When you neglect anything for a while, it’s hard to get back to it. Practice, practice daily and it works better. So here I am…showing up on the page. I love to write, but I’ve been so down on my ability to do anything. At the last meditation retreat I did in Maui, after fifteen years, I figured out the reason I keep at zen practice. Believe me, it’s not an easy one in any way. That was a good thing.

I’ve been reading a lot. Well, actually, I’ve been listening to books a lot. I almost gave up reading because I had such difficulty concentrating. I still do, but listening to audio books has made it easier. The experience is definitely different. I listened to Pico Iyer’s The Lady and the Monk. Mostly I enjoyed going through Kyoto with him. After that, I had to get the book because reading the words makes the images more vivid for me. I just finished Lit by Mary Karr which is well written. I found it hard to get through some of the bad stuff she experienced, but the insights were wonderful. Now I’m listening to Michael Pollan’s A Place of My Own. He narrates it as did Mary Karr and Patti Smith and I love listening to the author read their own work. Ted Kooser reading his memoir, Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps, was one of my favorites. I know, my choice of reading material is all over the place. Anyway, being in touch with the books made me want to practice writing again. So here I am.

Another practice, I’m trying my hand at is drawing and painting. I’ll try anything. I want to try my hand at another form of art practice. Lots of stuff I want to do. I have a humongous collection of art supplies so there is absolutely no reason to procrastinate on this one. I even have images in my head…food, ohia trees and other native Hawaiian plants, dogs and just beautiful things in general. I listened to an interview on Public Radio where the interviewee’s goal in creating work was to give people a reason to be optimistic. It was on Serious Eats and they interviewed Phil Rosenthal. I thought that that was an fantastic goal to have given the current news climate…a perfect goal for me to have whether I write, draw or cook. Looking for the good things is the way I want to spend my life.

My best friend died last year. I still think I can just call or write her about something she would like or think was funny every day. Channeling those thoughts into art would be a way to express those things. She encouraged my writing and watercolor all the time.

So Carolyn…this is for you. I miss you every day.

We’ve talked about going through our closets and other spaces in our home to get rid of things and I’ve finally begun. I started with my clothes. I followed the method described in Marie Kondo’s book by pulling everything out of my closet and dresser – clothes, shoes, jewelry and bags. I have eight bags of stuff to send out into the world. My sister never buys clothes for herself so I called her first to see if there was anything she could use. I think I’m about three sizes bigger than she is so the only clothing that fit her were old clothes from a much younger (and thinner) me. The remaining bags will go to a women’s shelter.
I’m not sure why I decided that I had to do my books next. It’s against Marie Kondo’s way. The things you have emotional attachment to should be done last…when you have an idea of how things feel when they “spark joy.” In other words, you tackle the difficult areas after you’ve had experience at “tidying.”
I have a big cookbook collection as I’ve been collecting books since the 70’s. My first cookbook was Favorite Island Cookery. It was the first in a series of five books published by the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Mission. I was living in Portland, Oregon and really missed the food of the islands – sushi, teriyaki chicken, pork guisantes, and fried noodles. I didn’t know how to cook so my mom sent the book and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been a passionate cook ever since.
The cookbooks are more than recipe reference books to me. Each book reminds me of a time that I cooked food from the location or by the chef. Among the places I’ve “visited” via the books are Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Italy. Some of the chefs I’ve cooked are Charlie Trotter, Elizabeth Andoh, Rick Bayless, and Alice Waters. That makes each book a little time capsule bringing back memories of food, people and meals shared. I’ve spent hours pouring through the pages of the books…admiring the photos and reading about the background of each recipe and information about the ingredients. Pulling the books out of the hall closet was like reuniting with old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. They were hiding behind a layer of vases and candles. Many of the books from the closet went to new homes because it was a different me that purchased them and they don’t serve me now


the books in the bedroom.


A section of the wall bookcase.

