A quick story about finding yourself

I was about to throw the box out, when it suddenly opened for me.

The wooden box, which was locked, stuck for the last four years, was an eyesore on my desk that I would have gotten rid of long ago, were it not for the fact that I didn’t know what was in it.

When I picked it up and shook it, it jangled. Something was in there, but it wasn’t clear what. And this year, during my New Year cleaning, after wiping all the floors, I got tired of looking at old things that took up space. I was tired of looking at the locked box, and picked it up to chuck in the garbage bag. But just before I did, almost out of accident, I flicked the box latch.

Click.

Like magic, the box sprung open. I gasped when I saw the contents.

Inside, were the opal-and-gold earrings and necklace I’d received from my Dad 20 years ago, which had accompanied me to 5 different countries I’d lived in, that were so deeply treasured and had suddenly disappeared on me some years ago. They had weighed heavily on my conscience these past several years, as it forced me to question how I could lose something I valued so much, and wasn’t that a metaphor for the way I treated my gifts?

Inside was the beautiful white brooch that was a gift from my fellow writer friend, the ceramic brooch smooth to the touch.

There inside the box were my long brass earrings, gifted to me by my then-boyfriend, now beloved husband, which he chose for me specifically to help my short neck appear longer.

And finally, inside was my oldest piece of jewelry of all — a string necklace with a beautiful clear glass vial, containing sand shaped like stars and a single grain of rice with my name written on it.

I was thunderstruck. I felt like I was made whole. For all this time, I’d been searching and searching for this jewelry. I’d come to believe I would never find it again, that somehow I’d lost it because I’d gotten too wrapped up in the ordeals of daily life, and forgotten the core essence of who I was.

I’d searched high and low for these lost treasures of mine. I gave up on them. I forgot them, or tried to forget them, even though every few weeks my mind would drift back to the opals, the brooch, the earrings, the star necklace, wondering where they were.

“That’s where you were,” I said aloud, looking in tearful disbelief at the box, which I was just about to throw in the trash. “All this time. That’s where you were.”

Over the last four years, as an attempt to get past the storm that was my life. Just surviving, just getting through, just staying small and trying to stay out of the line of attack. My shoulders ache from all the times I attempted to shrink and disappear, not to be seen, because to stand out or speak out was the one thing I was not allowed to do.

And here, just as I had written and scheduled my resignation from the job that was the source of both my pride and heartbreak, the box — the locked box — opened up like magic.

Every once in awhile, there are moments when I feel that there is a gentle force watching over me. I was so surprised and moved. I feel like 2021 is going to be a more joyful year than ever, when I’m more in touch with my authentic self and I the two halves of me are put together and whole again.

The Hell Courtesan

I’ve ordered a new book – Kyosai Kawanabe’s prints. They’re gorgeous, gory, and utterly fascinating. I showed my partner and within the third page or so there’s a graphic of a guy having full on anal intercourse with another guy, then a beheading, then a giant cat with two tails. It’s a fun and terrifying visual journey and good inspiration for my story.

Rat bruxing when spoken to

Of my two female rats (sisters), Lucy is the perennially shy one that still acts like it’s an alien abduction when I try to pick her up. She treats me — her Rat Mom — mostly like a creepy older male co-worker and runs away when I try to pet her, but lately I’ve found something that helps her enjoy my company a bit more.

Talking.

She really, really enjoys being talked to. I noticed that when I sit about a foot away on the floor, at eye level or lower, and just whisper sweet nothings to her, her whole body relaxes and she starts bruxing and boggling in happiness.

So lately, I’ve been reading stories to her, chatting about daily goings-on, and paying her compliments like “You’re so pretty” and “Such a good cute rat!”
But those topics got old, fast, so I update her a lot about political news.

Needless to say, it looks very weird to outsiders.

Jigoku Dayuu (Hell Courtesan) 地獄太夫

Jigoku Tayuu (地獄太夫), the “Hell Courtesan,” is a character who has been fascinating for me since I first read about her in high school or university.
Known as the daughter of a Samurai (therefore of noble blood) of the Muromachi Period in Japan (1336 to 1573) Jigoku Dayuu was apparently abducted while young and forced to work as a high-class tayuu (太夫), or high-class courtesans.

She lamented her fate, and didn’t dress in the gorgeous kimonos that were the standard of courtesans — she wore a kimono depicting hellish images, fire, skeletons, blood. It was dark imagery, but she was legendary for her beauty regardless, and was once visited by the famous Buddhist Monk Ikkyu, who was impressed by her wisdom and strong character.

It was said that they exchanged some witty one-liner observations about their respective social positions, and became friends afterward.

Jigoku Tayuu died young (of course!) and famously left behind instructions not to cremate her or bury her, but to “simply leave her body in the fields to feed the bellies of starving dogs.” A compassionate, wonderful thought. But, it’s said that she was buried anyway with respect and not left for the dogs to eat, which she actually would not have considered an insult.
She might be too dark for a YA book. But I’m strongly considering her as a key character in my yokai fantasy.

Rat’s vet visit

This isn’t related to my yokai comic, Rika and the Hundred Demon March (first few pages of that coming soon) but my mini-comic on recent adventures in rat ownership and vet care.

I’ve been sleep-deprived for about 2 weeks, fearful and paranoid and unsure how to go forward. So much has been out of my control. But with time being so precious for rats, the only thing to do is to move forward.

Rika and the Hundred Demon March

I’ve got in the works a comic about a young woman about self-discovery.

Rika Kasugai is lost in life, caught in between her Asian and Western identity and fitting in nowhere. She’s got a Japanese name that doesn’t match her looks — she’s tall (175cm), big-boned, pale-skinned, freckled, red-haired, and nobody really believes she’s born and raised in Japan.

Now living in Canada, she’s socially anxious and has no friends, but needs money to get to college so has taken on a summer job guiding Japanese tourists around Vancouver.

Her life is irrevocably changed when one day, she gets a tour bus for 100 VIPs from across Japan who are actually ghosts, sprites and demons — 妖怪,or Yokai — in disguise. Once a year in midsummer, they go on a demonic tour at night, and this time, they’ve chosen to take their visit overseas to Canada.

In dealing with her terrifying and mysterious clients, Rika ends up learning a lot about them, and about her own personality and past.



Rika and Kurako (RHDM)

I’m making a new comic and I hope it’s going to be a good one. Rika is shown here meeting Kurako, the fox demon, in her demon fox form. Kurako is a bake-kitsune (化け狐) or a type of supernatural demon-spirit that has magical powers including transforming into people and deceiving people for decades. While the vast majority of demon foxes are evil/semi-evil manipulators, Kurako’s intentions are a bit more unclear, as she takes on a kind of mentor role to Rika — an awkward, clumsy, low-self-esteem young woman with a strong sense of cultural displacement (she grew up during her formative years in Japan, and despite never really fitting in or being accepted, she still identifies strongly with Japanese culture and struggles when she comes back ‘home’ to Canada).

rhdm-kr2