Home > Stories > East to West: Angela the…what?
East to West: Angela the…what?

September 4, 2013

By Angela Jeffs

August 2013

I am cheating a bit here and there, skimming over all the visitors that made the month such a blur of happiness that I could think of nothing to write about beyond how we did this and that and went there. But as recollections they are all in the past now. As is yesterday, but that seems so much closer, and also generously offered up a whole lot of new things to think about.

I suppose it started reading Damon Farry’s beautifully expressed thoughts on The Beauty of Emptiness. Finding it posted on Facebook, I offered up a comment: ‘It comes down to who we are without our story, right? You call it nothing. It could also be pure essence. A flower has no story but is simply what it is, without question, without judgement.’

Generously Damon replied, expressing agreement: ‘Eliminating our story is one of the keys to inner peace. It’s not so easy to do, but if we can let go of the labels, categories and attachments we have built up, if only for a short time at first, we can go a long way to achieving this. It is indeed pure essence as you say.’

This dialogue was thrown into even clearer focus when we attended another event at the Blairgowrie Centre for Contemporary Arts (BCCA) anarchically housed in the shed at the far end of Kate Clayton and Duncan Mclaren’s garden.

Sunday last it was a mother and daughter 24-hour consideration of birds as augurers.   (Lesley and Tara created a sacred space for birds to enter and then spent the night mapping and recording visitors.)

This time, second year student Heather Lane at Glasgow Art School offered what she described as  “a temporary Scottish tourist attraction” with “Scottishness  + food + (soft) drinks provided”.

The Theme: Scotland the brave (brave crossed out, which I seem unable to do here) what?  In other words, if not Scotland the brave (virtually the country’s national anthem), Scotland the…WHAT?

With a referendum planned for 2014 with regards Scotland splitting from the rest of the UK, Heather thought it interesting and timely to explore about what the country stands for and where we all stand on Scottish nationalism.

Her bemused but accommodating mini audience of ten happily dressed up in all things tartan in cos-play style, re-learned to dance the Gay Gordons on the lawn, sat on tartan rungs to eat tatties, neeps and vegetarian haggis washed down with Irn Bru (Scotland’s soft drink answer to whisky), and drew pictures of our individual utopian views of the country. We then discussed stereotypes and took a vote on independence (not a single AYE, but four firm NAYES and the rest all wishy-washy NOT SURE/MAYBES).

It was a lot of fun but also threw up all kinds of serious questions about what a country is without its stereotypical labels, categories and attachments.

Which brought me back to my dialogue with Damon, and how this resonated with me after ten months in Scotland. Who was I without Japan, my home and friends, my work and place in society there as a largish fish in a very small pool.

Who am I here, now?  I’m Angela the… what?

In terms of labels, categories and attachments, I’m not even a small fish in a large pool. In many respects I hardly exist.  Just another grey-haired woman in a sea of many, living in the middle of nowhere. Even more disturbingly, another grey-haired woman in a sea of many, living in the middle of nowhere, struggling to create a meaningful life in a closed society that distrusts anything new and challenging.

But then maybe I am judging my self by old labels, categories and attachments. It is obvious that as time passes, new ones are already manifesting…

Neighbours are kind and helpful. People have started greeting me – us – in shops and on the street of  Blairgowrie and Dunkeld. I am beginning to link up with like-minded souls. And I don’t live in the middle of nowhere; I live in the middle of somewhere, and everyone who visits responds to its peace and clean fresh beauty.  As for my new website (, it is beginning to manifest interest, and the possibilities of work are ever-so-slowly beginning to take shape.

All this apart, the question remains: who am I without my story – my story of past, present, even future.

I know the answer of course: I am me, what Damon calls nothingness, and I regard as pure essence of being.

What is it then that stands in the way of my acceptance of this state. That allows me to be happy? It is, of course, ego in collaboration with thinking.

Over lunch I was talking with Akii about this. When I asked him what he is without HIS own story, he replied “Just another specie.”

True. But the only specie that (as far as we know) “thinks”.

Flowers, butterflies, insects, reptiles, fish, mammals live, behave and react instinctively according to age-old patterns of behavior. Homo sapiens have learned to operate within an infinite range of different guidelines according to where they live, and ego-driven thinking has taken us over to such a degree that we no longer know who we are or what we born to do. Nor largely – and very sadly –  do we care.

A flower does not have to think how to be. It just is. How simple and lovely.

So here I sit, with everything I need and nothing I want, watching clouds cast continually changing shadows of light and dark over the landscape to dappled effect. More than enough.

I realize that in a perfect world – the world I have always aspired towards via direct action rather than being the perfect world I already am – the answer is simple.

Angela the what?

Angela the Angela.

And without the name?

Angela the nothing. Pure essence without trappings, wants or needs. A state far beyond contentment and even happiness.

My goodness. I think I have allowed my self to disappear. Is this an embrace of transition too far?

Late summer 2012 writer and journalist Angela Jeffs moved from Japan, where she lived for 25 years, to Scotland from where she reports monthly on how her life is changing. This is the eleventh installment. See here for part one, here for part two, here for part three, here for part four, here for part five, here for part six, here for part seven, here for part eight, here for part nine, and here for part 10.

Visit her facebook page to learn more about her latest book Chasing Shooting Stars: A South American Paper Trail.


About the author: After training in theatre and Laban dance, Angela Jeffs ( stepped sideways into London publishing. She worked freelance as an editor from 1973, then reinvented herself in Japan as a journalist and writer from 1986. She was a weekly columnist for The Japan Times for 22 years, and Japan Correspondent for Asia Magazine in Hong Kong from 1989-1996. Her book Insider's Tokyo, commissioned from Singapore, was published in 2001. Since 2005 she has been developing and facilitating a programme of therapeutic creative writing under the title Drawing on The Writer Within ( Her latest book, Chasing Shooting Stars: A South American Paper Trail into the Past, can be ordered via
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