In our search for goodness on the journal today our mind wanders to the jagged shores of California, sun-kissed and bathed in warmth like the spine of a great lizard, where artist, former professional athlete, and activist Peggy Oki lives.
Oki was born in California after her parents fled Hiroshima in the wake of the war and has spent her life not only championing nature's beauty as an environmental activist, but also celebrating the land and water through surfing, climbing, and most notably skating.
Most people will know Oki for the way she and the Z-Boys changed skate culture forever. Brought together by a love for skating, the crew would ride concrete as if on a wave, dragging their fingers across the curves of empty swimming pools and stadiums. The movement they inspired brought vertical skateboarding to life. Oki wasn't limited to the concrete jungle either, and has established herself as an experienced surfer in the past 40 years.
It was her love for surfing which led to a curious encounter at sea, in which a lone wild dolphin swam up to Oki, remaining with her for a brief moment before swimming out in the open ocean. Not long after, Oki experienced a similar encounter: the gargantuan eye of a gray whale rising above the water like a periscope. The connection she felt with these creatures during those moments changed something in her, and she decided to dedicate the rest of her life to protecting these creatures from whalers in Norway, Japan, and Iceland through her artworks and activism.
In a way, Oki's interests seem to connect in a full circle: the fluidity of her movement on land and water don't just emulate those of her graceful counterparts at sea, but also mirror the purpose and direction of her life. As much as Oki appears to be a free spirit, she commits herself to taking precise action wherever needed, riding the waves instead of being swept away with the flow. It's ultimately Oki's ability to act on her gut instincts that have led her to a beautiful life, rich with purpose and clarity.
Above, Oki's former team mate Shogo Kubo, illustrated by Gigi Pitchaya.
Read more about Peggy Oki and her mission here.
Words by Anne Berry, illustrations by Gigi Pitchaya.