Tuesday, July 31, 2012

illustration friday (lonely)

Desert Places

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it - it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less -
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars - on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

Robert Frost

Sunday, July 29, 2012

7239 thank-yous

(1) Still trying to figure out how to tell her

Etegami is the perfect way to thank someone, whether you find it easy to express your feelings, or quite the opposite. A few months ago, the Japan Etegami Society (JES) announced a call for thank-you etegami. They received a total of 7,239 submissions. Many of these are included in the August issue of Gekkan Etegami, the JES official monthly magazine, and all submissions will be on display this summer at the two main etegami galleries, one in Tokyo and the other in Osaka.

I wish I could show them all to you, but I only have space here for a few sample etegami. The tiny photos in the magazine didn't scan very well, sorry.
(2) I wanted to make your life easier

(1) To my wife: Not sure exactly what the image represents, but the man who submitted this etegami is from a generation of men that do not easily express their emotions. He wants to thank his wife for putting up with him through thick and thin, but he finds it difficult to simply say "I love you."

(2)  To my parents. A pink carnation for the artist's late parents: "I can finally afford to do much to make life easier for you, but now it's too late."

(3) I found a hobby
(3) To my husband:  The artist says that she was so busy with her job, housework, and taking care of elderly parents, that she reached retirement without any hobbies of her own.  Her husband urged her to find one that she could continue into her old age, and then she discovered etegami.

(4) I can tell that Mother is happy
(4) To my sister: The oldest daughter, or the wife of the oldest son, often ends up being the caregiver of elderly parents. In this etegami, the artist thanks her elder sister for the tender care she gives to their aged and mentally deteriorated mother.

(5) I was so happy I cried.
(5) To my son. The artist fondly recalls the handbag that her son bought for her with his very first paycheck.

(6) To my mother: The artist likens the love and protection she received from her mother to broad beans in their soft fuzzy pod.

(6) Thank you for being the support of my heart
(7) Thank you for loving her
(8) Yummy looking sand-rice

(9) No one can take your place
(7) To my son-in-law: In Japan, the V-sign commonly represents approval or pleasure. In this case, pleasure that the young man has become part of her family.

(8) To my grandchild: Toys in a Sandbox. The artist thanks her young grandchild, through whom the world looks bright and full of hope.

(9) To my good friend, who is like no other.

(10) Let's separate the trash according to the rules

(11) Sorry I work you so hard.

(12) wild flowers on the path

(13) You are the greatest therapist
(10) To the hard-working garbage collector: I'm always grateful for what you do.

(11) To my bicycle: Thank you for taking me up the hill to the hospital through rainy and windy weather.

(12) To the wild-flowers blooming at the edge of my walking path, thank you!

(13) To my pet cat: The warmth of your body brings me healing.

(14) From the tsunami survivors to all in Japan who prayed for us and sacrificed for us after the March 11 disasters.

(14) The heart of the Japanese

Monday, July 23, 2012

illustration friday (carry)

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. You may have heard this line before, as it is often quoted in films and books. I had the vague impression it was the official creed or motto of the United States Post Office, but apparently the USPS has no such thing.  According to Wikipedia, the words derive from a paragraph in Herodotus' Histories, referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire.

The version accompanying the image of a carrier pigeon (top) is what Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld novels, uses as the motto of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office. (If you love the Discworld novels, this is where you shout Hip Hip Hurrah! at the top of your voice). HIP HIP HURRAH

The etegami on the right depicts my hard-working mail carrier who is, quite literally, deterred by neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of the dark, snowy Hokkaido winters. I remember clearly when they did this all by bicycle. These days they maneuver our narrow streets, made narrower by the treacherous ice and snow, on their trusty scooters.

I will be sending this etegami to my local post office. The Japanese writing on the card is read okage-sama de, and is often translated "it's all thanks to you," but it really means much more. I have discussed this wonderful term in this post.

Friday, July 20, 2012

fan-shaped etegami

Blueberries with a Robert Frost quote

Banana with a Groucho Marx quote

Ayu (sweetfish trout) with a haiku by Buson
I painted these etegami on fan-shaped washi cards and inserted them into "frames" that I made by gluing pretty paper onto stiff, rectangular cards cut out of file folders or cookie boxes.

These etegami could be removed from the frames and replaced with other  etegami in the same shape. You could use one frame for a whole pack of fan-shaped etegami if you made the frame a neutral color. Then you could change the etegami once a month, or at least once a season. What do you think?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

illustration friday (lost)

If you are a fan of the author Alexander McCall Smith, raise your hand. His charming and thoughtful series The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency first introduced me to the African nation of Botswana and to Rooibos Tea (Red Bush Tea), which has since become my staple drink throughout the year. It has even been featured in my etegami.

Today I was reading The Dog Who Came In From the Cold (a Corduroy Mansions novel) by the same author, and I came across mention of a tea I had never heard of before. I googled "Malawian Lost Tea" and soon traced it to an African tea being sold by the Rare Tea Company under the name of Lost Malawi Tea.

This is how they describe it: "To compare this to an ordinary tea would be like comparing a line-drawing with a sculpture. This is like drinking normal tea but in 3-D."  Wow. Furthermore, "Each tin comes with a short story by Alexander McCall Smith."  Well, well, WELL!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

the call won't come, i won't be the one

I Told Me So

I know, I know
I won't get my wish
The call won't come
I won't be the one.
Just sit back and sigh
As more chances go by --
See?  I told me so.

