Thursday 17 March 2011

One step at a time

Snow blankets the world as I rise this morning. It has been snowing since yesterday, and I am so glad that we made it through the mountains before the blizzard began. I have been trying to catch my breath, watching the battle with the nuclear reactors on the television, getting my feet back on the ground. There seems to be no improvement in the situation in Fukushima, I do not know what we are going to do, I am in limbo. I gave the children a new note book each yesterday, and a new pen.

"This is for you to write down or draw about the things that have happened over the last few days, so you don't forget." I tell them.

The bigger children write, just the nuts and bolts at first, what happened and when. Little by little they fill in the gaps with how they felt, a few illustrations.

Sean draws pictures.

"This is me coming out of the pre-school door, and the verandah moving and me falling over." he explains.
"Did it hurt when you fell?" I ask.
"No, but it was really scary, and the lights were all swinging and we had to rush outside in case they fell down. And this is the window of the old peoples day care next door, all broken in little bits. These are the cracks going zig zag through the playground, and this is the water in the pool going KERSPLASH! over the edges."

His pictures start in black and white, hard lines and jagged edges. He draws a building, with rolling black scribble inside, then hunts for a red crayon from his bag and adds sharp angled lines. "This is that house blowing up!"

"The one on the tele?" I ask.

"Yes, that one." The reactor....

He draws a big picture of Mummy with her arms out wide. He draws the computer keyboard in brown. He draws all our faces framed on the computer screen in blue. He draws a light green dog...then another green dog.

I watch the children play hide and seek upstairs and downstairs in their uncles house, giggling, jumping out and surprising each other, squabbling over cards. This house that is our temporary home. It was built just a couple of years ago, simple, sturdy and with sound foundations. Beside it is the old family house, where Mikas parents live. The family have been here for four generations. The bedrock is very stable here, they tell me, and since we came I have not felt a single tremor, though the TV shows them all the time. Another level 3 in Mashiko, a level four in Ichikai, 5.6 off the coast of Ibaraki....but Minakami is still and quiet in the snow.

Down the path behind the house, beside the bamboo grove, along the edge of the rice feilds. I just need some fresh air. It was a low of -6C overnight, and a top of -1C today. The rice paddies spread white between the hill and the river. Icicles hang from the leaves of the bamboo. Below the house is a natural spring, "Benten no mizu" they call it, "Benten's Water". Benten is the goddess of wisdom and art, and this spring feeds pure water into the rice fields when summer comes. The water is so pure a small bottling company has set up next door and markets the water through local ski resorts under the brand name "Sekkasui".

There are many hot springs and ski resorts in Minakami, and most of the hotels and hostels are fairly empty at the moment. Mika's brother is on the local council, and they decided yesterday to allocate 100,000,000 yen to provide food and accomodation for a thousand evacuees from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima in the empty hostels. Many of them will have lost their homes, their families, and many of them will feel lost themselves. It will take a very long time to recover.

I walk to the path beside the river, and each step I take, my left boot creaks. It is not an unpleasant sound, rather like a small frog. I have checked; there is no frog. I walk to the highway, across the bridge, the snow flakes streaming past on the icy wind from the north west, a wind that will blow the Fukushima fallout out to sea. For the moment at least. There is little traffic on the road, there is no petrol.

I reach the local Supermarket, business as usual. In Mashiko the supermarkets were closed, and the convenience store shelves were bare of bread or rice or noodles or canned foods or milk or...Perhaps it is better now?

