A few years ago, I lost one of my best friends, who also happened to be my pastor for many years. Charlie was loved by many and a few of his friends from Morgan Hill Bible Church gathered at the home of Dennis and Sharon Delisle to remember Charlie and share some precious memories. Here are the videos from that evening.
It has been difficult to create art lately. I do have a lot going on, but I’ve been doing some soul searching regarding my commitment to my art. Over the last few months I’ve taken some photos and shot some drone video, but when it comes to doing the editing and such, to turn casual pieces into something worth sharing, I haven’t made the time or mustered up the energy to complete it. And I certainly haven’t been blogging, as the nearly one year gap between posts on this blog attest to.
So what’s my excuse? My wife and I are in the process of moving back to the U.S. after four wonderful years living in Japan. We are dealing with a lot of issues including leasing a house, moving stuff out of storage, and getting rid of all of our excess crap. We have been committed to living a simpler life when we move back, less cluttered and with some “margin”. Unfortunately we’ve further complicated the process by buying a house in the mountains. We’ve accelerated our path to our future state by making an investment beyond our current circumstances, but while exciting, it does add stress and additional work.
Now we have to deal with organizing and packing our Japan apartment for our final move home. All the while, work demands are relentless.
It’s interesting how the demands for time and energy can have the effect of pushing art to the background. I have so many ideas, my Photo Haiku project (stalled at #16 out of a planned 52), drone video I want to capture in Japan, photos I want to take here before I leave, blog posts I want to write, Shutterstock images I want to capture, and sketches I’ve had planned. I find myself spinning and not able to start anything.
I had a bit of inspiration last night and experimented with a technique I’ve been wanting to try to capture fireworks in a unique way. It worked out pretty well and I have another opportunity tonight.
I don’t want art to feel like work. I want it to just bubble up out of my passion for creating something beautiful that others might enjoy. But I guess most of the time, there is work involved and if I want to keep improving my craft and create something worth sharing, I have to make the time to do the work. I encourage you to do the same.
So, my situation is a bit of “overwhelmed”, with dash of “lazy”, but what about “blocked”? At some level, it is difficult for me to even consider myself an “artist”. Does taking photos, writing blog posts or flying my drone around taking video qualify me? Does anyone really care about my “art”? The reality is, anyone who creates is an artist. You don’t have to do it full time and you don’t have to earn a living at it (or generate any revenue at all for that matter). You just recognize the wonder and the beauty of your surroundings and want to capture it in some way. An iPhone photo qualifies. A quick sketch or a full-on painting. Write a blog post, or write a book. If you’re communicating something meaningful, you could be expressing your art in a Facebook post or a tweet. Art is simply making the connection between what you experience and what you feel and expressing it in a creative way.
Feeling blocked is normal, but the danger is getting stuck there. I feel a renewed conviction to quit procrastinating and just create… and as Austin Kleon say, “show my work”.
This week we’re enjoying the sand and sun at Oceano, just south of Pismo Beach California. This place is infused with so many memories. My wife Teresa has vacationed here with her family since she was young. I grew to love this area as they included me in their time here. It’s a (mostly) laid back place with a mix of locals and vacationers, surfers, ATV’ers, fishermen and regular old beachcombers. Everyone seems to get along and respect the pursuit of the others. I would say that the only real bummer is the constant flow of cars and RVs on the beach. Yes, this is one of the few stretches of sand on the coast of California where you can drive on the beach. And drive they do, day and night. You eventually get used to it, and I suppose it becomes part of the unique fabric of the place, but I really wish the cars would go away. Of course, we’ve brought our own cars down to the beach from time to time, so maybe I’m being just a tiny bit hypocritical. We have some cool shots of the classic bug convertible we used to own on the sand as the sun was starting to set. And there’s that time when we took a Hummer out into the surf, got swamped by a wave and the horn went off and wouldn’t stop honking. Very embarrassing.
It has been a very special place for Teresa and I over the years. It started just a few months after we met. I saw my wife-to-be in a bathing suit for the first time and basically proposed on the spot. We both sort of laughed it off, but in my heart I was really serious, and proved it by walking down the aisle with her just seven months later. We had our honeymoon in a little shack on the this familiar beach, owned by a dear friend of the family. This “shack” grew over the years through remodel and expansion. As the years peeled off and our marriage ebbed and flowed, we would return time after time. Driving up from the crowds of Orange County, escaping the heat and humidity of Texas, driving down from the Bay Area, always returning to this place on the coast. Almost perfectly positioned between the two major population centers of California, somewhat saved from the crush of the cities, a throwback to simpler times.
