Letters to a Nomad

I have been trying to write a letter to reach him. A letter that has been addressed to a man I’ve never met, although we have shared many written conversations. Our love for classical music and Japanese culture is what brought us together, my story is what tore us apart.

I told him my grandmother was from Shikoku and that she is the reason why I paint my lips so narrow and red. There is no physical trait in me that would give away my asian heritage so I bestowed it upon me. I’ve been proudly wearing my geisha lips since I was twelve. The rest of my physique is a declaration of my Scottish roots as is my surname, McClellan.

My grandfather was from the tiny island of Hirta. He fled in 1930 and began what would be a lifetime of traveling. The day he left, he drew a map with his small island in the center and nothing else revolving around it. He believed that if you hadn’t visited a place, how could you be certain it existed. Back then, Hirta was the only thing he knew but, in time, his map would grow as big as he did

His first expedition was to Easter Island. He would tell us how, one night, the stone mouth’s of the moais cracked open blowing a strong wind that, if you listen carefully, told the tale of their existence.

In Antipaxos he claimed he was a fisherman looking for a rare octopus that hid in one of the island’s caves. He had orders to capture the cephalopod for a rich king who wanted the ink used for his portrait. Once it was finished, he had the artist’s hands chopped off to use the red of his blood and the following painter’s tongue cut for texture and so it went.

He got to roam the world, steering people with his charm. He was a great storyteller and made long voyages more bearable for his companions. He only travelled to small islands, he said that small places hid great treasures. He was right.

Eventually, he landed in Shikoku. He professed to be a merchant willing to export goods back to Hirta but instead he found my grandmother. This was the first time he claimed something for himself, but her father was not willing to give her away to a foreign merchant. He knew that the only thing he had to give was his map. He had always been so meticulous about his strokes so private of its existence, but he knew that it was the only thing he had to offer. A unique map that revealed the steps of a man’s life. Her father rejected it.

He traveled to Siquijor and he found the wise woman he seeked. He explained his story and she agreed to help him. She held the map in her hand and crushed it down to a ball. My grandfather fell on the floor and twisted while he placed a hand to his hurting heart. She pronounced the words and let the map drop into the sea. It had to dry with the light of the moon and the breeze of the night. The following day, he collected his map and saw how it came to life. Knowledge and secrets were revealed from each and every island he had been to.

He went back to Siquijor and offered it once more to my great grandfather. He was so amazed by it that he agreed to the wedding and allowed him to keep his map. Having given up all the wonders of the world for his daughter was sign enough that he had really fallen for his daughter.

Where the map is now is a mystery but every time I meet someone and tell them this story, they vanish from my life in the search of this magical map just like you will. I have leather envelopes that contain all those letters that have abruptly come to an end. The greed of man has no end.

Letters to a Nomad (2015)
Photo: Carolina Iriarte
Text: Josephine A. M. Halpin

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 11cm / 4.3in
Width – 21.5cm /8.4 in
Depth – 1cm/ 0.4in

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 15cm / 5.9in
Width – 21cm /8.2 in
Depth – 7cm / 2.7in
Strap drop length worn long- 53- 60 cm / 20.8- 23.6 in
Strap drop length worn short 9 cm/ 3.5 in
Weight – 

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 16cm / 6.2 in
Width – 20cm / 7.8 in
Depth – 5cm / 2 in
Strap drop length worn long- 54- 63 cm / 21.2- 24.8 in
Strap drop length worn short 8.5 cm/ 3.3 in
Weight – 

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 20cm / 7.8 in
Width – 24cm /9.4 in
Depth – 8cm/ 3.1in
Strap drop length worn long- 47 – 54 cm / 18.5 – 21.2- in
Strap drop length worn short 10 cm/ 4 in
Weight –

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 16cm / 6.2 in
Width – 20cm / 7.8 in
Depth – 5cm / 2 in
Strap drop length – 46 – 50/ 18- 20 in
Handle drop 4cm / 1.5 in
Weight –

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 8.5 cm/ 3.34in
Width – 10.5cm /4.1 in
Depth – 1cm/ 0.4in
Weight –

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 10cm / 3.93in
Width – 15cm /5.9 in
Depth – 1cm/ 0.41in
Weight –

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 15 cm / 5.9 in
Width – 21,5 cm / 8.4 in
Depth – 10 cm / 3,9 in

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 12 cm / 4.7in
Width – 18 cm / 7 in
Depth – 6 cm / 2.37 in

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 12 cm/ 4.7in
Width – 18 cm / 7 in
Depth – 6 cm/ 2.3 in

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 1.5 cm/ 0.5 in
Width – 7.5 cm / 2.9 in
Depth – 7.5 cm/ 2.9 in

This item’s measurements are:

Height – 12cm / 4.7 in
Width – 18cm /7 in
Depth – 7cm/2.7in
Strap drop length worn long- 53- 60 cm / 20.8- 23.6 in
Strap drop length worn short 6 cm/ 2.3 in
Weight –