“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”
— Mary Oliver
When I was in college, I sometimes felt overwhelmed by all the problems of the world. Hearing that a child dies of malnutrition every thirty seconds, or that one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second, I despaired. In the face of so much suffering, ignorance, fear and greed, I wondered how I could possibly make a difference. And I wondered what career to pursue where I could best solve these problems.
These were earnest years: At Stanford I lived in a forty-person vegetarian co-op with the mission of “social change through non-violence.” All decisions were made (or rather, not made) by consensus. Much homemade granola was consumed.
I ended up earning a degree in international relations, and over the next 25 years, I did research on the threat of accidental nuclear war; started and ran two environmentally oriented small businesses; and helped build a non-profit organization that supports local, independent media in developing countries. A lot more granola was consumed, along with hummus in Jordan, caviar in Russia, and deep-fried insects in Thailand.
Over those years, I came to see that although there are tremendous challenges in this world, it was only the idealism of youth that made me feel responsible for solving them all. I began to grasp that there are seven billion other people on this earth who can be part of the solution. We can’t all be Nobel prizewinners, but each of us can do our small part to heal this world, in the best way we know how.
And yet, though it was fulfilling for me to do work where I could use my skills to advance big and worthy goals, I still held some unconscious assumptions about how people change the world. Perhaps it was the Stanford conditioning, but at some level I believed that in order to be transformative, my work needed to take place at a grand scale on the global stage, confronting the issues that fill newspapers: humanitarian crises, climate change, epidemics, political dysfunction.
That is all vital work, and thank goodness there are people who are called to tackle those issues. Yet at some point, I found my heart was no longer in international work. I still read the New York Times every day, and care deeply about what happens to people all over the world. I am still glad to contribute to global solutions as a consultant to the non-profit organization where I spent twenty years.
But, much to my surprise, I have come to realize that at this point in my life, I can have more impact, at a deeper level, in my work as a poet and artist. I’ve learned that people mostly buy my paintings and cards to give to others: mothers for their daughters, husbands for their wives, grown sons for their mothers, best friends and sweethearts for each other. They have all shared with me some way that a piece of my art was perfect for their situation. The thread running through all their stories is that my work helps them to deepen their connection with the people they love.
My husband Paul has a running joke of landing a grant from the fictional “JBYY Foundation”—which provides funding “Just Because You’re You.” It occurs to me, writing this, that I have essentially created my own version of the “JBYY Foundation.” I take ideas, observations or experiences from my everyday life—no matter how profound, odd or silly—and turn them into art. In so doing, I seem to touch people’s hearts. I hope that means that they in turn will be a little kinder, a little clearer about what’s really important, and a little more inspired to work towards a better world, in the best way they know how.
In this phase of my “one wild and precious life,” I feel so grateful to be able to use my skills and creativity to bring light to my one-seven billionth piece of the world. I once heard that the Ojibwa have a saying: “I am using my heart.” Yes I am. And finally, it feels like that’s enough.
“One slanting ray”, shown above, is 4“ x 6“, painted with sumi ink and gansai paint on rice paper. It is stamped in red with my personal seal. Though the original has sold, it is available as a 5” x 7” card or signed print. The haiku reads: one slanting ray / lights the cathedral— / birdsong
Makino Studios News
Makino Studios Goes to Washington: Politics and Prose in Washington, DC, one of the nation’s most successful independent bookstores, is the newest store to carry my haiku cards. This vibrant place hosts over 300 book readings a year, by the likes of Bill Clinton, Salman Rushdie and Stephen Colbert. I’m so pleased that Politics and Prose is my first retail outlet outside of California.
Mother-Daughter Art Show: “Clay, Straw, Paper,” the art exhibit I did in Ukiah, California with my mother Erika and sister Yoshi, was a very special experience and great fun. Thanks to all who stopped by!
Makino Studios Etsy Shop Changes: I will be on a painting vacation in Mexico for the first part of March, and doing some consulting in Washington, DC the last part of March. As a result, my Makino Studios Etsy shop for online orders will be on vacation mode March 3-15 and again March 26-31.
Also, starting in March, I will no longer offer individual cards for sale online. You will be able to purchase six cards of any design for $20 (and you can mix and match designs.) I am sorry for any inconvenience.
National Haiku Writing Month: Well, I’ve managed to write at least one haiku every day in February based on the prompts given at the NaHaiWriMo Facebook page, such as “pasta” or “turquoise.” You can see all my efforts on the Makino Studios Facebook page and at @Ant99 on Twitter. Although National Haiku Writing Month is just about over, the prompts continue all year if you’re interested in playing along!
North Coast Open Studios: This year I am excited to participate in North Coast Open Studios together with two other talented artist friends, beeswax collage artist Gigi Floyd and silk painter Tina Gleave. We’ll be at the Samoa Women’s Club in Samoa, California the weekend of June 1-2. We’re planning some fun hands-on demos of our very diverse artistic tools and techniques.