prompt three – part three

Rituals

a cup of tea or coffee for me

“Slow knowledge” has been formed through long periods of time where individuals or communities tried something that felt right and worked right. Practiced over time, these can become traditions.

I believe that traditions and rituals are interwoven. I habitually practice my own traditions enough to call them rituals, or do my rituals form my traditions? Which way does it work?

wake up Brooklyn and Chance

My morning ritual:

Each morning, I like to wake up before anyone else while it is still dark out.

I open the blinds and in summer, windows as well.

I start our electric kettle.

lighting incense

I light Japanese incense by my uncle’s photograph who passed away and say good morning to him just like we used to say to each other.  

I water the houseplants.

I let the dogs out to the backyard. And then feed them.

I make tea or coffee for myself. 

I then turn on my computer and check news as I settle in for the day.

Why light incense? I am like most Japanese. Sometimes we do things out of inherited habit.  Growing up seeing my grandparents pay respect to their ancestors by lighting incense in front of our Buddhist altar (even though they were not Buddhist), was what I was accustomed to seeing daily. Me doing it now just seems like the right thing to do. It ties me to my ancestors and to my uncle who I was very close to; he passed away last year.

These rituals that are part of me – they connect me with my world. And even though I am not religious (as most Japanese), my culture is deeply spiritual. We believe in interconnectivity and we are all connected to everything around us.

Shinboku “Sacred Tree” is marked with Shimenawa”Sacred Rope” at a Shinto Shrine (photo taken by my brother: Yamanouchi, 2021)

Yoko Akama is an Associate Professor in the School of at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. She studied and researched how “Japanese practices live between worlds” (p. 5, 2020). Akama explained that Japanese practice everyday spirituality based on Koshinto.

“Koshinto” is inter-relatedness with rocks, mountains, trees, animals, lands, waters, wind and people, imbued with spirituality…Koshinto [is] a view that the natural world is made of a community of spirits of which humans are just one part.”

There are many curious customs in Japanese culture. These customs and rituals are part of me. Perhaps this is a way that I am connecting to my ancestors and heritage; perhaps this is slow knowledge being practiced by me. I realize that slow knowledge does not just have to be mechanically or physically oriented. It can be spiritual too.

My intention going forward is to continue to explore my connection with nature and the interrelatedness of all things through the combined lens of my Japanese heritage and my life as a Canadian. 

Reference:
Akama, Y., Light, A., & Kamihira, T. (2020). Expanding Participation to Design with More-Than-Human Concerns. ms, New York, NY.
Yamanouchi, D., (08/2021)Yasaka Shrine Shinboku, Chiba, Japan

prompt three – part two

Collaboration with Nature

My first bundle dye

Bundle Dyeing

In an attempt to freeze the moment of beautiful autumn, I decided to try a bundle dye using found leaves, twigs, and flowers. I have never tried to bundle dye before but have always wanted to. It is one of the simplest ways of dyeing fabric in my opinion. There are a few different processes, but I chose to follow the one that was introduced by an Indigenous artist from Western Australia, Katie West. Katie is an award-winning artist who returned to her heritage to learn the Aboriginal ways of textile dyeing. She has documented it and presented beautiful representations of her work that fascinates me (katiewularniwest.com, 2020). I love how she honours simple and authentic processes that relies only on plants for results rather than me trying to add mechanical processes or additives to colour the fabric.

Gathering materials for dyeing

Spread the materials randomly
Rolled up using a large branch
Opening the layer of fabric
After taking off the materials, I rinsed the fabric in cold water.

I really enjoyed the process of bundle dying. It Is ritualistic and is done in an appreciative fashion for the beauty of nature’s creations. The gathering, scattering the plant remnants on the calico fabric, rolling them in the calico fabric around a branch, tying it, putting it into boiling water and then waiting. It is all purposeful and suspenseful at the same time. Even though these steps are methodical, you just don’t know what the result will look like. My results showed some faint yellow dyeing (I think from lavender), and it was exciting to see the resulting colours from this simplest method. 

The history of dyeing textiles is ancient. In Japan, it is thought that people have dyed fabric using plants, flowers, and tree bark as early as the Jomon era, which was between 13,000 BCE and 300 BCE (somehiro.com). Until the mid-19th century’s industrial revolution, all colours came from natural sources. Until then, the knowledge of slow dyeing techniques was handed down generation by generation. Additionally, this is a great example of humans collaborating with nature.

References:

Fry, T., Nocek, A., & Escobar, A. (2021). Designing as a futural praxis for the healing of the web of life. In Design in crisis: New worlds, philosophies and practices (pp. 25–42). essay, Routledge.

West, K. (n.d.). Katie West. KATIE WEST. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://katiewularniwest.com/home.html.

染の技術と歴史: 染裕 Somehiro. SOMEHIRO. (2018, February 7). Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://somehiro.com/about_indigo/technology-and-history-of-dyed.

prompt three

DISCOURSE

Slow Knowledge is a chapter from David W. Orr’s The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture and Human Intention

Slow knowledge is knowledge that has been used for a long period of time that has been serving those using it well. Slow knowledge has stood the test of time by being utilized effectively despite circumstantial difficulties. Fast knowledge is the use of new, often technically derived, know-how that supposedly makes the carrying out of a function easier. The term and meaning of “slow knowledge” reminds me of an Japanese saying “温故知新 –  on-ko-chi-shin”. The direct translation of each characters are “warm up, past, knowledge, new”. To know what shall be, one must consider what has been. Correspondingly, the acquisition and implementation of fast knowledge should start from knowing old traditions of the land, communities, and habitat; in other words, if one wants to utilize fast knowledge well, it would be wise to not ignore the past; it would be wise to understand how old knowledge can inform desired “improvement” that will utilize fast knowledge, to ensure that the past and its wise lessons are not ignored.

A bundle of sweetgrass that arrived

Sweetgrass

“Sweetgrass, as the hair of Mother Earth, is traditionally braided to show loving care for her well-being braids, plaited of three strands, are given away as signs of kindness and gratitude.”
—Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

I wanted to experiment with something related to old knowledge that I could access. Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) is an aromatic herb native to northern Eurasia and North America. Indigenous peoples use sweetgrass in sacred ceremonies(nativetech.org).  By hearing about sweetgrass from Indigenous stories that I discovered in the last few years, I was intrigued by how it was described. The description of sweetgrass as the “hair of mother earth” connected with me as I have a grass nicknamed “Angel’s Hair” and that is a favourite grass of mine. It is a very thin, soft grass that resembles hair. I wondered if the sweetgrass I was reading about would be similar.  So, I went online and found an Indigenous family business who would gather a small bundle to me from their home in Saskatchewan and send it to me.

Brooklyn, examining sweetgrass

When the box arrived, I opened it with excitement and immediately smelled a sweet vanilla-like smell. “It smells so sweet!” I thought. The box consisted of a handful of 20” long strands of grass and several strands were braided together. I waved the sweetgrass in the air like a fan, listening to the long strands swishing as the sweet aroma filled the room. I loved my very first encounter with the sweetgrass. My dogs loved the smell too. I hung it on the wall where I can continue to admire it. Several weeks later it still has the sweet aroma emanating from it. I now am wondering how can I continue to use this and understand how to use it in respectful ways? How would it feel to braid it or how can I make something else with it?  I imagined just walking through a field of sweetgrass surrounded by the sweet aroma. How nice would that be. Eager to learn old knowledge from those that have mastered it, wanting to show the deep admiration I have for our Indigenous people who are keepers of immense amounts of slow knowledge. I think sweetgrass is a good place to start.