Japan has figured prominently in one form or another this past week. My trip to Japan this time was different. American Robert Beaupre has lived in downtown Tokyo for 18 years.

Japan has figured prominently in one form or another this past week. My trip to Japan this time was different. American Robert Beaupre has lived in downtown Tokyo for 18 years. The sixty-six year old is a high school English teacher by day and vocalist in a rock band at night that performs in live music houses around Tokyo. Isumi-Ichinomiya is an hour away from Robert’s home and both towns face the Pacific Ocean. Isumi has 38,000 people with an economy based on commercial fishing, spiny lobster, sardines, tomatoes and cucumbers. The much smaller Ichinomiya of 12,000 is known for specialized agriculture (especially melons, tomatoes and fruits) as well as tourism and resorts.

Robert met with a local artisan cheesemaker who wanted to help the failing dairy business in the area by purchasing raw milk for his cheese. He connected with an American photographer who uses a camera with a 140-year-old lens for his pictures. The photographer also grows organic rice which is served in his café. The rice is sun-dried, which gives it better flavor and nutrition. He pointed out mold appearing on some rice which is used to produce Miso and Sake.

The South African artist was the first foreigner to become a professional surfer in Japan. This is now home for him and his Japanese family as he paints surf art and landscapes. Every person wanted to be closer to nature and preferred the old ways and slower pace. At the end of the program, Robert invited all of us to come. He just may move there himself.

The past week I was up to my wrists, elbows, knees and ankles working in the Japanese Peace Garden (JPG). January and February are good months for transplanting trees… when not in a drought. After a two-year hiatus, five trees were moved to new locations. The three Slash pines that sprouted inside the Prairie Restoration area are in new spots as well as the redbud from my outdoor metal bathtub and the container-grown mimosa. One spindly Rose-of-Sharon was moved to the site of an Austrian pine no longer.

This ‘Sharon’ will be interesting to watch as spring comes. It was one of several Sharons that struggled to live in the Murrah Memorial plot. The Murrah has atrocious soil with drainage problems. Try as they might, the Sharons grew little during their stay. Each one leaned to the north in feeble attempts to combat strong south winds the JPG is so notorious for. Only one Sharon now resides in the Murrah…the toughest and best of the lot. The emaciated transplanted Sharon might go into a state of shock. Its clay-bound orangish roots are now in rich deep brown soil.

The landscape timbers riding around in my van were placed around the Native Grass square. The small spaces between were interspersed with rocks. The Zen Garden is currently under construction as old rotten timbers are being pulled out and will be replaced.

Saturday was the Oklahoma Gravel Growler that began and ended in front of spOKeLAHOMA on Bell Avenue in Shawnee. spOKeLAHOMA specializes in helping cyclers get the most out of cycling. “Make the cycling adventure happen”.

The adventure did happen this Saturday with 250 riders. The LONG 81-mile race on gravel and dirt roads had 140 crazy cyclers while 111 people decided to do the SHORT 036-mile race. The LONG folks launched at 8:30 am and were followed on their heels by the SHORT ones. Thirteen runners in the Ultra Marathon, a wee jaunt of 36 miles, had already taken off at 7:30 am.

Not only were there competitive riders but professionals. Fourteen states were represented which included Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, North Carolina, Washington and Alaska. Canadian riders, yes from Canada, said they came down for the balmy weather!

SHORT riders began trickling in before lunch. The first riders of the LONG course arrived at the finish line about 12:30 pm. The last rider came in around 5:00 pm. He earned the Ernest Shackleford Award. Sir Ernest Shackleford was a British polar explorer and passionate adventurer who often experienced disastrous outcomes. Many years after his death he surfaced as a role model for leadership, a man who kept his team together in extreme circumstances. This paraphrase says it all “When disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” Kudos to everyone who finished their race whether on bicycle or on foot. It took endurance and perseverance.

Barbeque and hot dogs were available. Participant names were announced as they crossed the finish line. Sponsors provided prizes and swag (free stuff). Race registration money went to the Friendship House in Shawnee and other local charities.

“Cyclists see considerably more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens. A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.” Dr. K. K. Doty.

While the Growler was going on, we drove to the Shawnee Public Library. The Deep Fork Audubon Society display was dismantled, stacked and put into sacks. Some of the posters tried to escape the display case. The librarians had secured their stay with strong strapping tape which was gently removed.

The Oklahoma Master Naturalist (OMN) display will be in February. Three plastic tubs of paraphernalia were lugged in, opened and sorted. Last time we had investigated the contents was in late September at the Lazy E Arena Wildlife Expo. OMN had been set up for three days outdoors under a small tent. Takedown was on a windy, dusty afternoon as fast-moving clouds scurried across the sky.

“Life sucks a lot less when you add mountain air, a campfire, and some peace and quiet.” Brooke Hampton

Although it was cloudy but bright last Saturday, the hall of the library was rather dark. The lights had not yet been turned on. When electricity surged through the system, the display case became illuminated. Large framed posters illustrating the path of the Monarch, the Monarch life cycle and the water cycle were propped up against the back wall. Bones, rocks, fossils, shells, pelts, skulls with horns and teeth, plastic replicas of insects and plaster of Paris animal tracks were laid along the front of the glass doors. In the separate flat display case further away was placed the spotted bobcat skin surrounded by turtle carapaces and small skulls. Gorgeous. Only thing missing were representatives of the plant kingdom. Not quite the time of year for those, but I did scatter about some pine cones.

The Oklahoma Master Naturalists will resume their workshop schedule beginning on March 23rd. The Introduction to Ecology workshop begins at 9:30AM at the Oklahoma County Extension Office located at 2500 NE 63rd St in Oklahoma City. Five workshops will be held from March to early June at various locations: OKC/OSU Extension, OSU campus and Lake Arcadia. Visit the Shawnee Public Library to also learn about OMN.

The OMN website is https://okmasternaturalist.wixsite.com/website

“And then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” Vincent van Gogh.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.