No matter how much this place grows or changes, the ocean is that element that continues to draw us back. The cool breeze off the water. That constant white noise from the surf. The calm blue water stretching out past the horizon. And the perfect place for those glorious sunsets to come to rest. It became our refuge. A place of joy and sorrow. Watching our children grow into adults. Wrestling with a difficult marriage. Dreaming of a future, maybe living at the beach. Constantly prowling the coastline, searching for that perfect little house, under valued and affordable, just big enough for our family at the time, a place for our dreams to live. We came close a few times but timing, finances and circumstances never aligned. They feel like missed opportunities, but it is hard to know how life may have turned out if we had managed to buy a place here. It is a very real possibility that finances might have forced us to sell, which would have made the pain much more palpable than what we feel with our “near misses”. At this point it is hard to imagine that we will ever buy here, but who knows we might be able to live here for a season, but probably not put down roots. It remains this almost mythical place to return to for a time, think of things past and dream about the future, wherever that might be.
This “newspaper blackout” poem by Austin Kleon really struck me when I saw it this morning.
Austin Kleon is a creative soul that currently hails from Austin Texas. He originally burst on the scene with his unique method of leveraging the reservoir of words available in the newspaper, with the crude editing capability of a sharpie marker. The results can be very insightful, and sometimes convicting. I, at least to a certain degree, consider myself a “photographer”. But if I want to “be the noun”, I also need to be willing to “do the verb”. Doing the verb includes not only shooting the photos, but editing, organizing, publishing and other activities, all of which can amount to real work. As I write this, there is a pro beach volleyball event within sight of my apartment. This is a great opportunity to get some close up shots and add some unique images to my portfolio. If I want to be a photographer, I need to go shoot some photos.
And, while I don’t necessarily consider myself a writer, If I aspire to that (and I guess I do), I have to write. Maybe more on that later.
We traveled to Fujikawaguchiko with our friends Arco and Jacqueline Van Der Hout this weekend. They are expats in the middle of their two year assignment. We have mutual friends in the U.S. and have enjoyed spending time with them here in Japan. We started our day in Iyashi no Sato, an ancient Japanese village for some history, authentic Japanese cuisine, and nice views of Mount Fuji.
We ended our day in Kawaguchiko and found a wonderful restaurant and enjoyed a delightful meal with our friends. (Teresa gets credit for a fantastic dinner choice)
Italian Tomato Club 1st
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I’ve had three experiences lately that have brought home the undeniable fact that I’m getting old. In December of last year, my daughter Tara turned 30. I know that 30 is some sort of aging milestone, especially I suppose for women, but it certainly puts her father’s age in perspective.
Now, as you can see, my daughter looks quite young (she’s the one on the right, with my wife Teresa on the left). Which brings me to the second recent event that highlights my age. My daughter and I were buying lift tickets at a ski resort in Japan. I realized that there was a discount for those age 55 or above. The Japanese, being literal as they many times are, called this the “old” discount. Not “senior”, or “silver haired”, or “wise”, just “old”. They happily gave me my “old” discount, and I asked for a second adult ticket. The clerk looked at my daughter with a puzzled look. “How old are you?”, she asked. “thirty”, “thirteen?”, “no, thirty”. Well, we have now established that I easily qualify for “old” and my daughter has a hard time convincing someone in Japan she doesn’t qualify for the junior discount.
Incident number three. My son Austin just got engaged to his lovely girlfriend of three years, Sarah.
He’ll be 23 in a couple of months. I was 23 when I got married. (see that young thing by my side?)
Time marches on. We get gray, sag here and there, and wrinkle. Yes, I’m getting old but I can’t help but feel that I still have some rich experiences ahead. I guess I can live a bit vicariously through my kids and other young people I’m in relationship with. And while I am slowing down, life is good and I have someone by my side that really “gets” me like no one else. I’m thinking old isn’t so bad.
This is somewhat random, but I ran across this really cool “sculpture on wheels. Just goes to show that you can find amazing creativity in a wide range of places.
James Altucher is another podcast host that interviews a wide variety of interesting people. This episode featured Sally Hogshead who has a unique view on personal branding and considers personality from the perspective of how others perceive us and the implications of that. If you find yourself resonating with her approach, take 10 minutes or so to take her online personality test at howtofascinate.com. The code for a free evaluation is “james”.
I’m been listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast during my commute. While I’ve jumped headlong into podcasts, Tim’s has emerged as one of my favorites. He interviews some really interesting people, and his articulate, engaging interview style makes for entertaining and informative episodes. I’ve been jumping around between his most recent shows and some of his “classics”. The description of Kevin Kelly’s interview caught my eye so I listened to it recently. He really is one of the most interesting people I’ve heard lately. His background is fascinating and he has a real gift for drawing you in and connecting you to his story. I found myself relating to many of his experiences, both in my own history as well as views and perspectives I’ve developed more recently.
I would encourage you to listen to Tim’s three part podcast which you can find here:
I was also surprised to hear that Kevin Kelly was featured on the very first episode of “This American Life” (even before it was called This American Life). You can find that episode here:
I’ve had the privilege of living in Yokohama Japan for the last 2 1/2 years. One benefit has been the opportunity to experience a really beautiful, modern and clean city. Another benefit is about 3 hours a day commuting by foot and train which affords me a tremendous opportunity to enrich my mind by ingesting podcasts. This has been a life changing experience.