Letters III

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Fish and chips on the Oregon Coast, before I went off to mope in Pittsburgh and you endured a blistering hot Portland summer with lizard and company in the hotboxxx house.

Dear Sophie,


Your birthday & Christmas have passed and New Years is nearly upon us. It is a gloriously sunny and warm day out and I’m eating a bento out of a tin container from India and sipping green milk tea. I’ve captured a tiny green caterpillar from the okra plot and it squirms beside me in a cup under a paper ceiling pepper with airholes. It has a few leaves for company.

I, for one, have more company than a handful of leaves- 4 guests arrived to stay for a week (well, one guest, a rather egoistic Frenchman, only stayed for a measly three days) celebrating New Years together with the Shimizu family and I. Of course, it just so happens that they are all old guys (if 35+ is old…) and one of them, Ryoji-san, has come to spend New Years at Pelan for more than ten years! He has been some twenty odd times and has even bought a plot of land right o’er yonder, to build a house once he has retired and live the good ‘ol island life.

The nuttiest Halloween I’ve ever had. After taking numerous Photobooth snaps, we headed over to Grace Haley’s to help her assemble her Smokey outfit. Then we went to Genevieve Ward’s house’s insane-amazing house party, complete with big blocks of real butcher bones, candles, and a stuffed armadillo. I vividly remember how Chris talked to me about how much he missed Rome.

I’m pretty such set on staying here for a year…Chika even brought it up casually this morning, suggesting also that I wake up earlier, 6 am-7am eek. She is also helping me get fit. My next door neighbor, Sanae, lent me her underwater camera so now I can share some of the wonderous sea world. I’d love to get my PADI open water diving certification but its $600 and another $1500+ to buy gear and get instructor-certified. Well, perhaps if I officially decide to stay a year! That would be so rad.

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Drawing you on Hawthorne while we wait for our party of three to be completed, a la hamburger week. This is right before that backpacking guy asked us about apartments for rent.

You, on the other hand, are living it out in Europe, in Paris. Are you destined to land amongst fellow artists and actors in London? Only time will tell. I wonder, do the French mistake you for a fellow Frenchwoman? I’d love to hear about a museum exhibit that you’ve recently seen and completely fell in love with. There aren’t really any museums on the island, with the exception of a small showroom attached to the turtle conservatory, so perhaps I can live vicariously through you.

Planet Queen Jade on the left, Ice Witch Sophie on the right. There seems to be some Fool Clown in stripes as well.

You, my dearest, are a philosopher. I can see it in your eyes, and I feel it when we sit silently together on the porch. Your mind is off musing about big great things, things uplifted by light and cloud. I’m probably rocking on an old wooden chair, thinking about handsome men and drinking lukewarm tea. Sometimes, you come down to my level and join me, thinking about those silly silly men. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those times we spent on that wrecked sun-bleached moldy porch on Woodstock.

I never asked – what moves you about directing? I myself find nothingness in art, and when I make art I feel like I’m melting back, that I cease to exist – sometimes technical questions float to the forefront of my mind but its one of those rare times that all of me is focused on one object, one project. That, I think, is the big draw, the irrefusable attraction for me. A love that can never fade…

Sending you a package of island sea salt,

Happy New Years and Happy Birthday,





Two pages worth of silly doodles for you. The duck and its shadow stand for doubt and envy, those sins from Pandora’s Box, and all the rest symbolize the brighter beings in your present and future. My entire time in art highschool was spent learning how to justify and explain my artistic choices, so there’s my little statement for ya.

Dear Maria,


I’m writing to you next to a beach, listening to the waves lap over each other. It is a bit of an overcast day, and I am wearing soiled rain-boots. The horrors from Saitama are long behind me but still I catch memorably unkind glimpses into the past. There is a guy in a wet suit over there snorkeling and I’m sure he/she has found by now that this isn’t the best beach for it. I just scarfed down a fairy’s fortune of karaage, or, fried chicken, (a rare commodity here), a perfectly ripe pear, an a cinnamon-y choco-cookie. I helped my host, Chika, who is a yoga instructor, cook New Year’s food- slicing octopus, peeling sweet potatos, and cutting cabbage into manageable portions. I’m looking forward to —

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People, listen to Maria’s music here and buy her upcoming CD here!

