Dragon Spirit Training Grounds

RyuShinDo 竜神堂 Dragon Spirit Temple.  I arrived to this site as an assistant to my master.  I was thrilled for three reasons.  One, for all intents and purposes, he is retired.  It is rare for him to be on a job, yet here we were.  Two, it would be just me and him.  I’ve never been on a job with just him before.  Three, it was going to reach nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit that day (37 Celsius).  Had I been at the warehouse practicing, which was the original plan, I would have cooked and perhaps lost my mind.  It gets crazy hot under a tin roof on a second floor.  And it gets beyond sauna humidity, not only from the regular Kyoto air, but also the plaster sending a jillion water droplets into the immediate atmosphere, where I would be on the move creating my own heat to add to the mix.  Get out? With Oyakata? Yes Please.

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We arrived to a closed gate, in an industrial-park-like area 30 minutes south of Kyoto.  Oyakata had the number to the lock on the gate, and another number for the lock on the gate beyond that.  A larger building with an area inside set up to hold Buddhist rituals hid our destination — a small, one-room structure sitting on a platform, which likely enshrines some sacred statue.

The property is under the care of X-Construction Company, a company that works on many temples and traditional buildings.  It seems Shikkui Asahara and this company have worked on the same job sites for decades.  X-Construction sponsors a branch of a temple here, which I can’t tell you the name of because I have forgotten it.  I sort of get it, the construction company paying homage to the spirit-land by sponsoring a temple.  But who uses this space? The (two!) gates are locked.  The yard is overgrown with wild grasses.  Once a year a monk comes to offer prayers for…the company?  Anyway, who am I to question these things.  I’m here to work with Oyakata.

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photo taken after prepping the bottom 30cm for a makeover

We walked behind the main hall to suss out the site.  On first impression, I thought —  is that some kind of kote-e, lime-plaster relief, beneath the eaves?  Then I thought, noooh, that’s a poorly plastered shikkui lime wall.  I’ve learned that walls with undulation collect dust over the years.  While a well-plastered (read: no undulations) lime wall will remain bright white for many decades, a white lime wall with undulations will collect soot and dust on its (ever so slight) humps and bumps and make the wall look darker in places within a matter of a single decade.  People might mistake this for an “aged” wall, but actually it’s just dirty.  This dirt, in turn, holds moisture against the surface of the wall, rather than allowing it to follow gravity’s pull down and away.  It is ultimately about the longevity of the plaster work.  With my newly discerning eye, I could see how the plaster undulated from afar.  Tisk-tisk.  [I soon learned the last time this building was plastered was 40 years ago.  With that perspective, I guess this much dust really isn’t that bad.  With that perspective, it makes this much dust interesting.  And a spoiler-alert: this is a story about being humbled.]

We were there to re-finish the two large walls on the north and west sides, and re-finish small portions of the lower edges of the south and east sides.  We started by scraping away the failing plaster on two of the larger walls.  This was not so hard on the wall on the west side, but the north-side wall was an extreme bear, and took us the bulk of the morning to get off. Why was this plaster, supposedly applied with the same material (lime finish over lime-sand), over the same substrate (clay-sand-straw) so much more difficult to scrape away?  All we could do was marvel and sweat, working from every angle to hack off the old plaster.  I taped the edges to prevent the lime from staining the wood. (But I done wrong.  See below as to how and why.)

After the customary hour-lunch at noon, we were ready to plaster.  This was only my third time trying my hand at shikkui, the marvelous stuff that is Japanese lime plaster.  At Shikkui Asahara, it is customized in various ways.  Often it is about a third shell-based lime, two-thirds mountain-based lime.  This gets mixed with seaweed-glue (seaweed boiled and made mucusy) and hemp fibers.  The lime we used here was called abura-iri-shikkui, or oily-shikkui. The hemp fibers were soaked in vegetable oil, and then blended into the lime-glue mix.  This way the lime gains more durability in the elements.

The Shikkui Asahara crew has recently coerced me into working the primary stages of applying the shikkui finish, always with a watching eye, and saving me as the lime reaches the end of its workability and I haven’t gotten it quite right.  Bless them.  I have to borrow everyone else’s tools, because I don’t own worn-down jigane trowels.  Newer jigane trowels, which have unworn, sharp edges, will catch into the material.  They are harder (in this case, impossible) to work with.  You will loose to time, the double-whammy of substrate and air sucking away the plaster’s moisture while you are trying to flush out your surface.  A well-worn trowel, on the other hand, will glide over the lime while simultaneously pulling the material to where you need it to go.  There is also the matter of the hakugin trowel, made of I know not what metal, and completely new to me as of this trip.  It is used to apply and finish the shikkui wall, depending on who you are working with. Different craftspeople have different preferences for achieving the same goal, even within the same company.  I bought two hakugin trowels (different sizes) and had them for this job, but Oyakata didn’t have me use them.

