Sunday, October 05, 2008


This morning when I went out into the golden air to put some compost atop the potato mounds to see if I could protect the plants against the first frost due any day now (I put some early compost into the potato hole at planting, too), thinking the warmth might keep the temp up just enough, on my way there (I finally did get there and do that), as usual I couldn’t pass up all the chestnuts lying on the dewy ground, shining in the sun in that gemlike way they have, calling to those childhood yearnings in me to invent all the things there are to do with beautiful chestnuts absolutely free, you cannot just leave them lying there) I had to pick them up, even though we already have far more than we can use this year-- I figured T-san, the lady who lives right in the heart of downtown Kyoto and comes out a couple of times a week to tend her piece of land just above us, might want them; she usually stops by on her way home and gathers wild herbs on our land, and chestnuts at about the right time of year, but came early this year and found none, only the brown empty early reject husks.

Haven’t seen her since, so I figured I’d save these for her before the bugs got to them, filled my cargo pockets and wound up walking around with bulging thighs while splitting wood and listening to a solitary but loquacious frog in the bamboo who heard something deep and moving in the bass impact of maul upon iron wedge into thick-barked oak and simply had to respond, so the frog and my labors had a sort of conversation, a rhythmically perky exchange that gave an uplift to the proceedings, frogs have much to say, and need someone to say it to, so I was happy to fill that need, happy to listen to such natural eloquence coming from a cloud of green leaves…

Now and then all through the day the occasional wafts of kinmokusei fragrance would come drifting along on the air and lift me from whatever level I was at the moment, the kinmokusei trees not sending out their heartstealing scent constantly, they’re smarter than that, somehow know that our weak noses would soon get used to the fragrance and stop smelling it, so they send it out in waves every just-right now and then, to stop us in our tracks and make us reel with appreciation, remind us of that big thing we’ve forgotten about again, which is even more effective at the end of the day when your mind is empty as a desert sky and you’re carrying firewood to the stack in the dusk as the birds are giving their evening concert with insect lyrics, your body carrying you along without complaint, your back, upper arms, forearms and hands pretty much used up after hours of gripping, swinging and lifting…

I was in the work-meditative groove and didn’t want to stop, the moments were perfect, like the air and light-- so I just walked back and forth between the split pile and the new stack carrying one split in each hand, stacking them and then going back for more at a slow pace like a mill horse, rambling around in a circle, allowing my absence off in that mindcloud somewhere, when T-san showed up at dusk and I gave her all those chestnuts; she gathered some more that had fallen since, then on the way back to her car held up the bag for her little dog in the back seat to see, said kuri, kuri! the dog barking in delight, she said the dog loves kurigohan (chestnut [cooked with] rice ).

Then I wrapped it up: stacked the last, put away the tools, watered the garden and let tiredness rule its hard-won kingdom.

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