The television tells us that people in Tokyo are hoarding. The minister for internal affairs begs them not to. In Minakami, the supermarket is well stocked, there is no crowded queue, all is calm. Last decades Pop songs play quietly in the background. My heart is in turmoil, I do not know what to do. I was interviewed by phone from Australia today, radio and television. They want to know what I think I will do. Will I return to Australia? Will I rebuild in Mashiko? What do I think of the nuclear disaster...? I do not know, I have lived in Tochigi prefecture for 21 years, longer than I lived in Melbourne, or Bendigo, or Swan Hill...Japan is my home. But what can I do to rebuild a life that is safe for my family when the reactors burn unchecked? The brave souls battling the reactors are sacrificing so much to try to save other lives, three hundred thousand people are evacuated in the freezing snow, many without proper food or fresh water or heating. I walk around the supermarket, Aubergines are cheap. There is a red capsicum at half price. Some pasta, a few cans of tomatoes. There is no queue at the register, the lady gives me my change. I go to the table to pack my groceries in the bag. There is a box for donations for earthquake relief... I look at the change in my hand... I think of my children... I put the change away in my pocket and walk out of the supermarket with my groceries.

As I walk home to cook dinner for my family, snow flurries around me. Each step I take, my boot creaks. It is the sond of me going home to my family, for wherever they are, that is home. It is the sound of moving forward, one step at a time.


  1. I think the radiation will be localised around Fukushima and you will be able to return to Mashiko once they have the plant under control.

  2. Keep writing...keep your children drawing/writing/talking. It helps all of us...we need to know and you need to tell.

  3. Touching, moving words. Almost poetry. Our thoughts are with you, your family, and all the people of Japan.

  4. Thank goodness you and other bloggers are posting about how it really is for you there. A valuable chronicle ~ like you're asking your children to do I suppose. I'm in the SW of the UK. A third nuclear power station is due to be built on the shore line ten miles from where I am. There was a tsunami in the Bristol Channel five hundred years ago. It is your words and those from a few other bloggers in Japan that I shall turn to for descriptions of how it really is. I'm not religious, I can't say I shall pray for you and your family, but you' ll be in my metta meditations.

  5. Take your time to think, keep your family safe as you can, we all hope and pray for the people of Japan and recovery.

  6. My heart aches for you and everyone else in Japan and all around the world affected by this tragedy

  7. I've just found your blog a few posts ago... your writing is moving, and helping me to feel connected in a personal way to the events in Japan. The news clips are distant - vast collages of images - whereas your words I can take in, make sense of, feel the human journey in this. Thank you and bless you all. Valerianna

  8. This is such a loving and tender story amidst terror and disaster. Thank you for putting a face and a family to the situation. Sending Love and Prayers to you and your kin. The Weber and McLean's of Iowa via New Jersey in the United States

  9. It sounds like you are very attuned to the delicacies of the moment you are in right now. When the right choice moves before you, you will see it. I send you my warmest thoughts, stranger, and hope your family stays well.

  10. We are comforted to hear that you and your family are safe. The uncertain future is troubling. But one step at a time and for the moment you are safe.

  11. you must do what is best for you and for your family. If that means staying in Japan, so be it. If it means making a life elsewhere, then, no doubt, you will make that work. For now, all you can really do is take things one day at a time, and see where your heart lies.Our prayers remain with you and your family. Be safe.

  12. Euan,
    Today's post was especially moving and expressed so poetically that I felt as if I were walking beside you. After surviving such an ordeal, perhaps your soul needs a bit of time to recoup before wrestling with the dilemma of where to go from here. When you are ready, your heart will lead you to a good decision. Meanwhile, know that people all over the world care and stand ready to help. Be safe, and keep on writing.

  13. Thank you for posting this. Take care. You have what is important, which is much to be grateful for. My thoughts are with you, your family, and the people of Japan.

  14. thank you euan for the update...stay safe

  15. As I walk home to cook dinner for my family, snow flurries around me. Each step I take, my boot creaks. It is the sound of me going home to my family, for wherever they are, that is home. It is the sound of moving forward, one step at a time.

    How well and yet different I know this walk- you are on the right path and it will all come to the surface for you.
    Know we are thinking of you everyday.

  16. If you make pots half as good as you write, they must be good pots.
    Take care.
    Keith. Armidale New England Australia.