Yes, complicated stuff.   So on my third experience with shikkui finish, I felt lucky to not just have any master, but to have the master, the Shikkui Asahara by my side.

The first application was with sunabai.  Sunabai is a lime-sand mix, and maybe doesn’t include glue?  But then what is the difference between that and sunajikkui, sandy shikkui? Honestly I’m still quite confused about it.  Oyakata first went around the edges to fill the low areas that had come off when we scraped off the old plaster.  Perhaps the movement of the wood over the years caused the adjacent earth to soften more than the field of the wall.

Together we plastered the sunabai as a first coat over the west wall, over the dry substrate.  Once the sunabai is on, you have to watch as the plaster dries.  (You can start the next wall or do some other prep work and return intermittently to check.)  Wherever you see the surface “go whiter” first, (which means it has dried more than the areas around it), you pull moisture with the trowel from the surrounding areas to the drier spots.  This is because you want even suction of your sunabai substrate for the shikkui finish.  Once the sunabai lacks a sheen (but isn’t completely dry), you apply the first pass of shikkui.  If you apply the first pass in a vertical direction, then you apply the second pass in a horizontal direction, and vice versa.  Why? Think…think think.  I was given a few minutes to ponder, but wasn’t coming up with anything so my brother-worker told me:  By plastering each pass in cross directions, you are laying the fibers in such a way that it adds strength to the whole wall surface system.  Ah, I see, yes.  Brilliant.

We finished out the west wall by letting it dry and coming back to it a number of times and go over it again with the trowel of Oyakata‘s choosing.  (I’m sorry, I couldn’t keep track.) We probably returned two or three times to hit the wall before taking off the tape and hitting it one last time.

Oh the tape.  I did a poor taping job.  Rather than going off the existing substrate 1.5mm, as I had been told to do in previous taping for shikkui on other jobs, I somehow took it upon myself to tape right up to the edge of the white mark created by the previously existing lime plaster surface.  It seemed a reasonable thing to do at the time.  But upon removing the tape, it was woefully clear that I had done wrong.  The thin, bright white lime against the wood that was clearly not a part of the surface of the wall had to be painstakingly removed. The more faint white line from the previous lime was something that would just have to remain anyway.  By taping to the edge of that, and making the edges dirty with the new lime, I only created more work: painful cleaning details.  One lesson learned.

On to the north wall.  After hacking off the previous finish, our substrate was crudely ragged.  Oyakata had me flush it out using sunabai, which he treated as the brown coat.  It would need to dry before the sunabai+2pass-shikkui finish would go on.  Thus we ended a hot day.

The following week we returned to complete the north wall and the small areas at the bottom corners of the east and south walls.

We applied the sunabai layer together, and Oyakata guided me in evening out the moisture of the plaster as it dried.  At the sweet time, we applied the two layers of lime, the first in the opposing direction of the second.  Then he left me to the rest, while he took care of the small sections.  WHAT??!!   He would sometimes return to watch me and tell me how to move and what I was doing poorly and what I needed to aim for.

I tried not to dwell on the fact that I KNOW this wall was not becoming flat.  It was intensely covered with undulations, and there was no way to fix it, no matter how I moved my trowel.  And figuring out the feelings and sensations of the wall, traveling through my trowel to my  hand to my arm to my shoulder to my body… what it means and feels like to be gentle with it.  How to recognize where the plaster is softer than the area you’ve hit with the trowel just next to it, so as to let up on the pressure and not cause a different texture there.  It’s all so subtle, and each subtlety is so important.  I learned so much and…

I am certain, that in 40 years time, you will see a dirty wall on that north side.

And I spent that time wondering, perhaps the sakan who plastered those other dirty walls was being allowed a training ground.  Maybe, like me, they were permitted to work on this special home for the Dragon Spirit precisely in order to gain experience, in order to reach a deeper appreciation and understanding of the task at hand.  Maybe, like me, they were really, really lucky to be given the opportunity.  Maybe, like me, by the time they walked away, they were completely humbled.

