Desolation to Hope

The rice fields in winter are rolling mounds of snow, but if you look closer or when the level of snow drops, you can see the remnants of the rice plants. This straw sticking out would look a mess, like something used and discarded, but because they remain in straight rows, there is a pattern. In winter these patterns are all that indicate the snow covers farmland.

I thought this was depressing at first: the dry straw sticking out of the snow like carcasses revealed by a thaw. When I learned that the soil would be overturned and the straw returned to the soil, I found it oppressive. To spend a winter beneath the oppressive weight of too much snow only to be buried when it cleared seemed a sorry fate.

With more and more time, I’ve learned about the farms and the landscape of Shiwa, and my feelings have changed. I’ve seen the snows come and go and learned about the rhythm of the seasons. I’ve seen the harvests and the planting, and I’ve seen the lazy summertimes when the rice is so heavy it bows politely and then the hurried preparations before winter. It’s like watching people move things from one location to another and back again with the practice of generations.

I get the feeling that nothing disappears, but everything is transferred to another form and then returned. One step in the process only suggests the next. Now when I see the lines of straw I don’t think about the past, but the future. What was once desolation became hope.






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.