Ah, some small children and a new friend interrupted us, so I resume this letter two days later. Guess what?! I have to wake up early-pearly tomorrow to go sea kayaking to an uninhabited island! A bunch of old dudes are coming and I guess they have a tradition of swimming in the nude, or as Chika puts it, “nudo” and I dunno whether I’ll join in… its a bit risque, no? Then we’ll make a little fire on the beach and boil water for some chai tea and cook mochi soup with vegetables that I chopped today.

It’s funny, I’ve been rushed my entire school life to grade myself, to reach that next step, to make something of myself. Without that structure that the education system lent to me, sometimes I feel at a loss, as if my identity were built from class schedules, grades, and finding another line to add to my student resume. Without all that accumulation, what am I? I’m finding out here- once I’ve taken away all that debris, I’ll be curious to see what emerges. I’m sure I’ll still be a stubborn ox, albeit more insightful, giving, and kind.

Picking apples in a town near Florence, Italy. Remember that time we took the train to try to find a hotspring? We ended up laying in the autumn leaves, staring at the sky and sharing our hearts.

How do you feel about leaving school, and where you are now? Remember that time we were sitting on your bed in the attic, under the twinkling Christmas lights, and looking at pictures of your aunt’s art? You told me the advice she had given you, and I had been so inspired. It is so important to believe in oneself and to remember that time is not a fast-food item to quickly consume, but instead a soothing process to breathe through. Before you had told me about what you aunt had said, I had been so worried that I would have to leap onto the next big thing and make something of myself. But afterwards, I feel much more at peace.

Taken by the talented Matthew Zeltzer.

Friends like you help shape me into a better human, and for that, I am eternally grateful. You know I love your music. It holds your essence, cradles it dear. I feel though, that perhaps a certain musician you hold in high regard, or at least, close to the heart, may inadvertently be overshadowing your bright musical prowess. So, a bit of unsought advice: provide support if you want but remember that the world still waits to hear your voice in eager anticipation. But hey, I might be totally in the dark, since it has been a good while since we’ve caught up. Either way, I’m so excited for your album’s release! You will be that much closer to your dreams.

Maria, a proud graduate from Reed College bedecked with golden laurels, surrounded by friends on a crowded lawn.


your friend and fellow artist,


PS: Please tell me about your recent shows, your musical tour around the PNW, and rock climbing with Sarah. How has the house been? How is Teresa these days? Are you fostering puppies these days or no? I miss you a ton, and think of you often. I listen to your music at least once a week, for it soothes the soul. Ah, your voice! ❤


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Behold Empress Caro!

Dear Carolyn,


The letter I sent you has different insides that the text I’m currently e-scribing. We’ve missed skyping each other quite a bit now, playing an ongoing game of phone tag. Since you are a Spring/Fall senior, I imagine you get a fair bit of respite before having to return to campus for Commencement, come summer. I hope you are catching up on much-needed rest and self-love: looking back, I can barely believe the amount of work and energy Reed required of thesis students.

And dear Carolyn, we all understand how you go above and beyond in all things academic (not to mention anything car and baseball related). You are positively inspirational and I miss those long nights spent in the DML or Classics Religion Lounge with you, feverishly working and then falling into brief tea breaks.

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Carolyn, sporting high fashion (as always) at your assistantship at Oxford University Press.

