“Ready, set… g- no, wait. Wait. Something changed.”
“All right, I rewrite it, reset my goals.”
Time passes. The launch date has arrived.
“…and in this…”
“Five, four, three,”
“…two, one- No, no. Stop. Stop. There’s a problem.”
“Don’t sound so disappointed. Do it again. Adjust. Change.”
More time passes.
“Spring has come to-”
“You can go… No. No.”
“No. It changed again. Stop.”
“Where do we go from here?”
“I don’t know.”
I don’t know.
When I was a child, I spent a ridiculous amount of time in a particular bookstore. It was small, a mom-and-pop, one of those tiny places I don’t see in my new country- or when I visit the old, for that matter. The whole place smelled of wood and paper, a distinct scent I have yet to forget. The staff was kind to children who stayed too long. Not everyone is.
My brother and I would scour coveted volumes of the latest fantasy novels or Dungeons and Dragons installment. For such a small shop, they had quite a large section devoted to Fantasy and Science Fiction, a boon to my mother who could leave us there to read (or in my case, also oogle my favorite illustrations) while she did the shopping nearby. Though my beloved art books were out of financial reach, we usually went home with a new novel or the occasional Expansion Pack. My memory for today, my helper, takes place in this shop, but not in the area I most frequented.
Occasionally, I would venture out of that Back Corner of Fantasy and back into the “real world” of literature, self-help and New York Times Bestsellers. I read snippets of the Rubaiyat, The Cat Who… and Stop the Insanity! It was in the Religious Studies section that I would read something that would change me forever, though I didn’t know it at the time.
I can’t recall if I was looking for a particular text or not, but as my eyes scanned the shelves, a thin, red book caught my eye. I was younger than fifteen- I think I was twelve or thirteen at the time- still a child, and still firm in the faith I’d been raised in. However, the urge to learn about others’ beliefs had already been born in me. The wish to understand was strong. What led me to open this particular book- as a (mostly) child- is simple, but I won’t name the book. It’s a fun game for those of you who might know what it is.
This book was one on Taoism, and in it was a very famous, very old picture. The image, which has been reproduced in many forms, is called “The Vinegar Tasters”. In it, three men take a sample of pickling vinegar, and their expressions tell of their responses. The first man, a Confucian, has the expression of one who has been sucking a lemon. To him, the vinegar is sour. The second, a Buddhist, looks as though he’s just eaten endive or dry horseradish. To him, the vinegar is bitter. The last man, a Taoist, has a satisfied expression. Regardless of how the vinegar tastes, it is as it is and that is how it should be.
Sometimes, things are sour, or bitter, or sweet.
Life is perfect because it is.
A thing occurs because it does… and that makes it perfectly right. Even the terrible things.
I had no idea, on the day I saw that picture and read those words, that I would carry them with me forever. I’ve needed them many times in my life, and I need them now.
When I thought of starting a blog, I wanted to have a clear purpose. I wanted a path. I wanted some security in my life, that I might speak to you of solid things, of things that did not waver and change. I wished for my voice to be the steady beam of a beacon in the sky, rather than the sun on water. This is not to be. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what I will become.
Vaguely, I know what I am.
I am a writer. I am an illustrator. These things, I know, will not change, though my title might. I don’t know if I am good or bad- in my trade or as a human. I am a foreigner. I am a neighbor. I am afraid of you. I cook. I bake. I break things. I grew up in a world of Star Trek and Masterpiece Theatre, Pink Floyd and Vivaldi, Shakespeare and Forgotten Realms.
I cannot offer you a secure tale. I cannot offer you a beacon of a voice. I can give you me. I can give you a voice that is light on water. What I am doing may change, as it’s changed many times in the past year… but these changes are as they should be. They’ve happened, and therefore they must be. They are perfect- because they are.
Oh… who am I? That part is pretty easy, I guess.
My name is Agnes Chiba. At the moment, I live in Matsuyama, Japan (subject to change). I’ve lived in Japan for 11 years- Sapporo for 4, Matsuyama for 7. I was a children’s teacher for 10 years. All of my years in Matsuyama- save the last one- I spent teaching preschool. I illustrate children’s books. I paint pictures like this:
I am the author and illustrator of the Diasminian Chronicles- a series of stories that consists of Encircle the Sun, currently being serialized online (read me!), The Dark Oath (completed and to be serialized in 2016), The Light and the Mirror (The Light is complete), The Moon Thieves (in development) and Nine Fallen Stars (a comic- planning and outlining complete). I also enjoy illustrating unrelated scenes.
At the moment, my plan for this blog is threefold- I’d like to illustrate (both in words and pictures) life in rural Japan, to post tutorials for those of you who are venturing out on the awesome path of digital art-making, and occasionally to interject with posts related to the Diasminian Chronicles, works in progress, or life in general. This plan may change. I address you all from the Great Throne of “I Don’t Know What’s Going to Happen”. It’s making my rear tired, but I suppose that’s perfection, too.
However, I can tell you what will happen next week. I’ll be posting an essay on silence, with a tutorial on one method of color correction in painting. How are those related? How indeed. Until then, please do pop over to have a peek at Yesterday’s Horoscope, home of my portfolio and Encircle the Sun. Have a good week, and let’s toast to the perfection (and adventure) of not having a clue. Cheers!