And you know what?  I’m really glad that we didn’t touch that Hollywood wall above the doorway, the one that looked from afar to be an art piece of troweled relief.  True to its name, Dragon Spirit Temple, there appear to be two dragons emerging from the white clouds, don’t you think?  40 years from now, I wonder how much clearer they will reveal themselves.Version 3

 

 

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Prelude to the NHK World show: the process to the nakanuri finish

[THE SHOW: Kyoto Walls: Elegance Molded from Earth

Airing on July 7, 2016, on NHK World, Core Kyoto’s classical Kyoto walls episode will include scenes of this nakanuri finish application on site.  The following blog entry describes how the plaster was created, and about the application.  Depending on how they edit the footage shot on site, you will get to see a pro in action with this very plaster, saving me from pretending I can take it to the finish.  The show will be available online for a month. (If you happen to get the NHK World channel, it will show four times on Thursday, July 7th, Japan time.)  It is very exciting.  The channel airs to 170 countries, and 200 MILLION households.  Maybe seeing a white girl speaking Japanese, with English subtitles, will tickle people’s attention.  Maybe they will remember this elegant earthen option when refinishing the walls of their own homes.  I hope you and your friends watch!  I know it will be fascinating.]

Nakanuri is typically just the same as a “brown coat,” meaning, it’s the plastered application before the finish plaster, or the substrate to the finish plaster.  Depending on the structure and the budget, though, it can sometimes be the finish coat itself.  In that case, it is often prepared especially to serve that purpose.  I was able to document the process while Asahara Ichiro and I prepared the two different nakanuri finishes used for the residence that became a special place to me:  the location where the NHK World film crew took footage of my mentor, Ichiro, pumping up the scene for them to film the odd American girl that’s hooked on this classical Japanese plastering stuff.

So, without further ado…

TWO CUSTOMIZED PLASTERS

Materials

Prepping the materials

Clay

Sand

Straw

Mixing the materials  (the photo on the left tells the most)

Loading the materials

 

THE APPLICATION / ON SITE

Nakanuri always goes on in two passes with a jigane trowel.  Here, being the finish, it gets a little extra attention.  After the second pass is applied, a 0.4mm thick hanyaki trowel is used to give the right texture.  The crew aimed to barely expose the straw, while it lay at the surface in “just the right way,” a soft way.  Note: no compression.

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Big hallway wall, still wet

This was an old house, so most of the substrates that were being plastered were arakabe, or scratch coat of clay/straw over bamboo lattice work.  That means you loose your moisture much quicker than going over something like drywall, which is not so absorbent.  This crew doesn’t even think about keeping the windows closed to keep from loosing moisture to the wind, the way I’ve done for finishes over strawbale walls in the U.S.  They just open the windows right up and welcome in the cool breeze.  They work with that much speed and confidence.  We didn’t use tape on this job except for the walls that were finished with lime or lime-clay.

 

 

Dancing

Anyone who knows me long enough knows I love to dance.

The first bit of advice I ever received from my master Asahara Yuzo was  imparted to me with decided seriousness through a huge smile.  It was maybe our first time ever meeting, in the hallway of Kyoto’s plaster academy.  He said this:  If you plaster while imagining Japanese Noh dancing, your wall will be beautiful.

Naito-san, the currently retired plasterer who is friends all over the world with Japanese-style carpenters that he has worked with over his many decades, lovingly recalls that people call him the Danshingu Purastaaman (aka “Dancing Plasterman”). See his smooth moves here.

Kyle Holzhueter, a serious practitioner of sakan work in Japan and teacher around the world, says this about this video of Kusumi Akira found online: “Notice his efficient movement and almost dance like quality.”

This craft is so hard.  I find myself really struggling every day to get to where I  need to be just to accomplish something better than the last time.  I know I’m so far from being anywhere near the skill level required to do even a basic “nakanuri” brown coat finish.  Word has it that opportunity is coming up here soon.  I’m nervous.

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It looks nice, right? But see that slickness at the bottom forward area? That will appear differently than the rest of the wall upon drying, and likely denotes a low (or high?!) area, or somewhere I compressed too much. It has to be even through and through.

I’m really nervous because last week I needed to do what I was doing better than I was doing it in less than half the time it was taking me.  My practice boards are varying sizes.  There’s one certain section that, according to my mentor, should be finished through two passes within half an hour, and even that is pushing time limits if you want to beat the moisture loss, your plaster’s water being sucked away by the substrate while simultaneously evaporating into thin air.