Kris and our friend, Dale, installed a floor to ceiling book case in what was then a second bedroom many years ago. That is where the biggest mass of books lives…cookbooks, books on zen, novels to read, poetry and knitting. The cookbooks are somewhat organized by type of cuisine and the remaining books are on the topmost shelves. The other areas where books live are on the dresser in our bedroom. These are mostly zen books and poetry that I love. In my office, the books on writing, creativity and photography live along the wall of my desk. Did I mention that I love books?
Marie Kondo’s method would be to take all the books off the shelves and everywhere and gather them in one place. I didn’t do that. i did take the books off each shelf and put each one that “sparked joy” back. We now have boxes of books that are going to new homes…some to a used book store and some to the library. I’ve kept my favorite go-to books in highly accessible visible spaces.
The books are no longer jammed together so that every time I reach for one, others fall out. They really do seem happier. This sounds crazy, but dusting them off and handling them seems to have given them a new energy. They have room to breathe and I love looking at them.

The books on my desk below a smart phone photo by Franco Salmoraghi.

The books on my desk below a smart phone photo by Franco Salmoraghi.

Mickey at the photo bar.

Mickey at the photo bar.

February! My favorite month…my birthday month. Whoa! We ended 2014 on a program and welcomed the New Year while on that program on Oahu. We stayed at the Disney Aulani where we set up a photo bar for people to print on demand. We have three die sublimation printers, quicker than inkjet. We were visited by Stitch, Donald Duck and Mickey, the man. An alternate world there for sure.

Stitch with a camera

Stitch with a camera

Donald checking out the photo bar.

Donald checking out the photo bar.

Tail slappin'

Tail slappin’

We went on to Maui for a program at the Four Seasons Wailea. Maui has gotten so crazy for travel. The old standard hotels we use are way over our price range. Maui Coast was $515 a night plus all the taxes. That is so crazy. Maui Coast is in bad need of an update…it is a Courtyard Marriot type of hotel. Speaking of Courtyard Marriott…the one near the airport was asking $300 a night. Room rates always cycle around and they will come down, but, in the meantime, we’ve got a problem. We ended up staying at a dear friend’s house in Wailuku. Saved!

Face to face.

Face to face.

Coming up from under the boat.

Coming up from under the boat.

During the time in Maui, we were lucky to see baby humpback whales that were out with their moms. There were many sightings on the day we went out. The client hired one of us, but there was room on the whale watch so I went out with Kris. It’s funny, but those babies are cute. In photos, they kind of look like the adults, but without scars…and a lot smaller.

Baby whale checking us out.

Baby whale checking us out.

Baby humpback taking a peek.

Baby humpback taking a peek.

I’m working on designing photo books for both programs. Custom photo books take a super long time and requires all my focus. Luckily designing is one of my favorite things to do. I’ve learned to use Adobe’s InDesign…so much better than Photoshop for this. But for some reason, the keyboard shortcuts stopped working and really slowed my progress. Imagine working without undo, cut and paste on the keyboard. Ugh! I did a safe reboot and still not working. Last night I shut down and, magically, the shortcuts are working this morning. Menehune working in the night! (FYI, menehune are kinda like Hawaiian leprechauns).
On a totally other topic, I read “the life-changing magic of tidying up, the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” by Marie Kondo. I highly recommend it. She doesn’t believe in organizing tools – they are for hoarders (my interpretation). OMG…Kris is afraid. I went through my clothes and have six bags to go out. There is so much breathing room in my closet…love it.
Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 9.16.45 PM

I’m afraid to tackle my books as they are everywhere in the house. In two weeks, I have an appointment with BookEnds to sell my books. If you follow the Konmari method of deluttering, all books have to be taken of the shelves and other various locations and picked up one at a the time to access the joy factor. The ones that get a yes to the question,”Does this item spark joy?”, stay and the others go. I have books on my dresser, on my desk, in closets, in the kitchen, AND a big built-in book shelf in Kris’ office. We’ll see where this goes. Stay tuned.

I’ve been dragging my feet to get back to my blog. For some reason everything I think about isn’t important or interesting enough. I’m afraid I’m going to bore anyone who might happen upon my blog. The longer I’ve procrastinated, the harder it becomes. Now it seems that what I post has got to be really interesting and important. Ha! I realize that whatever I write about will never be enough. So I’ll just dive in. Start where you are.
I’m going to start with my morning routine or, rather, the routine I would like to have. My morning routine is one of no routine. It depends on how tired or hungover I am and where I am (we travel a lot).
In order to quit wasting time and to start doing what I really want to do, I’m going to get myself into a routine. That is going to mean getting up earlier. It’s going to mean dedicating certain times for checking social media. I may need a twelve step program to accomplish this as I’m addicted in a huge way!
So here’s the plan. I get up just before the sun rises to do zazen (zen meditation). I love the sun rising as I meditate…the room slowly getting light. It’s such a wonderful way to ease into the start of the day.