Oh Caro, writing these letters…fills me with these waves of nostalgia. I’ve been listening to this British religious theologian on an audiobook who advises against dwelling in the past but goddamnit, I can’t help it. What would I be without my memories? Identity crisis, always. I guess its just an age thing- this constant self-questioning. At any rate, you don’t seem to be getting much sleep as of late, since you just replied to my facebook message at 3:30 a.m. Hot water infused with honey and ginger (or thinly sliced yuzu lemon) might do the trick, but Reed probably completely threw off your sleep schedule. The peace and quiet that comes with early morning awakenings can also be found late late at night. That’s something I’ve been trying to explain to these insufferably early-morning Japanese folks (don’t misunderstand, it is an ability I greatly admire), but I can’t quite get it across. What is time but the boundaries and titles that we ascribe to it? You can’t grasp it, after all.

Eh, enough of me being wishy washy theoretical. You remember that internship website we were brainstorming over the summer? If you feel like reviving that (once you’ve revived yourself, that is- it takes a while after thesis) at all, I’m totally down. That sort of a pursuit is often in danger of becoming an elaborate database that bogs users down, but I’m confident we could cook up something more useful and instantaneous. Let me know.

Three lovelies at Rennfayre (The C/R coven), sparkling in the summer sun. I remember hanging out with y’all briefly in a niche in the GCC basement during the third day, passing around a spicy PBJ and some diluted rum.

Where will your brain powers, tremendous beauty, and superdrive take you? To a NASCAR race-track? To research British ruins under some prestigious national fellowship? To the advertising world, full of spicy buzzwords and big money? To an archive rich with ancient documents and scholars possessed by the ghosts of the past? I haven’t a clue but it must be so exciting to have the entire world open up to you. Don’t be fearful, for everything and everyone is in utter adoration of you. At least, I am 😉

Brainwaves, steaming coffee, and fist bumps,



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A caricature does little to capture your exuberant personality.

Dear Serra,


Oh Serra! It has been ages since we last held hands and skipped to and fro, but you will always been a warm presence in my life. What are you up to nowadays? I am so happy for you that blues dancing is in your life, for the community and language of it is so positive and loving. I see these photos of your face lit up while partner dancing and I think to myself, “Serra is happy, Serra has found her people”. I’ve never met a more wonderful human being, Serra, before I met you and I was genuinely changed by our friendship. You taught me how to be proud to move my body and that it was more than okay for friends to cuddle and hold hands. I’m so glad I introduced myself to you, during Orientation week in Commons. ❤

You are the one who dances, both in heart and in soul.

I’m writing to you propped up on aching elbows while I recline under a lacy mosquito net hung princess-style over my bed (something I feel like you would delight in). Evidently, Umi, my 7 year old neighbor, really wanted the mosquito net and was a little bit furious that it went to me- the mosquitos were eating me alive. (Once, when I was visiting Nagasaki, Japan with my mother and sister, I woke up to count more than 160 inflated mosquito bites all over my body- somebody had left the window open and it was during the wet season. This time, thankfully, the bugs haven’t been nearly as bad.)

In only a half hour, I have to drag myself out of bed to boil a huge pot of water to make enough soba to feed 9 hungry people. Chika, my host, is frying up some vegetable and octopus tempura, and we’ll soon be counting down for the New Years, tipsy on sake and nama beer. Apparently, soba is a national New Years food. The children will have been long asleep, heads supported by gentle laps. Thats one thing that I especially love about this place: the family dynamic here is incredibly beautiful and warm-hearted. Honestly, I consider this great training for the future, if and when I decide to raise my own family. I don’t really have the best inspiration from my own family, so it is educational and enlightening to live amongst people who love one another in the healthiest of ways.

That first year at Reed College, you went all-out sewing your own costume. You even made an entire basket’s worth of daisy crowns to hand out.

Remember braiding each other’s hair in the Foster-Schulz common room? And running circles around me during jogs down the hill to Milwaukie? Or going all out during SU dances? Geezums, those were the days. I’m so excited for the present, and for the future. Keep in touch, love.

Grinning from ear to ear at thesis parade, when we burned our books like good scholars.

A pirouette,



Thoughts? Questions? Inspirations?

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