Monstrous Caterpillars of White

I often tell people that Shiwa is a beautiful town despite itself. Cost and function are the primary concerns that go into the majority of building designs, a fact the architecture itself reflects. Metal fences painted green or white are the norm. The town is disheveled with power lines. Power poles are complex metal lean-tos marked with reflectors to guarantee they stand out. Metal stabbed into the earth is a common sight. Most of the beauty occurs naturally in the mountain and forests and streams that surround the town.

With this in mind, I was looking at the grape vines in the eastern part of Shiwa. I’ve always had the image of orchards and grape vines as beautiful places. I think of books by Peter Mayle or movies about France or California, stories or pictures that depict an effort to keep the landscape beautiful. But in Shiwa the vines are held and protected by metal poles. At times they’re covered with opaque plastic, and the terraced landscape in the mountains is covered with monstrous caterpillars of white. Like the town, they stand out dramatically from the landscape around them.

(Proviso: the new Ogal Plaza is going to be gorgeous.)





A Stack of Wood

A stack of wood is comforting. Solid yet soft, wood provides a comfortable stability and a feeling of closeness to nature. Stacked neatly, it presents the illusion of order. In the mess of a snowstorm, that order reduces the sense of chaos. The dangers of winter, the chaos, are survived through preparation and planning, and stacks of firewood are a manifestation of that.

At the same time, firewood makes me feel nostalgic. It reminds me of when I was young in Colorado and people used fireplaces all the time without fear of climate change. It reminds me of the smell of smoke on crisp winter air. I remember nights sitting with my legs stretched towards a fireplace watching orange flames dance while feeling the heat on my skin. I’m transported back to that time whenever I see a stack of wood standing in falling snow.




Strangely Comfortable

This is the road I named Sahinai River Road and then found out that the stream running along side it is called Nakasawa River. Stubborn till the end, I still call it Sahinai River Road.

We were sitting in the car on Sahinai River Road eating a variety of breads we bought from “Furusato Center,” Sahinai’s farmers’ market, for lunch when a miniature gust of wind gathered and blew through these icy trees. The snow was frozen into powder, and it caught in the wind and swirled into a cloud that blotted out this winter scene.

Sitting still, no other people or cars around, on a mountain road, in the burst of whiteout conditions, I felt strangely comfortable. When I realized it was strange, I wanted to take a picture, but by the time I was out of the car, the cloud of snow disappeared, and a blue sky appeared.


これは僕が「Sahinai River Road」と名付けた道だが、この脇を流れる小川は中沢川と呼ばれると後に判明した。最後まで頑固な僕は、それでも「Sahinai River Road」と呼んでいる。

Sahinai River Roadに車を停め、佐比内の産直である「ふるさとセンター」から買ってきた様々なパンを昼食として食べていた。その時、ちょっとした一陣の風が起きて凍った木々の間を吹き抜けた。雪が凍って粉状になり、風に捕らえられ渦を巻いてこの冬景色を覆い隠す雲となった。