Friday, October 31, 2008


ENOUGH TO BE AN ISLAND


Out on the Lake there is a tiny island just a few meters wide, on days like today sitting on the surface like a thick, dark cookie on a silverblue baking sheet. I've passed close by it on boats and am always surprised by its tininess-- it seems to grow bigger in the mind.

I have also seen at the Lake Biwa Museum, in a scale geological model of the Lake bed, how that mini-island - like most of the larger islands that dot the Lake - is but the point of a tall needle of once-liquid volcanic rock, eons ago thrust upward from the core of the earth, reaching now through far deeps of water to barely touch the surface enough to be an island. Likely the island was once much higher than the cookie it is now, and will disappear below the surface before too geologically long. These molten facts are reflected in the mountains around the Lake, which comprise the timeworn caldera of an ancient volcano.

Most days that little island, because of its size, is invisible; even the slightest haze or shadow of cloud erases it, to say nothing of water-reflected light. But on certain rare days like today, when water, air and light combine in just the right way, the Lake appears to end about halfway across, as natural currents turmoil the near waters and tranquilize the far, and there the island appears: not atop the water, like the usual island, but floating in the sky, high above the apparent surface of the Lake.

If I didn't know the true distance to the far shore, that floating island would be as inexplicable as any other miracle around here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY


"It's really hurt the profitability of the items on the dollar menu, even though it's driving traffic to the restaurants," said Morningstar Inc. stock analyst John Owens. Analysts have been expecting a price hike for the double cheeseburger, the company's best-selling U.S. sandwich."

Imagine that: there are people around the world who analyze the prices of double cheeseburgers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


WHERE IS THE WILD?


"I love the wild not less than the good," said Henry, in the Higher Laws chapter of Walden, and "In wildness lies the preservation of the world." Henry was wild about wilderness, just couldn't stop talking about it one way or another, and who can blame him, he saw it disappearing.

But that was a long time ago, over 150 years now. The interesting thing is that even back then, when the wild must have still been pretty much all over the place, Henry was already condemning its decline, already lamenting the relentless incursion of the artifactual.

His were admirable early sentiments, though they fell on mostly deaf ears in those times of righteous conviction regarding clearcutting of the greater soul. Walden wasn't a big success until well after the results of manifest destiny had become manifest.

Since then, it seems we still haven't realized that the outer wild is the counterpart, the balance, to the wild we carry in ourselves, in every cell and sinew in our bodies; remove the wild from our outer lives and in our hearts and souls we suffer, our compass goes awry. All who still revere the wild know this, as Henry did; he recognized it as the greater part of the soul. So now, some 150 years later, where has it gone? Is it out on the lawn? On the hiking trail? In the Winnebago window, the satellite image, nature video, national park, endangered species, inner child, urban shaman, modern warrior, rabid zealot? Is it caught on the Net? Can it be seen with commuter eyes?

In our nowadays, with government keeping us anxious about government, business keeping us unbalanced and selling us the next step at a discount, the further we get from whatever wild there once was, and the more we are isolated and channeled by the careers, garments, incomes, appliances, habits, sciences, arts, rebellions, religions, schools of thought and mannered ways we think comprise us, the less we are the creatures of creation, one thrust of all the universe, and the more we are the static but remarkably lifelike exhibits in that big fancy museum of our own construction we call modern life.

Commensurately, the less informed we are by what is ever ongoing in the currents of the universe: the sun that is shining, tides that are flowing, moon rising, spiraling stars, galaxies whirling, blooms that are opening, seeds that are falling, scattering on all the winds and swelling with the rain; we are no longer fed by the wild, that in us is ferally fertile, and so do not germinate, let alone grow into what we were all engendered for, which is beyond dimension, in the seed of wildness.

Mostly as published in Kyoto Journal #62

Monday, October 27, 2008


INTEGRITIES


Call me Ahab.

Well, the day finally came when with the help of a friend I erected the structural framework of the anti-monkey infrastructure project I have at last initiated in my garden. As I expected, it is an ongoing - not to say obsessive - discover-as-I go process, an ad hoc learning curve that ominously approximates the trajectory of a boomerang.

But as the short snake said, you've got to start somewhere. So I took as my parameters the dimensions of my garden and the dimensions of the patented anti-monkey netting that I planned to use since it was the only product that expressly depicted disappointed monkeys on the label. I know better than to trust mere advertising as a general thing, but when it comes to outwitting monkeys, advertising may be all we have.

