Nature Writing author Michaela Vieser is Wave Writer fellow of the Okeanos Foundation for the Sea. Her work focuses on our human interaction with the waters of our planet. Scientific research results, indigenous and local perspectives and historical events are combined with the author’s own findings and observations, which she gathers on her research trips and shapes into new linguistic images.
Her work encourages us to overcome apparent divisions and to understand ourselves again as part of our fellow world.
The following texts are all by Michaela Vieser
For two years now I have been keeping a wave diary and almost every day tracked readings, thoughts, sights and sounds that evoke the sea. In September 2023, three days before leaving for Japan, this diary filled more than 700 pages. Some entries focus on a thought, a moment, others expand on something I have read and later discussed with others. Some entries are a reminders of the soft side of the researches I have engaged in, the encounters with scientist or members of First Nations, whom I spoke to in interviews and who have left an impression with me that reaches far deeper than the subjects we covered. While all along I produce radio features, newspaper articles and wrote a book, the diary carries the thoughts that have not made it into the published format. The Wave Diary holds a space where my thoughts are breathing, moving, ready to feed into other thoughts.
When I set out on this research journey to Japan, I came to think of it as a pilgrimage of sorts, a pilgrimage to bodies of water. Japan has a long culture of pilgrimages. There are the 33 Saikoku temples that teach compassion, the 88 temples of Shikoku, or the Kumano Kodo, the path to Kumano.
My own pilgrimage was to feel into the connections we have with water: the sea, rivers, canals, estuaries, waterfalls, sacred lakes, mundane ponds, aquascapes and street aquariums. The lives they hold; our estrangement from their flows and the loneliness this stirs within us. I am hoping to be taken to places and thoughts I had not foreseen.
The flickering reflections of liquid worlds, echoed by the silences of fish, the kelp forests where sea and land meet, silver scales left behind on fishing boats and abalone encounters in caves beneath the surface. Somewhere, I feel, in a river up in the mountains, an ancient salamander waits for all of this to pass.
My own pilgrimage route starts with the Chie no Umi series by Hokusai. The 19th century iconic Japanese woodblock artist of “The Great Wave” drew ten pictures titled “The wisdom of the Sea” and in each set portrays human encounters with water within the Japanese landscape. I will re-visit these these ten places he drew, but then find my own pace and stir away to scenes he has not covered yet. With each step, each breath, each thought, I will connect to the urgent questions that arise in this age of the Anthropocene. The questions that the world is asking us.
Only 13% of the workers in the fishing industry are female. From the 97 women enlisted in the female members of fisheries entry, only 12 are actually fishing. Rimi is one of the 12 actual fisherwomen in Japan.