A walk in the neighbourhood. Trips further afield have been limited due to the latest state of emergency.
Thanks to those of you that sent messages. It was good to hear from you.
This month will be a scattering of topics hopefully tied together with the theme of trying to get the most out of the time and the possessions we have, although I wouldn't necessarily take my advice. Be sure to load 'remote content' if you're not seeing the images.
Have anything to say? Feel free to email me.
From the archives: Southwest Gifu a few years ago. Fuji Provia 400 (and a poor scan).
11 prefectures in Japan are currently in a state of emergency again, including Aichi and Gifu, my usual stomping grounds. As a result the prefectural governors have requested that residents stay local and within the prefecture. That means no trips to the Nakasendō, Kiso-ji, Ise-ji, or to the mountains. It’s not set to end until February (although there’s talk of an extension) so I’ve decided to start posting a few photos from my archive so on the website to make up for the lack of adventures and trips that has resulted from the latest Covid surge. Posting older photos will be a chance to reflect on those trips and I’m starting off with the photo above of a very wet bike ride I did in southwest Gifu a few years ago during the rainy season. You can read about it here.
Below: Where I'd like to be if we weren't being asked to stay local.
Over new year I spent quite a few hours sorting through possessions and decluttering. I try and do this a few times a year because I find it to be a good exercise in simplifying day-to-day life. Recently I’ve tried to be more aware of time spent interacting with possessions and quantifying how much value they have in relation to the time spent using them. I guess you could call it the ‘irritation factor*’? If the value isn’t worth the amount of time it takes to store or maintain, and if the ‘irritation factor’ is too high, then I ask myself this simple question:
Is it worth keeping? The answer is often no.
In addition I also try to stick to these very simple principles:
Buy what you need three or four months after you decide you really need it (if you still need it), then buy the best you can afford.
If it hasn’t been used for six months it’s usually time to say goodbye (this is for anything other than specialist gear).
Less gear = less friction = a happy, more creative and adventurous life.
Sticking to these simple principles creates a snowballing effect that I believe leads to more free time pursuing things that have value and meaning, and for me that’s family time (now more important than ever), hiking and walking, reading, and photography.
*The irritation factor can be determined by such things as how often it needs to be charged, cleaned, found, updated, repaired, oiled, or how often it is accidentally trodden on.
One goal for 2021 that I postponed in 2020 is to go up here again.
As well as a good time to reassess possessions the new year for most of us brings with it new goals and plans, but for 2021 I’ve decided to abandon all fitness and distance-related goals and instead try and exercise more intelligently which actually means I don’t want to think about exercising at all. I just want to get it done.
In January it has been running, walking, and cycling on a home trainer (a home trainer! Me?!) I haven’t been outside for a bike ride once so far this year and I’m not sure I miss it. That would have been unthinkable a year ago but being a slave to targets for far too many years is no longer fun and I want that to change. This post by Mark Manson has a superb explanation of how some goals can actually be detrimental to your life, and I agree. For the past couple of years, my goals — even the completed ones — have made me feel miserable.
Sure, routine and discipline are key components to a life well lived but I find it’s important to be wise to what that routine is and to reassess it often. That’s what I have failed to do in recent years. As the year ticked over I simply reset the distance counter and started again. I wasn’t thinking things through. That’s fine when you’re in your twenties and thirties but once you hit (early) middle age time takes on more meaning and value and efficiency become key.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have any plans this year though because that would be silly. The plans I do have are just no longer quantified by distances or minutes and hours:
And by far they most important and enjoyable;
Hiking locally with my daughter.
I mentioned above that buying the best you can afford is always a good idea and as ridiculous as it sounds, to me that also means paper. I take a lot of photographs and do a fair amount of printing. Generic photo paper is fine for most things but there’s a small company in Tokushima called Awagami Factory that I have been using for years because they make traditional Japanese washi that you can use to produce good quality prints. I also buy notebooks from them for journaling. Washi texture feels like how you’d expect paper to have felt in the hands hundreds of years ago and the company also claim that their paper doesn’t harm the environment. Years ago I actually went to the factory — I used to teach English to one of the owners — and I saw nothing but natural dyes and baths of water full of organic pulp. The paper also has a pleasant natural fragrance to it that doesn’t smell as though it’s just come out of a bath full of dangerous chemicals like most modern photo papers do.
Why am I mentioning this? Because if you go out on adventures with a camera in hand you really should be printing and journaling your experiences, and doing so on material that feels and smells good is part of the experience. It not only makes it more enjoyable but feels rewarding and helps to close the adventure or project. It also serves as a physical record of an experience and something to look back on reminisce and gain inspiration to go again.
Whatever you do don't leave everything on your smartphone. Make it into a physical object.
I can’t think of anything more important than having a physical record of your life to pass on to your family when you are gone, regardless of whether or not they actually show an interest. Making it an enjoyable object - journal, photo album, whatever - makes the experience far more rewarding.
*This is not an affiliate link. I’m just a fan of their products and believe we should be supporting traditional industries whenever possible.
A fairly random set this month but until the world gets back to ‘normal’ hikes and adventures will have to take a back seat. Besides, I'm enjoying the change.
Have anything to say? Feel free to email me.
The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue - Translated by Susan Tennant
Known and Strange Things - Teju Cole
Of Walking in Ice - Werner Herzog
Disco (Deluxe) - Kylie Minogue
Kylie at Glastonbury 2019. It’ll make you happy or it’ll make you cry. Covid will be over when Glastonbury returns.
Discatron EP - Higher Intelligence Agency
Ambient 1: Music for Airports - Brian Eno
The Lord of the Rings Triology
泥の川 (Muddy River) - The story of poor children growing up on a river in Osaka.
神々の深き欲望 (Profound Desires of the Gods) - Life on a small island in Okinawa where the gods and superstitions still influence everyday life for one family.