I am stoked to report that even with Golden Week giving me a break, yesterday I got two passes done on that frame in 35 minutes.  But it’s not pretty.  Still… It took me 55 minutes the time before.

How did I get there?

It took this wall to tell me:  Dance.

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6×6-ish.  The 30-minute wall in question is half this size.

Telling me Dance.  Telling me I’ll get there by letting the trowel tell me what’s going on with the wall, by letting my dance partner tell me what I need to do to make the right, sure, accurate moves that bring out the beauty.  Alternating pressure and grazes at just the right rhythm, moving quick and slick so we don’t wear each other out.  No tension.  Easing.

Give thanks I’ve still got lots of hours in the studio before I hit the dance floor.  I need all the practice I can get.

A Shipwright and a Treasure

My last day of Golden Week vacation I surprised myself by going to Kobe.  I was drawn to visit Douglas Brooks, who has been stationed at the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum over the last month building a wooden boat based on a design that is native to the tsunami disaster zone.

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Douglas Brooks speaks with an 82 year old, 4th generation ship builder who was visiting the museum that day.  The rest of this man’s visit was spent in a wheelchair, but for this conversation he was upright and lit up! (By the way the back end of the boat has a bend that’s created through a firing process.)

There is only one man in the region who knows how to build these boats anymore, which have been used for harvesting abalone and sea urchins.  90% of these handmade wooden boats were completely destroyed five years ago.  Douglas has a passion for wooden boat crafting and deep commitment to preserving Japan’s rapidly disappearing, completely unique vernacular.  We began corresponding by email nearly a decade ago.  This was our first time meeting face-to-face, and I am greatly appreciative to know him and his wife now.  We traverse the same respect for the utterly unparalleled crafts of this land.

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We both wonder, how do you pass on these skills, earned from time consuming, painstaking labor, to an interested audience with an unshakable habit to want the results of their desires instantly?  Douglas says we have lost our ability to observe, and in his boatbuilding classes back in Vermont he is employing the art of “no-talking.”  It has been transforming the students’ lives.  You’re not aware that you lack the power of observation until you are faced with a need to observe, and realize you cannot remember what you just witnessed.  Then again, with craftsmanship formed over centuries, it is not so simple as that.  Each part of the body has a different job, and must perform the motions unconsciously and simultaneously.  It takes years to develop this muscle memory and ability to subconsciously draw from the knowledge database in the mind/body.  In my case, I want, no I need to convey that I may never teach Japanese plaster finishes, which is the only thing that most of the interested audience is concerned with.  Is that very unsatisfying to you?  I want to present it in a way that everyone walks away deeply satisfied, more skilled than ever.  But only rarities see the value in washing buckets.  Few want to spend months preparing the materials, recognizing the skill set that can only be developed with this tedious task.  But really, that is what it takes to know what you are supposed to do when it comes time to put plaster on the wall.  It really does take years to learn this stuff.  Anyone who says differently just doesn’t know.

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A display of the bones and the basics of a tea house.

To add to the treasure box that was this meeting is the box itself.  The museum.  Talk about tool porn (pardon me, how else to say?)!  Especially for carpenters that are into hand tools.  This museum has taken great effort to present the traditional building craft of Japan in a way that engages people of all learning styles, from children to elderly.  There are touchables and videos in each area of the displays, each part extremely well done (and in English too!).  There’s a hands-on lab where I could spend days making spoons, musical knickknacks, boat replicas…  And of course, the almighty classical earthen plaster craft display.  Set it in your calendar, they will have a special exhibit on plaster tools in September this year!

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This is a rammed earth wall by Kusumi Naoki, son of the man above. Opposing this is another one of these, two stories high.

And last but by no means least, the main floor’s exterior and interior were plastered with Japan’s shikkui lime (using seaweed paste) by none other than the crew that is training your truly, Shikkui Asahara.  My delight that they had a hand in this incredible museum came from a place of utter unastonishment.  Of course they did.  They are among the best, and this museum is all about displaying the best, at their best.  Come to this museum.

