Important stuff


Dear Artist,

It’s early Tuesday morning and the studio computer is ringing like a Wal-Mart cash register. Artists are sending “Eyeku” to one another and copying to us. I’m thinking of young Basho, the first Haiku writer, cross-legged on his tatami. He was probably wondering who might ever see his latest effort. In the year 1670 Japan was in the grip of the shoguns. It was not a time of instant communication. Right now I’m reading something from another continent that must have been created only this morning: “Two leash-dogs meet in a yellow park, they briefly sniff, then move along.” Basho would be blown away. What a world we now live in.

In Silence, 2008 Burnt piano, burnt chair, black wool by Shiota Chiharu (b.1972)

In Silence, 2008
Burnt piano, burnt chair, black wool
by Shiota Chiharu (b.1972)

Some Eyeku breed more questions: What is the value of sharing? Does expressing yourself verbally neutralize the desire to express visually? When and how do we find the kind of austere tatami that Basho thrived on? These days, like no other time in history, we need more than ever what can only be called “character.” Nowadays all distractions are potentially valuable. We need character in order to extract the useful. How do we go back to purity?

In the words of R. H. Blyth, the great English champion os,f Haiku: “We return to the friends of our childhood, the rain on the window-pane; the long silent roads of night; the waves of the shore that never cease to fall; the moon, so near and yet so far; all the sensations of texture, timbre, weight and shape, those precious treasures and inexhaustible riches of every-day life.” How do we find simplicity and direct purpose in the midst of chaotic communication? How, on our necessary islands of ego do we find challenging and yet comforting companionship?

Uncertain Journey 2016 Metal frame, red wool by Chiharu Shiota

Uncertain Journey
Metal frame, red wool
by Chiharu Shiota

In the companionship of art we are all of a time. Early or late we are to be shared. In a way we all have the same job. We are trying to evoke and reinforce meanings from the spaces we cover and the times we’re given. Short or long this becomes our purpose. What we artists do is important stuff.

Best regards,


PS: “The months and days are the travelers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers. I too for years have been stirred by the sight of a solitary cloud drifting with the wind to ceaseless thoughts of roaming.” (Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694)

Beyond Time, 2018. White thread, metal piano, musical notes. by Chiharu Shiota

Beyond Time, 2018. White thread, metal piano, musical notes.
by Chiharu Shiota

Esoterica: Thanks again for being part of our community. Thanks especially to those friends who correspond regularly. It seems there’s so much that we can learn, so much that we can feel. As for me, I’m going to a remote island for a few days to look at clouds.



Purple cone-flower, softly a bee on yellow-speckled spikes, swaying in the breeze. (ab)

Young sparrow fluffed, momentarily left behind in gravel bath, camouflaged. (ab)

Headless white in shallows, bobbing heavy in swells, then stretching up long eyes to horizon. (ab)

A tiny bar, a lightning speedy robotic maniac bartender mixing apple martinis for 250. (sg)

At 3 a.m. we cross cobblestones and through a signless door, two chicks and a chaperone. (sg)

French toast and our respective cabs, we disturb the rats and climb our bedtime stairs. (sg)

A horizon glow, a prism up to the sky’s green center, shooting stars cutting. (js)

Green lace overhead, trembling, somewhere a big frog speaks. (lv)

A long dock, the sound of water, a cloud of flies hovering, one mad dragonfly. (lv)


Counting Memories, 2019 by

Counting Memories, 2019
by Chiharu Shiota

You are invited to share your own “eyeku” in the comments, below. Thank-you for your friendship.

This letter was originally published as “Important stuff” on August 20, 2004.

It is with my sincerest gratitude that I thank each and every one of you for your words of condolence for the loss of my Mother, Carol Noriko Genn. My family is humbled and deeply comforted by your kindness. With gratitude and friendship, Sara. 

“With every gust of wind, the butterfly changes its place on the willow.” (Matsuo Basho)



  1. Eve (Okumura) Schell on

    My deepest condolences on the passing of your mother.
    We are all flowers in the gardens of Spirit..
    each cherished in impeccable moments dedicated to the one.

