example.  The fact that they're dragons doesn't make it any easier.  Or maybe it does.

Farmer's house, Hokkaido.