travel

A trail-blazing woman

“with age comes wisdom” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is available as a  birthday card . © Annette Makino 2015

“with age comes wisdom” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is available as a birthday card. © Annette Makino 2015

Today I mailed this “wise owl” card to my great-aunt for her 109th birthday. No, that is not a typo. Helene “Helli” Stehle was born to a butcher and his wife on December 6, 1907, in Basel, Switzerland.

But longevity is by no means the most remarkable thing about Helli. This pioneering woman first achieved fame in Switzerland as a stage actor playing strong characters. She has always been a vibrant, strong-willed woman with a great zest for life, so I can imagine how riveting her performances must have been.

She gradually began working in radio, performing and directing plays and reciting poetry for Basel’s state-run radio station, Radiostudio Basel. With the outbreak of World War II, all her male colleagues were called to active duty. So in 1939, Helli became Switzerland’s first female newscaster. She was soon widely known through the region; when she was out in public, strangers would recognize her by her voice.

She eventually became the chief newscaster and a mentor to many younger journalists. Meanwhile, she continued to act in and direct radio plays until her retirement in 1967. She is now Switzerland’s oldest living actor.

My great-aunt never married or had children—in those days, only single women were allowed to work in state jobs. But she had one great love, Otto Crone, a calm and quiet actor who grew up in Russia. He eventually moved into another apartment in Helli’s building; over their decades together, Helli learned to speak Russian.

When I was eight, my adventurous aunt joined my family as we travelled around Japan, soaking in the communal baths and sleeping on the floor in traditional inns. On train rides, she and I enjoyed many conversations in a secret, nonsensical language we made up called “Bochisch.” And she would perform comic vignettes for my sisters and me again and again on request.

Deep into retirement, she continued to travel. On one trip to Russia, her suitcase got lost on the flight over, and she gamely spent the week wearing shirts borrowed from the gentlemen in her group. She took gymnastics and Russian conversation classes well into her 90s, and had a circle of dear friends, many of them much younger.

In 1939, Helli Stehle became the first woman newscaster in Switzerland, for Radiostudio Basel. She is seen here in 1955.

In 1939, Helli Stehle became the first woman newscaster in Switzerland, for Radiostudio Basel. She is seen here in 1955.

When Helli turned 100, the Basel radio station threw a big party in her honor where she was warmly feted. A few months later, she finally moved into an assisted living home, but she gave an interview as recently as 2010, on the occasion of her 103rd birthday.

Back in 1999, when my grandmother turned 100, her birthday party was attended by a Basel city official. He joked with my grandmother that he would be back in five years for her 105th. Ever witty, her sister Helli replied to him, “Ah, but whether you will still be around…?”

My grandmother lived to a ripe old 104. Who would ever have thought that her little sister would beat that record by five years and counting?

However much longer my dear aunt Helli sticks around, she has inspired me and countless others through her example as a powerful, creative woman, forging her own path.

leaping waves
all the strong women
before me

warmly, Annette Makino

UPDATE: Helli Stehle died in Basel, Switzerland on August 27, 2017. She was 109.

Makino Studios News

Mother's sculpture show: My mom, Erika Makino, took up sculpture around age 80, and now, at 88, she is showing her clay and cement pieces in a solo exhibit. The show opens this Friday, Dec. 2 in Ukiah, California (details in this Ukiah Daily Journal article).

Free shipping through November: Use shipping code FREESHIP2016 for free shipping in the US through this Wednesday, November 30 on orders of $15 or more from the Makino Studios Etsy shop. There you will find my 2017 calendar, laser-engraved wooden keychains, holiday and everyday greeting cards and signed prints.

Arcata Holiday Crafts Market: My only public event of the holidays, this fair includes many local artists and craftspeople, plus music and food. It runs Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 11, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Arcata Community Center, Arcata.

Pierson Made in Humboldt Fair: You can pick up my calendars, cards and prints at this fair of crafts and specialty foods handmade in Humboldt County. It runs through Dec. 24 at Pierson Garden Shop, 4100 Broadway Street, Eureka.

Journey to Japan

“the time we are given” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2014

“the time we are given” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2014

Well, I’ve been back from Japan for almost a month now, and I still can't begin to describe this heart-expanding trip. Much as I had planned and anticipated the journey (see my last post, Eastward ho!), it was even better than I could have imagined.

Over three weeks in June, my family and I explored serene Zen gardens and bustling city streets. We spent one day hiking the ancient Nakasendo trail between post towns, and another day hiking through ten thousand vermillion torii gates at a shrine in Kyoto.