Whatever. I ordered the framework piping a few weeks ago, bought the clamps and netting myself, pondered the vertiginous undertaking for a week or so and then my friend Ian came out on Saturday afternoon and we set to work achieving what in the case of Stonehenge, for example, took a millennium or so, and was a bit larger, but then they had to use stone didn't they, as with the pyramids-- and after everything has tracked out, my fence may take a millennium as well, who can say-- Not me, I won't be here, I don't really care beyond a few decades, maybe a generation or two-- after that, it's all in their hands, if the monkeys haven't taken over completely by then in accordance with their long evolutionary plan. Look what they've already done to the world financial system.

Anyway there I was, thanks to the history of monkeys, at the end of a fine afternoon teetering atop a tall ladder, one hand clutching a tall and similarly teetering metal pole, the other hand grasping at the end of a long horizontal metal pole that I intended to attach to the teetering pole with the flexible two-part clamp I held in my third hand while tightening the nuts thereon using the pliers in my fourth hand. It was a clearcut procedure-- not really designed for humans, monkeys would be good at it, but I'm nothing if not idiotic enough to try anything several meters in the air in a darkling wind.

We had earlier (I know I'm going backward in time while going forward in the story but if you think I'm going to rearrange all this you can go tweak my anti-monkey infrastructure; I'm going to take a nap) driven a wooden post into the ground with a major mallet at several points (8 in all) around the garden perimeter; into these holes we inserted the poles to an ultimate depth of 80cm, leaving 3.2 meters of pole above ground, slightly less than double my height. Each of these was but a single example of the aforementioned poles teetering in company with yours truly. When the last clamp was clamped, the whole thing took on a unified integrity and became a strong solid structure of nonetheless questionable character.

It was hard to see Monkeyhenge from closeup in the dusk. The next morning I looked out the window into the morning sunshine falling golden on the garden and there beheld a structure that needed... my first reaction was Removal, but then the monkeys would love that wouldn't they, so onward we Ahab in our ways. Tweaking is maybe what it needs, some nice blue stones from Wales, perhaps, maybe a point on top...

I am so glad I do not have a large garden. This is just an experiment, anyway, it's not exactly a Tower of Babel yet, but who knows where it will lead, I'm not putting any photos in here because the structure is going to change from day to day, week to week etc. as I steadily approach the ideal form of antimonkey perfection, or maybe wind up replicating the Eiffel Tower.

Some of my more questionable acquaintances seem to share the delusion that this whole protogeodesic affair has affected my mind, simply because I've said a few dozen times or so that I might give up this vegetable obsession and enjoy a rock garden instead... Thinking I might go into rock gardening at some point is no reason to question my mental integrity; fact is, I think I could raise rocks rather well... I wonder where I could buy some seeds...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008


CHAIRS


A time-darkened chair of oak, it stood among other chairs of other kinds, empty of all but time and craft, in a warehouse for antiques; a sign said the chair had been made in England a couple of hundred years ago. It was a spoked, round-back chair with arms, a practical chair, its seat a single slab of wood, selected with care that the beautiful grain would be polished to this very sheen by centuries of backsides, and it looked in the physical language inviting so I sat in it.

The chair had been made for the body the way only a lifelong maker of chairs for folks he will see every day for the rest of his life makes a chair. It wasn't a quick production line assembly for a never-known stranger somewhere else in the world; it was the hand-fashioned essence of chair, that the maker himself had been fashioning, by way of his family, for three or four hundred years or even more, until his fingers, hands and heart knew vastly more than just how to make chairs-- the feeling was born into the hands by then, and one man could conjure an entire chair, for the entire body, out of wood with just fire and iron, make it sing with function.

I could feel that song in my self when I leaned my back upon the back of the chair and lay my arms upon its arms, my hands coming to rest where hands had been anticipated with simple grace, the maker saying to me thus eloquently over centuries that he had known how and where my elbows and hands would come to rest, how they would want to rest and how to welcome them-- where hands had in fact been coming to rest for centuries-- are we not one, after all, for here was a chair that was made for the one we each are: not a market unit but a person, with whom a chair should be a private conversation.