Yes...very stark. Zazen is done with eyes lowered facing a wall. Interesting, huh? Not!

Yes…very stark. Zazen is done with eyes lowered facing a wall. Interesting, huh? Not!

Then I will make myself a cup of coffee or tea. My favorite coffee is one a small grower in Ka’u and my favorite tea is genmai cha out of a Clayton Amemiya tea cup. I will sit at the table that looks out at ohia trees to write Morning Pages. It’s a bitch fest on paper and it really is a great way to start a day. So often the bitch fest takes a positive turn and I’m ready to go with what is needed. In a Tim Ferriss blog post (I think he’s a brilliant lunatic), he mentions Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. Her guideline is to write three pages in longhand. I’m going to give myself the freedom to stop when I want to. I just am not disciplined and would rather not set myself up to fail. I’ve found that when I have had the Morning Pages habit, things go better for me. I can easily see how I did and track where my brain is taking me.

Moleskine notebook and Midori traveler's notebook. IPad. Clayton teacup.

Moleskine notebook and Midori traveler’s notebook. IPad. Clayton teacup.

So there it is. My first blog post of the year in all its boring glory. I certainly hope it gets better. Thanks for reading if you made it this far. I hope you stay with me.
How do you start your morning? What is your routine and how do you stick to it? Inquiring minds want to know. Please comment.


I’m currently reading Cooked by Michael Pollan. I love his passion for protecting our planet with a focus on food and how we fuel ourselves with it.

In this book he makes a case for cooking our food from scratch. This simple act is the solution to many of the problems in the world. My favorite creative endeavor is cooking. I mostly cook just for Kris, sometimes for sangha events and infrequently for friends and family.

I thought I’d begin sharing some of the food I prepare. Yesterday I made a salad of roasted carrots and Brussel sprouts with arugula, radishes, pistachio nuts, and beets drizzled with yuzu and good olive oil. This was topped with tuna salad made from canned tuna, capers, celery and onion tossed with mayonnaise and yogurt. I love this salad because I’m able to incorporate leftover roasted vegetables. Anything goes…it just has to be pretty!

I just finished reading this wonderful book by John Muir about an adventure with an amazing dog, Stickeen. In telling the story about a trek over an Alaskan glacier, he exhibits the passion he had for the beauty of the wilderness, purposely going out in a storm to witness the shaping of the earth by the untamed glaciers.

“He enlarged my life,” Muir wrote, “extended my boundaries.”

I always felt this way about my first dog, Latte. She brought the animal world into my life. Reading this made me miss her more than ever.

A speaker at a photography convention mentioned "The Artist Way" by Julia Cameron and spoke about how "doing the book" lead her on her way to a creative and rewarding life.  Mark Bryan is her partner and is a coach.  Here's some good advice on fear and good advice for these times.

"Like most creative people, I have had way too much experience
dealing with financial and career ambiguity. Somehow it gives me comfort to
know that Thomas Jefferson, Rembrandt, and Mark Twain all went bankrupt despite
their genius.

I have no illusions about being in their class, I have had my share of
financial crises and recovery over my career. It somehow gives me
to know that much bigger brains than mine have also struggled with

The danger for me is in mental paralysis.  This usually happens when I am scared and I try
to think my way out of my fear or anxiety rather than simply doing what any other
animal would do naturally – which is run! Run fast, run hard.

No, I don't mean run away from my responsibilities, I mean literally,
RUN.  Exercise is especially important
when we are afraid or anxious. We need to walk, run, bike, swim, dance — any
body movement we can do to literally sweat the fear from our bones.

So, particularly if you are under financial pressure,
the rent is late, or you are fighting to make payroll, or having to get
a bridge loan to continue production, remember to RUN.You will sleep
much better for it.

Exercise keeps our mind sharper and our body more relaxed. It is harder to get new work when we are desperate, so if you are afraid, then allow your animal body some room to move.  

Happy Holidays, Mark"
The Artist Way Daily