making a difference

Lights out

“what remains” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

“what remains” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

My son Gabriel is an unusual kid: while other twelve-year old boys like to play video games, he prefers to watch BBC science documentaries. So much so, in fact, that his dreams have included a narrator with a British accent.

He has matter-of-factly explained to me that the average mammal species lasts about one million years. On a planet more than four billion years old, that’s the blink of an eye. This means that Homo sapiens, the clever species that tamed fire and invented the iPhone, could be gone before we know it.

lights out
we discuss
our extinction

What with all the grocery lists and oil changes of everyday life, it’s easy to lose the grand perspective. But the truth is that for all our striving, even the most influential and famous of our species—President Obama, Pope Francis, Oprah Winfrey—will be forgotten long before the pebbles on the beach turn to sand.

Yes, there is something sad about all this. Billions of people work hard every day to make it through this life and to leave something of lasting value. Yet in geological time, all this effort will amount to approximately nothing.

At the same time, I find some reassurance in taking the (very) long view. It puts our human insanities in perspective, and enables a sort of Zen detachment from the grim daily headlines. Keeping the big picture in mind helps me find a sense of lightness and acceptance of our predicament.

what remains
of the mountain
sand between my toes

OK, so nothing I can do in my time here will last longer than the flap of a butterfly’s wing. Ultimately, this helps clarify what’s really important. Not money, degrees, titles, or fame. Not even the amazing children my husband and I are raising: in a hundred years, we’ll all be history.

At the risk of sounding too woo-woo, I’ve come to feel that what matters—and what may be the only real and lasting thing—is the energy and intention that we put out in the world as we do our work. Call it spirit. Call it love. And no matter how much time we are given, no matter how long our species survives, let’s make the best of it, and call it good.

“what remains” was first published as a haiku in With Cherries on Top, Ed. Michael Dylan Welch, Press Here (2012), and reprinted in this world:Haiku Society of America Members' Anthology (2013). The art was first published on Haigaonline (December 2013).

Makino Studios News

Wet Paint: Ten new haiga (haiku paintings) have been posted to the Current Work section of the Gallery on this site.

Red Moon Anthology: The poem below was selected for a just-published collection of the best haiku of 2013, fear of dancing: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2013, edited by Jim Kacian:

cowlick
some part of me
still wild

Annette’s Blog: For previous posts, including this one from June 2012 on Gabriel’s scientific perspectives, see Parallel Universes.

NaHaiWriMo: February is National Haiku Writing Month. Get daily prompts and share your efforts on the NaHaiWriMo Facebook page.

Stories you told me

“through sun and cloud” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper. It is also available as a print or card.

“through sun and cloud” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper. It is also available as a print or card.

In the nonprofit world where I used to work, funders were always asking for “success stories,” examples of how their support was making a direct impact. While those kinds of stories could be hard to come by, in my current life as an artist and writer, I hear them all the time.

One reason I like to do fairs is to market-test new designs before I offer them widely to stores. Another reason is for the chance to talk directly with my customers. So let's say for a moment that you are a billionaire philanthropist and patron of the arts. These recent stories collected from my customers will serve as my year-end report to you.

• People have given the above painting of a jacaranda tree in bloom as a sympathy card, as an anniversary card, and to friends going through chemotherapy. A few weeks ago, a woman told me she had had a fight with her sister. She first called to apologize, and then sent her this card:

through sun and cloud
I hold you
in my heart

• At a holiday fair last month, a burly guy in a skydiving sweatshirt bought seven of my cards, all for his wife, who loves my art. He explained that whenever he goes out of town, he leaves her one card for every night he’ll be gone.

• Every year, two women friends who live far apart buy the same calendar so they can share the same image each month. For 2014, they chose my “Poetry & Honey” calendar.

• A 93-year-old woman who is housebound ordered ten of my calendars as thank you gifts for all the people who bring her meals and otherwise help her.

• A beekeeper in Hawaii received one of my handmade bee books for Christmas, and loved it so much she is ordering honeybee-themed prints and books for her honey store on the Big Island.

• A father sent his daughter off to college on the East Coast with this framed seashell print for her dorm room, to remind her to stay true to herself:

listen—
the song of your heart
is playing

“river flow” is 6×4, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

“river flow” is 6×4, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

• An artist sent my “river flow” card to a family member who was going through a difficult but necessary divorce, and it was just the right message:

river flow
returning me
to myself

While I pass tedious January days counting up inventory and wrestling with year-end accounting, it’s stories like these that sustain me. The running thread is that my work is helping people to find joy and meaning in their day-to-day lives, and, through sun and cloud, to deepen their bonds with the people they love.

To you, my customers and friends, thanks for your support and for sharing your stories. And please keep them coming! You may not be in a position to give out six-figure grants, but you are surely rich in stories, and in spirit.

Makino Studios News

New Art Featured: Eleven of my haiga (haiku art pieces) are appearing online for the first time in a web-based gallery on Haigaonline. (At the bottom left, click "online gallery," then click "Annette Makino.") I would love to know if you'd like to see any of these as cards, not necessarily with the same words.

New Store: The sparkling Holly Yashi Store in Arcata, CA now carries my cards, prints and handmade bee books. If you’re in town, you can also watch them making their beautiful jewelry.

Unfortunate Events Update: I appreciate all the sympathy and suggestions in response to my last post, A series of unfortunate events. I’m glad to report that the bizarre streak of misfortunes ended just before I wrote that account!

This one wild and precious life

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.