  17. Euan, I have been following your blog for a long time now. I am a woodfire potter with a bourry box kiln. I live outside of Washington DC and was downtown on Sept. 11th. I began woodfiring because of that experience. I felt it was a way to heal by creating community around the kiln. It sounds like you are already finding ways to heal from the shock and total devastation of your way of life. This is all that we have -- community and family, and food to share with them. ;-}
    Thanks for your posts. I wish I could help you with more than these words.

  18. Your account of living through this time in Japan is so powerful - it touched me more than all the terrifying images. I pray you and your family stay safe.

  19. With all you have walked through with your family Euan you still see the beauty around you. May that gift bring with it some solace.

    Blessings to your family, your loved ones and to you.

  20. I have an enduring memory of a youthful, athletic and immaculately presented pottery student, polished black boots, black jeans, crisp white t shirt, running full pelt down a bitumised driveway, launching himself full speed onto a very steep greasy embankment and skiing down its full 5 metres, St Moritz style, he landed faultlessly on the path below, without the vaguest hint of falling, and not a spec of mud upon him, he waltzed graciously through a doorway.
    Most of us other aspiring potters over the years have gone by the wayside, surrendering to one or more of the multitude of modern world realities. But to you Euan the slippery slope at Bendigo was never a thing to fear and that’s why even now, I know you’ll be ok and be protected by your passion, decency and compassion.
    May you and your family stay safe and protected.


  21. Euan, its great to read words from the inside. I'm amazed by the strength and calm of yourself and everyone in Japan.

    All the best, I hope you are back and safe in Mashiko soon.

    Greg Frith (David and Margaret Frith's son).

    PS: Mum and dad of course send their wishes and are hoping the best for all their friends in Japan.

  22. My thoughts are with you and your family as you enter into a new chapter of your lives, one that you did not plan for, but a new journey just the same.Peace.....

  23. I am also in Japan and wondering where to go next. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  24. Thank you for your words, which contain the creativity which I'm sure your pottery also has held, and probably will again someday. For now, please know that I am one of the people moved by your words, and sharing them with my blog followers. For now, I send you and all those affected by the earthquakes compassion in whatever form I can. My friends speak of how noone can live in constant fear. In my life I have found my decisions work best if made from a positive impetus rather than a negative one.
    Barb Rogers,

  25. I had to put money back in my pocket almost six years ago, though I did give some to the extended family group of 20 in one motel room in Texas after I evacuated New Orleans. Japan and its people helped us so much then, were so generous. Your first post pushed me to give $25. I've given another $25 - as small amount as that is - to the NOLAJapanQuakeFund. Consider it that change in your pocket, and a small thank you from me - naomi

  26. thank you for this accounting as we are concerned here in the U.S. I have read other stores from friends whose friends are in Japan. Thankfully you and are your family are safe. Blessings to you!

  27. Hey Euan,
    can't tell if my email got through to you so posting here.

    Dear Euan,Mika,Sora,Canaan,Rohan,Sean,

    Not having heard from you since my (now innappropriate) message last week, I can only watch in horror as you & your family are swept along by circumstance.

    You have done the right thing. Following your instincts in times of high stress will always hold you in good stead!!

    I am distressed by your situation & I was further disturbed by reading your Blog to get a handle on what has happened to you all.

    I have no idea where you will end up following your dislocation but I do have an offer for you here.

    We don't have a huge amount of space,or money, but we have enough to offer you free , short term accomodation for you & your family, if you needed in Australia.

    We have an excellent primary school in town, nearest High School 15 min's at Moss Vale. We are 30 min's to Bowral.

    I am serious when I say I can provide you with good workshop space; I have two gas fired kilns,a medium- sized Anagama. I have a brilliant clay/D'air/PowerMixer/extruder.

    There would obviously be no charge to you until you were well on your feet.

    The only drawback to this is that our ceramic market is very poor & one has to be extremely canny about placing work.

    I am earning very little to date but have a small project to placing some porcelain lines into some top gallery Gift shops this year,

    Hoping that that will bring me a return as Bundanoon is very quiet in the sales dept.

