Dear Bloggers

Photo from Insomniac City by Bill Hayes

I hope 2018 is treating you well so far. As it’s been a while since I last posted, I thought I’d write an update.

I’m currently busy with another writing project, which means I have less time to blog, but I’m slowly working on a piece on Japanese architecture, and I hope to expand on some sections from the post I wrote on habits at some point.

I also post on Instagram quite regularly – mostly extracts from and comments on books I’m reading. Please have a look at @oneblacktreeblog if you’re interested.

Following my New Year’s resolution to reduce the time I spend online, I’ve been able to do a lot more reading this past month.

[If you’re trying to cut down on the internet and social media, I’ve found the simplest solution has been to restrict myself to one hour a day across all platforms (I break it up into about three twenty-minute sessions – you can even use a timer). I’ve also taken Facebook off my phone and mostly send voice instead of text messages.]

Here are some of the books I’m reading now:

  • Twinkle, Twinkle by Kaori Ekuni: a quirky novel about a couple who marry to please their parents, although the husband is gay and in a relationship with his lover from school days;
  • The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen, my favorite writer: to read her books is to forget where you are and be immersed in another time and place, in this case 1920s Ireland. Her writing is rich, idiosyncratic, and I think needs to be read slowly to appreciate fully;
  • Insomniac City by Bill Hayes: a life-affirming memoir and ode to New York and Oliver Sacks, it also has beautiful black and white portraits and photos of the city;
  • The Myth of Sisyphus: Albert Camus’s essay on suicide which I’m reading alongside Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being and the Shobogenzo, trying to come an understanding of how attitudes towards suicide differ in the east and west;
  • Die Wise by Stephen Jenkinson: a fascinating look at how the western phobia of death has had profound and far-reaching consequences for society;
  • A Religion of One’s Own by Thomas Moore: It is such a pleasure to read someone who advocates living life in the questions and embraces all religions.
  • Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz: A coming-of-age story, semi-autobiographical, set in seventies LA. I’ve wanted to read Babitz for ages.

What are you reading? What are you writing or working on? What should I read? Please feel free to add links to your or others’ posts, or books in the comments. I love getting recommendations.

Open your heart

This essay is inspired by Michael A. Singer’s The Untethered Soul. At the end, I’ve summarised and added to what he writes about opening the heart. You could skip ahead and just read that. My hope in posting this is that you will consider reading his book.

*** Continue reading Open your heart

Body matters

Ghada Amer Green Paradise for bodies

Ghada Amer, Untitled,  acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas (2008)

Every week I read a novel by a Japanese writer with my friend – in her case the original and in mine a translation. Recently we read The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto. The main character, Chihiro, is an artist who paints murals for a living.  She spends most of her time outdoors, engaging her whole body as she works. ‘I guess I’m one of those people who always thinks with her body,’ she says. Continue reading Body matters

The Big Leap

Hilma af Klint

Hilma af Klint, Evolution, Group VI, no. 12  (1908)

Most of us think we want to be happy, or at least free from suffering. But do we really? As Eckhart Tolle writes in The Power of Now, there is a ‘peculiar pleasure’ derived from being unhappy. Negative emotion can feel good. For example, anger produces a surge of energy that gives us the courage to take action. And then there is the quiet, pleasurable sadness we feel at the end of a sad movie or when parting from someone – the sense of things passing, known in Japanese as mono no aware (the poignancy of impermanence). Continue reading The Big Leap

Paying attention and losing my shoes

When it rains it pours. This was my thought walking home through the dark, wet streets one night recently after a dentist appointment where I’d been told I needed treatments that would cost me close to a month’s earnings. Why now, just as I was planning to move? How was I going to afford everything? I felt despondent, defeated by this latest curveball. Continue reading Paying attention and losing my shoes

Memories, moments and the middle way

Félix Vallotton, Le Ballon, oil on wood (1899)

I recently read a short story in which a woman tells her lover a terrible secret. “My mother died in a lake when I was a child,” she says. “And what did you do?” the lover asks. “I watched,” she says. “I stood there watching as my mother’s hair slipped gently under the surface of the water. I didn’t run to get help.” Continue reading Memories, moments and the middle way

Blogging lessons: 15 things I’ve learned so far

my desk

Today I read over some my favorite quotes and pieces of advice from writers on writing, and decided to put them all together in a list of the things I’m learning from writing this blog, to refer to whenever I start going off track. Continue reading Blogging lessons: 15 things I’ve learned so far

Cinderella in the city

Mr., detail from Tokyo, the City I Know at Dusk: It’s Like a Hollow in My Heart, installation (2016), exhibited at the Yokohama Triennale 2017: Islands, Constellations & Galapagos

I live in a house with twelve Cinderellas. Its name, translated, means pumpkin carriage, reflecting the Japanese love of all things cute and Disney. These houses dotted around the city are advertised as places of comfort and safety for women. In some ways, I do feel like Cinderella. I live in a tiny room. I sometimes have to clean up after my sisters. A pair of shoes plays a significant role in my life (more on this later). And though I’m not waiting for a prince on a white horse, I’m open to magic and transformation. Continue reading Cinderella in the city

How I changed my habits and changed my life

Daily rituals, routines, habits. Lately this seems to be a popular point of discussion. Up until about a year ago, though, I hadn’t given much thought to my habits, other than when I was trying to break a bad one. But since I’ve started to form new habits, my life has changed significantly, for the better. Continue reading How I changed my habits and changed my life

Solitude, belonging and freedom

zoe 2

Zoe Leonard, Chapter 17 from Analogue, chromogenic colour prints (1998–2009)

In Yiyun Li’s story ‘On the Street Where You Live’, a six-year-old boy with autistic tendencies is asked to name the one thing that scares him most. Unlike the other children in his class, who mention things like snakes or monsters under the bed, his answer is monophobia – the fear of being alone. And yet he’s chosen not to speak to most people, and struggles to connect with those closest to him. Continue reading Solitude, belonging and freedom