Good fortune like this

 

Infrequently, people come in and out of the warehouse while I’m practicing.  If I’m lucky, they stick around to tell me what I’m missing.  One of my first days in the practice den I got SUPER lucky.  Asahara Ichiro, my mentor, appeared just as I was getting ready to start another session.  When I saw what he was doing, though, I immediately asked if I could take a video.  To my utter delight, he said yes.  Here’s the trailer:

He is plastering the base coat, and currently (about a month later) the first application has dried and it is awaiting the next layer.  I’ve learned that some places do two “shitanuri” or base coats.  The second (brown) coat is always done with two passes on walls, so I presume the same is true of the rodan.  Then there is the super thin finish coat.  I would be so lucky to witness any of these being applied.  It is commonly said that those who plaster rodan are absolutely masterful.

The rodan is set into the floor, just above flush with the tatami mats.  This style is used only in the fall and winter months, I hear.  In spring and summer, charcoal beds above floor level are favored.  If a rodan like this one gets good use, it may be replastered after a year.  If use is infrequent, they can last a couple decades.  Only, in that case, the wood often rots out due to moisture, and the box needs replacing.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m in Kyoto, a hotbed for classical Japanese culture, but within just a few days of my fluttering at the rare encounter, I chanced on this specialty multiple times.  The first took place right around the corner from my home, the very next day.  A man was plastering the “nakanuri” brown coat of a rodan in his garage.  I peddled by at first, craning my neck, and then curiosity got the better of me and I turned around.  We chatted, and he confirmed it was rare to be plastering a rodan.  However, the following day at my plaster academy I was speaking with the only other current female student, and she informed me that her family specializes in fixing rodan.  When practitioners of tea in Kyoto need their rodan redone, they are frequently referred to the Kato’s.  Restoring rodan is their main bread and butter.  How cool.

And then, after all that work, only about 20 percent of the surface plaster remains visible.  It’s rather metaphorical for the “hidden” nature of this craft, in general.  It’s so much deeper than meets the eye…

If you are a plaster geek, you may enjoy the full version of the video, which can be found here:

 

(Featured image is an ukiyoe by Adachi Ginko, “Jyorei Shiki No Uchi”)

Make it happen:

I am being spoiled.  I feel a little enchanted by this, and at the same time keenly aware that it will not last.  At least, I hope not.  Because, being given free reign to do as I please, I am afraid I will miss something.

I know the world of Japanese plaster apprenticeships.  I expected I would be diving in a bit rough-and-tumble, like before. The day does not proceed at “my pace,” it proceeds at the pace that the demanding work at hand demands.  You have to keep up, or you trouble others.  You have to be quick, be clean, be on it,for the sake of others.  Me?  Right now, I’ve been handed the key to the warehouse and told I can practice whenever I want on the practice boards.  And so I am, and will continue to do so.  All day, every day, until I’m on site. This is highly unusual.

It is a visa issue.  The general contractor of the job that the Shikkui Asahara crew is presently working won’t let me on site.  It has to do wth Workers Accident Insurance, which can only be obtained by someone who is a laborer, i.e., paid.  I cannot be paid, because my visa explicitly prohibits me from earning wages.  Catch it, 22.  As soon as a job comes that I can join, they’ll have me on site.  Give thanks, one is in the works.

(This is new to me on this blog…toggle over the photos and “click” to see captions.)

But I could not be more thrilled.  Two days ago, my master’s son, Ichiro — who, from now on, I will refer to as my mentor, for simplicity’s sake — took me to the warehouse to remind me where it is, and to watch me plaster.  He and I never worked together on the same site during my previous months with the company, eight years ago, and he wanted to see what I can do.  I threw all my habits at the wall.  He observed.  When I was done, he took up the hawk and trowel.  He told me the trowel I had used was too big for me, and told me what size I aught to use.  He showed me how I aught to use it.  He told me that if I’m to imagine myself keeping up with the guys, I have to do a little at a time, and place every trowel-load perfectly, so I don’t have to take the time to go back over it.  10-4.

So all yesterday, and all today, I reacquainted myself with all the habits I was learning before my sudden departure from my Japanese training.  Eight years of habits formed without the benefit of a mentor — eight years of habits that do not produce perfectly flat walls, that do not demand clean backs of the trowel.  Honestly, I’m so surprised how quickly my speed and my form have improved in just two days.  Granted, my practice frames are not large.  That makes things easier.  So does having a trowel that suits my skill set and strength.