No hopes to dash
No hills to climb
No dreams to break
No chance to fail
No pain, no crying
Much easier than trying.
See?  I told me so.

I'm always right
So rarely wrong
No use stringing
My hopes along
No sweat, no strain
No fret, no pain
Just wait -- wait --
Wait --
Till it's too late.

Ha!  I told me so.

(This is a tongue-in-cheek poem by Vicki Patschke, written to poke fun at herself. But I was moved by it, as I am with all her poems. To see more of our etegami-poem collaborations click here and here)

Monday, July 9, 2012

keeping each other alive

Already eight years have passed since I first made the acquaintance of the frail Mrs.K. In our very first exchange of words, she told me she would become 86 years-old the following week.  She also told me that it would be her last birthday. I responded, How can you know this? It is in God's hands, and when the time comes, it comes, but not before. I had recently survived a very difficult period of broken health, and though I was the younger by nearly 40 years, I hobbled about insecurely on a cane, just as she did. We looked quite the pair.

When I told her that I painted etegami, her eyes brightened. I promised to send her an etegami birthday card, and before I knew it, I was sending her a new etegami every week. She often sat at the reception desk at our church, and as soon as I walked through the door on Sundays, her sad face would get animated and all she would talk about was the etegami of the week. Another year passed, then another, and another, and Mrs.K was still at the reception desk each week. I began to flatter myself with the thought that in some way my weekly etegami was giving her the will to live.

One day, there was a frantic message on my answering machine. It was Mrs.K asking why I hadn't sent her the usual weekly etegami. She said, Are you ill? Will I see you on Sunday? Is there anything I can do for you? I was quite sure I had sent her an etegami that week as usual, so I didn't know what to make of it. Had she gone senile suddenly? I wondered.

She was so relieved to see me on the following Sunday. My etegami had turned up after all. Someone had laid it on the shoe cupboard, and it had fallen through the space between the cupboard and the wall. It suddenly hit me. Mrs.K graciously and joyfully received each etegami I sent her, because she cared about me! My weekly etegami assured her that all was well with me. Perhaps subconsciously she believed that she was helping to prolong my life by being the recipient of my etegami.

I had to laugh. At myself. For my arrogance in thinking only of the value of my gift to her.  Until that moment I hadn't considered the great value of her gift to me. For each etegami there is a sender and there is a receiver. It is not truly etegami without the both of them.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

etegami invitation cards

One of the Red Bubble groups I belong to is doing an Invitation Card Challenge. I was struck by the fact that I'd never done an etegami invitation card! In fact, the only invitation card I can remember ever making is a Hen Party invitation printed from a lino block carving. And that was decades ago.  At the time, having a small baby made it difficult to get together with friends. So I decided to invite them (with their babies if they had any) to socialize at my apartment.

For the invitation card challenge, I made the etegami posted here, and then tested it on the members of my Etegami Fun Club group on Facebook. The image itself passed muster, but many of the responders told me they understood "hen party" to mean a bachelorette party, which made the phrase "baby chicks are welcome" seem out of place. I checked the dictionary definition of hen party and it says "a social gathering restricted to women," but bachelorette party seems to be the most commonly listed interpretation. I guess common usage has changed over the generations. What do you think?

UPDATE: Guess what? This card won the Invitation Card Challenge I submitted it to. Yaaaaay!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

illustration friday (suspend)

Japan traditionally celebrates the Tanabata festival (sometimes referred to as the Star festival) each year on July 7. This festival honors the legend of the star-crossed lovers Hikoboshi (the star known as Alter) and Orihime (the star known as Vega) who can meet only once a year from opposite banks of the The River of Heaven (the Milky Way).  Although the specifics vary from region to region, and some of the northern regions (like ours) wait until August 7, the celebration always involves large or small branches of bamboo hung with pretty-- often symbolic-- paper decorations, and rectangular strips of paper on which children write down their wishes. This is illustrated in the etegami to the right. The Japanese words say: "One night's dream."

The etegami at the top of this post shows a type of ornament for which the Sendai Tanabata Festival in northeastern Japan is famous. These are huge, colorful, ball-topped streamers that are suspended from either horizontal or vertical poles-- rows and rows of them hanging high above the heads of the festival goers. It is an awesome sight. The writing says "The stars in your eyes are sparkling."

Monday, July 2, 2012

the tapir

My niece was married last weekend. They met through their mutual passion for tennis, but it was a conversation she had with him about tapirs that convinced her she had found her life-long partner.

Then, almost by accident, I came across this entry in a travel book called Traveler's Tales Thailand, by Alan Rabinowitz. He quotes an unnamed traveler as saying, "[the tapir is] an enigma... a survivor of a more gentle and legendary time ... wandering in unique isolation in a world not yet mature enough for its wisdom."

Did you know that the tapir is named after a creature in Chinese mythology? In Japanese folklore, the tapir (known as baku) eats people's dreams, especially nightmares. In fact, I grew up believing that the tapir was a dream-eating mythological beast, and only recently realized it was (also) a real live creature.