Doin' What Comes Naturally ...
Most of these episodes concern themselves either with something that happened to me back in the past, or something that is going on in my life currently. Today's little story though, is actually about something that will happen next week. On Monday afternoon I'll be heading to Haneda airport, boarding a plane, and flying off for a one-week break from my printmaking work. I'll be travelling around a far corner of Japan, hiking in a virgin forest, and enjoying some time on a fishing boat as well as relaxing in various hot springs.
Now any of the A Story A Week readers who have been following my current activities: my personal printmaking, the Mokuhankan venture I am running, and the new Ukiyoe Heroes project - will read that sentence and wonder to themselves, "Has Dave gone nuts? He has just started up one of the largest projects he has ever been involved with, and he's going to take a vacation?"
And to this I can simply reply, "No vacation. This will be work!" And it will be indeed. Some time ago I was contacted by a producer from NHK, to see if I would be willing to take part in one episode of a long-running travel documentary series that is a weekly feature of their programming. There is no connection at all with my printmaking work; the reason they want me is that this episode is to feature a famous natural forest (the area known as Shirakami Sanchi, which has recently been designated as a Unesco Heritage area), and when they searched the internet for somebody suitable for a host they came upon the pages on my website where I described my experiences camping in various places as part of the 'My Solitudes' printmaking project I completed a few years ago.
The producer's initial concept for the program was that a person like myself - who makes his living working with wood - would have particularly strong feelings about being in the forest up there, 'communing' with the trees, and would thus be perfectly suited to help the viewers understand how important such a place is.
When she began to discuss this with me, I felt a bit uncomfortable. I am a basically simple guy, and I myself wouldn't have even thought of making a connection between the wood on my desk and that forest. Nor am I the type who would be in a forest and feel any 'spiritual' connection with it. These simply aren't words that I use to describe my world. So I was somewhat afraid that I wouldn't be able to do the job she wanted - to passionately express feelings for that forest in a way that would touch people.
But as our conversation proceeded, and she outlined more about her vision for the program, I realized that perhaps I might indeed not be a bad choice for host. Not because of my 'spiritual' connection with nature, but because of my daily habits.
We are enjoying an extremely hot summer here in our area, and the small river flowing just outside my workshop windows is providing wonderful relief. A few times a day I head down the little ladder I have rigged up on the embankment, splash through the shallows to a place where there is enough depth, and spend some time stretched out in the cool water getting refreshed. Our nights are also very hot, so I usually go down there as the final thing before going to bed. It is completely pitch black, but I know the area well and can make my way down the ladder and along the river by feeling my way, and as I then lie there in the cool water, my eyes gradually become accustomed to the dark, and my ears to the gentle night sounds. If I remain still enough, the tiny fish come and nibble my toes, and if I stay quiet enough, the tanuki will walk by on the embankment just above my head without being frightened away. They are so close to me, and so heavy-set, they sound like bears coming by!
I described some of these experiences to her, and she sat and looked at me. Had she found a person to be her 'spiritual' guide to the forest? Well, perhaps not. But among the 35 million or so residents of this massive urban conglomeration in which I live, do you think she could have found anybody else who is really and honestly living in a way that 'touches' the natural world as much as I do?
Perhaps not ...
Story #346, August 12, 2012
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