    I understand you are staying with family so there is strength & emotional support for you there.

    We are thinking of you

    Best wishes

    Bruce (& Fiona) XX

  28. hello Euan
    I came accross your blog by chance, while searching for some glaze recipes on the internet ...I had heard through some friends in Mashiko and Kasama that the damage was huge but reading your comment made me understand it even more .. I feel luckyI left Kasama with my son nicolas 3 years ago .. Even though I miss japan terribly ! I hope the events will unfold favorably and life will return to normal .. As 'normal ' as it can be .. Good luck for you and your family ! From Niki in Belgium

  29. Hi my friend, beautiful words from the heart, reality is harsh but as long as you have your family, you will continue to breath. Always in my thoughts & prayers.

    I was wondering if u have email access where u r and if so, would your children like to correspond with Nikola? It would be a wonderful experience for Nik to have a penpal/s and I think might be most beneficial for Sora &/or your boys. Someone else to talk to. Let me know, keep safe. x x x x

  30. Nigel C (potter in Europe)19 March 2011 at 16:12

    It is all very well seeing the same footage on the TV, but this is a real account of how it affects a lovely family unit. Keep posting Euan- everyone wishes you and your family well. My heart goes out to you all.

  31. Glad you are all safe and together. Thanks for keeping your blog alive and allowing us to read about how you are all going during these difficult times. Your stories are as always, so poetic and keep Hope awake in usual Euan spirit.

    Take care and may we someday meet soon again and share a meal & wine and chat about mud.
    Hugs to you and your lovely family and to Mika's in Japan too.

    Renee & David

  32. It must be so hard for you and family to go through in this difficult time. I think your acction was right and time will tell the future. I am keeping my fingers crossed for you and the situation in Fukushima ease soon, so that you can start rebuild your home in Mashiko or wherever would decide.
    Whilst we were on the skype this morning to my parents in Saitama, Japan shook again. Watching my family in the aftershakes so real really hurt me.
    I will do my best I could do from here, even little things, for people in Japan. In the meantime, please be safe. Thinking of you and your family.

  33. Hello, Euan,

    I am dropping in from Arkansas Patti's blog (as she gave your blog a shout-out.) Thank you for sharing your thoughts and how you and your family are coping. Your children are adorable, tomorrow's hope that makes us smile today.

    My husband and I are deeply affected by the tragedy in Japan and send prayers and positive karma that a resolution is at hand.

    When you checked to see if you'd stepped on a frog, I knew Japan was your spiritual home. If you can, sit tight a bit (Louisiana country talk for 'wait a bit'.)

  34. Thanks for sharing your experience. I am safe in the US and it helps to hear the story from those who are experiencing it rather than only by the news where everyone has to be objective and have no emotion as to what is going on. This can not be easy for you and your family. I wish you the best and all of Japan are in our thoughts a prayers.

  35. I read your blog out loud to my husband with tears streaming down my face and plopping into my hot coffee. We are so lucky now but live on a huge fault line as well. My thoughts are with you. Your writing is so grounded, family first. Thank you for writing down such a powerful experience. hilary

  36. Odile CULAS-BONNIN21 March 2011 at 06:52

    Dear Euan Craig, I'm Odile Culas-Bonnin from France ; the last year in february I came to Mashiko with my students but we couldn't meet you because you were in the hospital. Do you remember ?
    May be you didn't receive my first mail, just after the catastroph. i just receive a blog from american friends about Mashiko Sankokan destruction and help organised by Ken Matsuzaki. I hope that the Japanese governement help Hamada fondation to rebuilt but the more important I think, are the potters now, living in Mashiko and working. We are a lot wanted to help you but we didn't know how. Please tell me your bank number and count to send you money directly ; I'm sure you can use it for the best you think, for your children, your studio, your friends. It's only we can do for you all.
    my address :
    Warmly yours,
    Kyo tsukété né