  2. Dear Sara,
    My deepest condolences on the passing of your mom. May the memories fill your heart full of love at this time and give you and your family comfort and peace. Sending hugs and thank you for all you share with us.
    Michelle Austen

  3. Sara, I was blown away by your ability to rise above your grief, or maybe even be propelled by it, to describe your wonderful mother to this community and to let us know of her passing. Deep condolences to you and your family as you navigate forward without her seemingly with you. I expect you’ll already to feeling her closer than she’s ever been, such is the power of love over death.
    Thank you also for the constantly inspiring Painter’s Keys – both yours and those of your fabulous late father. These letters confirm so many ideas for me, buoy me up, leaving my spirit stronger and feeling part of a larger community. May these blessings come right back at you.
    With deep appreciation, Brownie

  4. Sarah,
    Sincere condolences on the loss of your mom. Prayers for your family.

    I am enjoying the “Eyeku” experience. Here are a few from today!

    staring at the screen, some wisdom it may impart, and yet I forget

    flashing images, the computer reveals them, a wasted moment

    having fun with words, describing the scene at hand, never to repeat

    a dreary morning, rain clouds share their cargo with me, I guess I’ll get wet

    so much fun today, playing word games with weather, waiting for the sun

    keys clicking away, knowledge spewing forth at me, so much so immediate

    Warm regards, Joanne

  5. Phillis Elliott on

    Sarah – my condolences & prayers go to you & your brothers. Mother lost is one of the hardest to accept. As time slowly passes you wil come to realize how the memories make your mother be with you always. I know this as both of my parents have passed on leaving a feeling of loneliness . It too will become bearable . God stays with us, have faith & accept our prayers for you. Bless you in all you endeavor in the future. Thank for sharing your father & mother with us. Phillis

    • Rachel Bushnell on

      Allan, yours is a beautiful eyeku – dusk settling ending day and entering stillness.
      Thank you, Rachel

  6. Angela Oliver on

    Dear Sara
    Your Mother and Dad’s spirits fill you with so much beauty. Thank you for sharing their gifts and yours to all of us. I look forward to your letters and have saved everyone.
    Angela Oliver

  7. Dearest Sara,
    With heartfelt and deepest sympathy, love to you and your family as you navigate the terrain of loss. It IS a difficult journey, without end, as you already know from the loss of your beloved father. Take good care of yourself. With enormous appreciation for all of your communications before and all to come. The brotherhood and sisterhood overflow with warmth for you and your family.
    Virtual hugs,
    Nancy Oppenheimer

  8. This letter brought tears to my eyes. In the last year I have cancelled out of all social media, physically retired from art groups, a major change because it just felt like the right way to go at this stage of life. But I still read these letters and look forward to them on Tuesday and Friday. ” How do we find simplicity and direct purpose in the midst of chaotic communication? How, on our necessary islands of ego do we find challenging and yet comforting companionship? ” Well, Robert, by reading yours and Sara’s letters. Thank YOU!!

  9. The haiku is a Japanese poetic form that consists of three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. The haiku developed from the hokku, the opening three lines of a longer poem known as a tanka. The haiku became a separate form of poetry in the 17th century.

    Love these notes Sara
    I learn something new each time
    Please do continue

  10. In the passage of our time, there will be bright days and there will be dark days. May you see more bright days in the future of your destiny. Our Creator giveth and He taketh away. Our hope is for a spiritual everlasting time where no tear will be shed. God Bless my friend and let’s hope for lasting peace towards the one you lost. Eddie Walsh

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January 23, 2022 to January 30, 2022

 DETAILJoin Ellie Harold for “Intuitive Painting: Permission to Paint Expressively,” designed especially for mature women artists of all skill levels who wish to explore this medium for soulful exploration. The retreat provides attractive accommodations (your own room!) along with lightly structured activities for centering, relaxation and low stress art-making. You’ll have plenty of free time to muse, paint, write and reflect while enjoying the colors, textures and flavors of San Miguel. This Retreat has the potential to transform not only your art but your life! You’ll return home with a specific art “care plan” to assure support for further creating. Details at

16 x 20 inches
Acrylic on canvas

Featured Artist

The way that I interpret what I see

is my Way.

I paint, because it’s the most satisfying way that I’ve found

to be myself.

Fish swim.

Birds fly.

I paint.


On canvas,

with acrylics.



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