An Artist's Reflection On Japan

An Artist's Reflection On Japan

A land where new and old coexist.

During the summer of 2014, I traveled for two weeks with the Columbus State University Art Department to study art in Japan. We stayed in Kiryu the first week, the sister city of Columbus, GA, located in the mountains of Japan. In Kiryu, we learned how to do traditional Sumi ink painting on washi paper, known as Suibokuga. The beauty of this art form is that each brush stroke is expressive and must flow in the painting. We also visited a Washi paper craftsman who lived and worked in the mountains making paper from plant root fiber and bark. Our second week was spent touring both modern and historical museums in Kyoto and Tokyo. We visited the Golden Temple, explored Kyoto via bike, saw Ryoanji Temple’s famous rock garden and crossed Shibuya crossing. Through these experiences, we were making drawings and paintings reflecting on what we saw. For my final project I chose to do an ink rendition on a scroll of two Koi fish, comprised of symbols and images that made up both old and modern Japan. This theme came from an adventure I had while I was still in Kiryu.

With the rising sun, a fellow student and I had decided to go on a hike to Tenamngu Shrine at the base of the tallest mountain in Kiryu. We needed to be back from our hike before breakfast was to be served in the Toseikan Inn, so we got ready quickly, tiptoeing on our tatami mats to avoid waking up our roommates. As we changed from our slippers to our walking shoes, the keeper of the inn who was sweeping the hall gave us a cheerful “Ohayō” which is good morning in Japanese. We set off onto the street, and we were greeted by the shopkeepers who were opening their stores for the day. Their shops were filled with fresh produce, Sumi ink, ceramic wares, boutiques, computer parts and convenience stores with all sorts of snacks like rice balls and melon-pan bread. Residents were up watering and tending to their perfectly manicured gardens. It might be a true statement that every house had if not a garden at least a few potted plants. There is a strong connection to nature felt in Japan. A walk through Kiryu shows the balance between what is old and the new that has grown around it. An example would be the small Shrines sometimes juxtaposed directly with vending machines.

As we got closer to Tenamngu, the architecture began to shift from concrete square businesses to more traditional Japanese homes with tile roofing. As we rounded a bend in the road, we saw the massive stone gate marking the entrance to the shrine. When we passed through this massive structure, a perceptible shift could be felt in the atmosphere. We had left the hustle of the city for the calm tranquility of the shrine. We were not the only ones there. An older man practiced Tai Chi under a thatched roof, and an old woman swept the dirt paths with a twig broom. We cleansed our hands in the well and approached the ancient structure. The building had a presence rising from the stone on which it was built. Intricate wooden carvings decorated the surfaces, which imbued the building with movement and grace. The perfectly balanced architecture was a work of art, but it was something more for the Japanese people. The shrine existed as a place of worship, a cultural center, an escape from the city, as well as a connection to the past. Though we might have been strangers there, we could not help but feel the peace and tranquility the area possessed. Even in modern Japan, this sort of ancient connection could be found because it was not only preserved, but continuing on in its function as shrine for the people who lived there. We set off back to the Toseikan, wishing we had enough time to remain a little longer.

This is similar to the feeling we had when we left Japan, but we left with more than we came. We now have an understanding and appreciation for the land of Japan and the people who call it home. The most important realization was the way the past and the present can coexist so perfectly.

Cover Image Credit: Julianna Wells

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To the guy that shot my brother...


To the guy that shot my brother,

On January 9, 2019 my families entire life changed with one phone call. The phone call that my little brother had been shot in the face, no other details. We didn't need any other details. The woman on the phone who called us in full panic told us where he was so we went, as soon as possible. I don't think it helped that not even 10 min prior I talked to Zach on the phone.. kind of irritated with him, and the ONE TIME I didn't say 'I love you' as we hung up. Could've been the last time we ever spoke.. I remember pulling up to the hospital thinking 'this can't be real' 'it's not our Zach' 'this is just a dream Sarah, WAKE UP' I'd close my eyes really tight just to open them, I was still in the hospital emergency parking lot. I could still hear the ambulance sirens coming. It was all real.

The day our life's changed was definitely a test of faith. A test of how strong we were, as a family. I sat in that waiting room ready to see the damage that has been done to my sweet baby brother. Because at that point we had no idea how lucky he got. That glimpse of seeing Zach will haunt me forever. How helpless I felt in that exact moment frequently wakes me up from these horrific dreams I've been having ever since that day. That is a moment burned into my me and families brain forever.

You always hear about these things in the movies or on the news, a house being shot up, someone shooting another innocent person, not to care if they died on your watch. But we found ourselves on the news.. We have been confined to the hospital since that day. Running on barely any sleep, taking shifts of sleep so we don't make ourselves sick taking care of Zach. Watching him suffer. Undergoing surgeries, to repair the damage you did.

Before I proceed let me tell you a little something about the man you shot.

Zachary Keith Wright. A blonde hair blue eyed boy. Who could potentially be the most annoying human on the planet (possibly coming from his sister). A man who loves his God first, loves his family second. Perfect by no means, but almost perfect to me. A 19 year old who was to graduate high school this month. After graduation he was prepping to leave for Marine boot camp in the summer.. being in the military has been Zach's dream since he could talk. Literally. Running around, playing war with underwear on our heads, and finger guns. Some would say we looked like natural born assassins.. growing up he has been a country boy. Let me tell ya country to the core. He loves this country like he loves his family. He believes in helping people, taking charge in what's right, and never leaving a brother behind. He's lived by that his whole life. Until now....

The day you shot him. The day not only did you change my brothers life, you changed his families life too. The day you almost ripped my brother out of this world... for what? A misunderstanding? Because you've let something take ahold of your life that you can't let go you're willing to kill someone innocent over? Luckily for him, his guardian angels were protecting him in your time of cowardice. There were 3 times that day he should've died, the time you shot him, the time you tried to shoot him again as he stared you directly in the face, (even tho he couldn't talk I know you could read his eyes, and he still intimidated you. That's why you tried to pull the trigger again) and the time he was running out of the house. But he lived. A man who was shot in the face, didn't lay there helpless, didn't scream in agony. That MAN walked to the neighbors to get help. Why? Because he's a MAN, and because he's on this earth for a reason.

It's gonna sound a little strange not only to you, but the audience who is reading this. I must say thank you. Even in this situation, this was the best outcome we could get. He gets to live. He will make a full recovery. He will graduate. And he will go off into the Marines. You united my family together. Closer than ever. Thank you. You tested our faith and brought us closer to our God. Thank you. Because of your moment of weakness, you showed us what prayer could do. Heal anything. Thank you. This was a bump in the road, and a helluva way to kick off our year of 2019. But here we are.. all laying in the hospital. I'm looking around as mom is sleeping in her recliner chair exhasted but still here, Zach his awake playing his xbox all hooked up to machines, fighting to heal and get better. And of course I'm writing this letter to you.

See you in trial,

From the girl whose brother you shot.

'Fight the good fight' - 1 Tim 6:12 🤟🏼💙

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