We climbed to the top of a 400-year old castle and we soaked in mountain hot springs. We shopped in glitzy malls, a temple flea market, and a tiny paintbrush store founded in 1863. At an alley bar with just nine seats, we heard a Japanese duo play American jazz. Inside the moat of a wooden castle, we happened on a free concert by a popular boy band. We hiked through bamboo forests and flew past rice paddies on bullet trains.

There are about ten thousand gates at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto.

There are about ten thousand gates at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto.

We were mystified by the high-tech toilets with explanatory signs only in Japanese—a member of our party, who wishes to remain anonymous, learned the hard way that the big red button is not for flushing, but to call an attendant in case of emergency! One day at a busy Kyoto subway station, we encountered about a hundred massive sumo wrestlers, all wearing colorful summer kimonos and top knots.

We were amused by the odd English translations, like the restaurant offering “pig hormone soaked in a pot.” At the Meiji shrine in Tokyo, among the hand-lettered prayers for good health and high exam scores, we found one we could relate to: “I pray that America doesn’t elect Donald Trump.”

Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa is considered one of the top three gardens in Japan.

Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa is considered one of the top three gardens in Japan.

Our 19-year old daughter Maya, whose main exposure to Japan had been the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki, kept exclaiming, “This is so frickin’ dope! It’s like anime, only real life!”

Our 14-year old son Gabriel ate everything in sight, from breakfasts of grilled fish and pickled vegetables to chunks of battered octopus passed among bar patrons. But he passed on the sardine tea offered at one ramen joint, even though the sign promised, “Tastes like a junior high student.”

A Makino family cemetery in Kurabuchi, Gunma prefecture, goes back ten generations.

A Makino family cemetery in Kurabuchi, Gunma prefecture, goes back ten generations.

We also visited with my relatives, enjoying their warm hospitality and hearing about the Makino family's samurai ancestry.

A highlight was spending a day at Makino Brewery in the mountains beyond Takasaki, a business run by my second cousin which has been making award-winning sake for 320 years. Near the brewery, by a bamboo grove, is the Makino temple and a family cemetery where ten generations of Makinos are buried.

Annette Makino takes in the peaceful garden at the Nezu Museum in Tokyo.

Annette Makino takes in the peaceful garden at the Nezu Museum in Tokyo.

The beauty of Japan flooded my mind and heart. I’m sure I will draw inspiration from this trip for years to come. It was a great blessing to celebrate Makino Studios’ fifth anniversary with this “bucket list” family adventure. Thanks to all who made this trip possible by supporting my artistic journey along the way!

the time we are given . . .
sparks rise through darkness
to join the stars

(tinywords 14.2)

Annette Makino surrounded by husband Paul, daughter Maya and son Gabriel in Tsumago at the end of a day of hiking the Nakasendo trail.

Annette Makino surrounded by husband Paul, daughter Maya and son Gabriel in Tsumago at the end of a day of hiking the Nakasendo trail.

Makino Studios News

More Japan photos: If you'd like to see more images of our trip to Japan (mostly shot on my iPhone 6S), I've temporarily made this Facebook album public.

Summer retreat: The week of July 30-August 7, I’ll be relaxing and painting at a cabin on the Klamath River. If you would like to place an order through the MakinoStudios Etsy shop, please do so before or after that week.

North Country Fair: Humboldters, mark your calendars for the 43nd annual North Country Fair on the Arcata Plaza September 17-18! I'll have paintings, prints, cards and new 2017 calendars at the Makino Studios booth on G Street near 9th.

Eastward ho!

“mountain meadow” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2015

“mountain meadow” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2015

At the Seabeck Haiku Getaway in Washington last fall, we started with a fun icebreaker: write down five items from your bucket list, then walk around the room and share with other participants. (For more about Seabeck, see The path unfolds.)

After the exercise, my daughter Maya and I compared lists. I definitely don’t share her dream of working a stint as a bartender! But it turns out that we both had the exact same number one wish: to travel to Japan as a family.

Meanwhile, Makino Studios turned five years old in March. Thinking about how to mark this milestone, I remembered the bucket list exercise. It occurred to me that the best way to celebrate would be to use some of my earnings to take our family to Japan. How fitting that a business that draws deeply from the traditions of Japanese art and haiku would enable us to travel there.

So we are off early next month for three weeks of exploration and adventure! This will be the first trip to Japan for our teens; it is the fourth trip for me and the second for my husband Paul. My sister Yoshi will join us for the first and last few days of the trip.