Oh, right, didn’t I tell you?  After months of preparation and visa-getting, I arrived in Kyoto on March 8, in time for the new moon.  It’s been, what, three weeks?  I got a phone, found an apartment, spent a few days in my old hometown Toyama, built my nest so that when training started I wouldn’t have to think about how to sleep others or feed myself.  Small miracles seem to occur each day, still.  Sure, there was a fair share of mishaps, near-meltdowns, all a result of being a bit too ambitious in this country that is not the United States, and actually quite unfamiliar to me in a number of ways.  (Ah, speaking of small miracles, I just had to get up because of a knock at the door.  My fairy god mother figure from Toyama just sent me two boxes of kitchen items.  Hooray dishes and nabe hot pot!)

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better each time.   still a far way to go.

“No Mud, No Lotus”

More than four months have gone by since my last blog post.  The campaign was very successful — just over $3,000 raised by 90 supporters.  I was back in Colorado by the time it ended.  Life had thrown a twist (again), and called me back to my old home to be with my dog Acha as her body deteriorated, and her spirit departed.  I learned so much.  Beyond this body something continues, more beautiful than we can imagine.  It should be a celebration!  But…getting there, and witnessing loved ones go there, is really hard.  We miss them, even before they go.  Though Acha died in my arms mid-June, I remained in Durango for more than a month after that.  It felt like home.  I had plaster work.  I am grateful for having been pulled back there, for an intimate experience with death (both Acha’s and, the day before, the 93 year old man I took on care-giving work for), and for reconnecting with people whose lives, stories, and perspectives are dear to me.

And then…

I returned to the Deer Park Monastery job with Rebecca Tasker, Mike Long, their employee Brian Daniels, and a new plastering friend, Stevan De La Rosa.  We applied finish plaster to Thich Nhat Hahn’s home, and another dormitory area.  The fluidity of the crew and the work, learning a new plaster and honing techniques, and the bliss of working and staying on temple grounds had two weeks going by in a flash.  It felt wonderful to be encompassed by the wet clay as it was applied to the straw bale structures.  We watched the plaster dry, then compressed and brushed it to reveal micacious sparkles (occurring naturally in the material used).  Thich Nhat Hahn’s hallway has a skylight that throws rainbows into the space.  Together with the plaster, the beauty makes for instantaneous deep relaxation and a sense of peace.  Sorry, the photo doesn’t nearly do it justice, so I will refrain from posting it.

Since leaving the monastery, I have met a string of new friends.  I learned the joy of Southern California beaches, the paradise that is Tassajara Zen Center, the wild proximity that is Big Sur.

Between those adventures, I stayed a number of days in L.A.  I had a three-hour lunch with the associate director of the Getty Conservation Institute, which still feels like an enormous gift.  It was a big deal.  The GCI is foremost in conservation research in the world?  I think that’s true.  Jeanne Marie Teutonico and I celebrated the same understanding; that, together, earthen architecture conservationists (with their vast knowledge of materials used in the past) and modern-day earthen architects (who have innovated over the last few decades without the benefit of training from a living culture of earthen buildings) have our best chance of achieving our shared goal — to foster a more beautiful, healthful world.  The hope is to get all of us together, working together and feeding off each others’ work to infiltrate the commercial industry.  That would be very cool.  After that, I connected with Japanese foundations.  I danced in Hollywood.  L.A. was very good to me.

Now I’ve landed in Berkeley, at Leslie Buck’s, a gardener friend who, like me, trained in Kyoto.  She has a generous and comfortable set up for those of us traveling through.  Her neighbor and good friend is Sayuri Suzuki, of Suzuki Tools, who is also becoming a fast friend.

I had come to the Bay Area to fix some plaster on San Francisco’s Green Gulch Zen Center.  Upon assessment last week, though, it is clear that the structure itself needs some carpentry attention before re-plastering.  I thought I would be plastering, but it does not serve the building, so I am not.  Yet.  I will go tomorrow to begin making plaster samples, so when the time is ripe, the materials will be ready.

Meanwhile, what do I do with myself?  After a rigorous and fast-paced number of weeks on the go, I find myself struggling with how to manage open time.  Play tourist in San Francisco?  (Perhaps…)  Learn to sail at Cal Sailing Club? (Yes, starting today : )  Read books!

I feel confident that I’m OK, that I’m not “missing” anything, that indeed dreams are progressing and goals are manifesting.  (If I am missing something, may it become apparent to me soon so I may address it.)  I admit to feeling some nervousness around fundraising for our team to be in Japan, to train with the traditional Japanese plasters.  The world of grants is still an unfamiliar one, yet I am relying on grant makers to see the value of my vision, and support the process.  What I want to achieve with the Japanese Earthen Plaster Exchange is important.  I won’t give up.  It will happen.