Autumn (Tokyo Studio)

Unfinished business

December 4th, 2008

I have nominated December 4th as the date of this posting. This was the day I dreaded even before I left Australia in September. What will it be like returning home after being away for 3 months – having lived in a place I had always been curious about and always wanted to visit?

When I was a child, my family used to visit my maternal grandparents who lived in Vancouver during our summer holidays. For a child the period of 2 months was like a lifetime. When it was time to leave, the realisation that the holidays had come to an end and the thought of seperation by an unimaginable distance would induce great saddness in me. This melancholy would continue for a couple of weeks until school started.

On the flight bound for Sydney I immersed myself back into English-speaking culture by watching endless movies and tv shows. Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel was offered in the glossy in-flight entertainment booklet as another exotic ‘travel’ program. As in the book, de Botton raised some fundamental issues about travel and presented some quirky alternatives as inspired by artists, writers and philosophers. When it was time to return home, he wondered how we could face life after travel with just a little less gloom.

To that end, he toured London with a bus-load of Japanese tourists in an attempt to see his hometown through the eyes of an eager traveler. By (temporarily) confiscating the tourists’ cameras and providing them instead with pencils and paper to draw the famous sites they were admiring, de Botton introduced the teachings of John Ruskin: that is to know and to learn through drawing as an act of seeing.

Seeing with fresh eager eyes in one’s own town is a difficult business, can it be achieved? Perhaps an almanac can help….? But in what form? Any suggestions?

3 Responses to “Unfinished business”

  1. 1 Lucas in Petersham
    December 17th, 2008 at 10:49 am

    provocative question!

    These same questions haunted me after I finished my blog project Bilateral Kellerberrin in WA in 2005. I had had an amazing time “getting to know the townsfolk” 2000km from home, and when I got back to my own suburb, I was struck by how little I knew my own neighbours. So I decided to do the exact same project at home: Bilateral Petersham, in 2006.

    So that is my suggestion to you – don’t think about it too much, just start the “Summer Almanac” from Austinmer, one entry per day, continue with the postcards and see what happens. In my experience, the process of blogging brings you those fresh eyes, even wen you are in your own town. I want to hear about you guys going to the Asquith Street Christmas Party. He he.

    You know, it’s funny – since you guys got back from Japan, I know less about what you’re doing than when you were away. Even though you’re only an hour’s drive distance.

  2. 2 Silvia kwon
    December 19th, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I am not sure if there is a ‘resolution’ to this phenomenon. I like Lucas’ suggestion and maybe he is braver socially than I, but part of the modern experience of home is such that we are all a little bit cacooned; whether it is due to ready made entertainment in every home, internet providing a way of finding like minded people etc. I don’t necessarily disagree with this. Perhaps the intrinsic nature of home is familiarity and as a result things may feel a little less interesting but I think the point is to keep renewing within the familiar and continuing to be inspired in your day to day routine..

  3. 3 Jo Law
    January 5th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Following the advice of Lucas and encouraged by others, I ventured forth with the Seasonal Almanac a month after the Autumn Almanac finished. See: to read about the project and for the first post.