Our itinerary includes visiting Japanese relatives in Tokyo and touring the venerable 320-year old Makino sake factory in Takasaki. We’ll also see the Makino temple and a cemetery there containing family tombs from ten generations.

My mother, sisters and I (standing, left) wear kimonos sent from Japan by my grandparents. (Santa Monica, California, 1969.)

My mother, sisters and I (standing, left) wear kimonos sent from Japan by my grandparents. (Santa Monica, California, 1969.)

I’m also excited to hike along the ancient Nakasendo trail in the Japanese alps, where stone tablets commemorate visits by revered haiku poets Basho and Shiki. We will soak in hot springs and explore Japanese temples, gardens, castles, and museums.

To experience Japanese life more deeply, we will mainly stay in ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) and a variety of homes booked through Airbnb. As lovers of Japanese cuisine, we are especially excited about the food! I imagine I’ll find much artistic inspiration throughout.

While the earnings from my art business are modest, the psychic rewards are incalculable. (I just don’t think I’d feel the same about bartending.) To all my store buyers, customers and supporters over the past five years, I bow in thanks.

salt breeze
all the countries
on my bucket list

warmly, Annette Makino

Makino Studios News

ukiaHaiku Awards: At the ukiaHaiku Festival on April 24, this poem of mine won second place in the Jane Reichhold International Prize, out of 412 entries from six continents:

unconcerned
with divorce rates
mating butterflies

And this one took third in the Dori Anderson Prize for haiku about Ukiah:

a row of raindrops
hanging on the clothesline—

manzanita blossoms

Newest stores: The list of Makino Studios card retailers now includes Down to Earth in Eugene, Oregon; Three Sisters in Ukiah; and Swish Healdsburg in Healdsburg, California. If there is no store in your area, you can order online through my Etsy shop.

Order by June 1: As I’ll be traveling in Japan, I will not be able to fill online or store orders between June 2 and June 28.

Connecting: I appreciate the kind responses to my last post, on International Haiku Day. You can get news, fresh art and haiku on my Makino Studios Facebook page and my Twitter feed.

Publication credit: “salt breeze” was published in Exhaling, the Seabeck 2015 anthology; it tied for second place in the Seabeck kukai (a haiku contest determined by participating poets).

On a wing and a prayer

“you give my heart wings” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

“you give my heart wings” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

Yokwe! I am writing from the Marshall Islands, a tiny atoll nation in Micronesia, roughly between Hawaii and the Philippines. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry: it’s the fifth least visited country in the world, barely ahead of Somalia. But you have to love a country where the main greeting, “yokwe,” means “hello,” “goodbye,” “love,” and “you are a rainbow.”

I’m here for a couple of weeks to help my sister Yuri adopt a baby boy. It’s an incredible, heart-expanding experience, and right now there is too much to process to be able to write about it. (Not to mention all those time-consuming bottle feedings and diaper changes.)

So for now, having just flown across most of the Pacific, I am sharing this haiku sequence about air travel, along with a couple of paintings about flying. Enjoy!

In Flight

luggage store
I pick up a little more
baggage

airport restroom
the toilet seat
still slightly warm

exit row
trying to remember
how planes stay up

30,000 feet
my thoughts more and more
pedestrian

flying United             feeling disjointed

crowded flight
on screen after screen
solitaire

Modern Haiku 45:1 (Winter-Spring 2014)

warmly, Annette Makino

“body lands safely” is 9×12, painted with sumi ink and watercolors on rice paper. It was published in Contemporary Haibun 13 (April 2013).

“body lands safely” is 9×12, painted with sumi ink and watercolors on rice paper. It was published in Contemporary Haibun 13 (April 2013).

Makino Studios News

Hungry Ghosts: Thanks to everyone who came to the opening of this group show! What a fun (and crowded) evening! The exhibit, featuring artists with Asian and Pacific Islander backgrounds, runs through April at the Brenda Tuxford Gallery, upstairs at 325 2nd Street in Eureka, California.

Open Studios: Join silk painter Tina Gleave and me for the first weekend of North Coast Open Studios, May 31 and June 1, at the Samoa Women’s Club in Samoa, California. Also, there is a group show of Open Studios artists with a reception at the Brenda Tuxford Gallery on Saturday, May 3, 6-9 p.m. during Arts Alive.

Portland and Mendocino Stores: Two discerning new businesses are now carrying my cards: Oblation Papers & Press in Portland, Oregon, and The Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino, California.

Traveling: As I am traveling for most of the rest of this month, my Makino Studios Etsy shop will be closed April 5-29. I’m sorry for any inconvenience.