It was a chair made to last beyond a life, like a poem or a song, the craft of it to be remembered, another form of the name of the maker, of himself and the grace of his hands to be passed on and spoken of, sung of in wood, taken good comfort in, and I realized I had in all my years on earth never been so well understood by a chair; no chair had ever told me of these things. Every chair I'd ever sat in had been mute, built for a phantom, a non-existent entity, an average consumer. Few go this far to make chairs any more; and if they do, the result is a remarkable not to say purely aesthetic artifact unique to its time and form, costing too much to be actually sat in, more design than chair and so not comfortable to the sitter, who feels less valuable than what he sits in, as though there were truth in a throne.

In my time I have sat in many chairs, that made me feel all sorts of ways-- from the tubular kind with the plastic caps on the leg-ends that chaired the 1950's to bags of styrofoam beads to leather/steel trapezoids on legs to straight-back chairs, bentwood chairs, easy chairs, reclining chairs, and on and on, and this was the first chair that had ever, how shall I say it, welcomed me, personally. The back curled round and the arms curled round and I was really in the chair, felt both embraced and rooted as I sat there, rooted like an ancient tree; there was no postural insistence from the chair, no disquieting tipsiness, no jittery ricketyness, no gangly angularity, no shoddy looseness, no shivery tubularity, no artistic misfitting, but solidity: simple, rooted, oaktree solidity, after 200 years of use!!!

What today is made like that? What today like that is made by a man who, like his father and grandfather and further back, has fashioned his very life into comfort for people he knows and will never know, from whom he seeks respect and appreciation, even centuries hence? Sitting in the chair I could feel in my heart as in my body every measure of the distance we have come from all the things that in their ways once filled life quietly and elegantly to the brim, how things in themselves used to tell us of one another, and show in their use the care that resided in what we crafted, how wholeheartedly we gave of our lives in our creations.

This was a chair that had been made by transforming the beauty of trees through the beauty of hands into the beauty of chairs. How far from there we are, on the chairs that bear us now, when we never set eyes on or even sense who makes the chairs we use, and more and more likely it's not even a who but a series of whats, as the spirit of hands fades from the products around us until there isn't a caress in a carload, and we live unknown by our surroundings is what the chair said, with an eloquence increasingly lost to our time.
[Rewritten from the archives]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


THIS EXPLAINS A LOT




Monday, October 20, 2008


HANDS DOWN IN TORONTO


In Japan it's called jang-ken-pon...
I had no idea it was an international competition,
with trading cards, even...
The 2008 RPS World Championships
will be held on October 25
in Toronto, says the World RPS Society!


Sunday, October 19, 2008


"WHATEVER," INSIST JAPANESE YOUTH


If you live here in Japan this might not be that big a surprise, but to folks in the politically active world abroad it's probably shocking to learn that political activism among today's Japanese youth is about the same as it is among teddy bears.

The contrast is even greater to one from a country like the US, where folks of all ages are active in pursuing their rights. I remember debating for the 18-year-old vote back in high school in NY in the 1950s; the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on July 1, 1971, lowering the US voting age to 18.

All the same, despite J-youths' apparent apathy regarding political empowerment (Will you put down the manga/joystick, take out your earbuds and just listen for a minute?), a Japanese student newspaper conducted a survey among high schoolers to find out whether they had any interest in lowering the voting age from 20 to 18, in a country with the dinosauriest government in the world (McCain's a young whippersnapper compared to some of these LDP lifetimers), but most of the kids who were willing to take out their earbuds said they'd rather not have the vote as they put the buds back in.

In fact, 32% of those who let go of the joystick for a sec said they actually OPPOSED voting rights for 18- and 19-year-olds; in other words, they felt something like: "What a ridiculous idea, giving matters of choice to people our age!" (Like Groucho and that club he would never think of joining), while an underwhelming 20% thought having the vote so soon would be kewl. About 40% said 'whatever...' and turned the volume back up.

Interestingly, female students particularly opposed the idea of giving the vote to such as they would soon be; only 16 percent said they approved of having the vote at that age, while 34 percent said "No way!" and resumed their eyelining.

Hard to believe, in times like these; maybe it won't be true, one day, and Japanese high school students won't have Jurassic leaders...

Thursday, October 16, 2008


FYI: If you must get sacked, try to do it in Japan!


"No matter how bad it gets in the rest of the world, you're still better off here."
For the moment, at least...
+
Then there's the helpful
Tips for New Paupers
(I learned a lot of this stuff during and after high school and college...
knowledge best learned when young.)


LET ALONE FOREVER


Well it's been about 6 weeks since I hit the road. Literally. Only a twinge or two remaining here and there at the points of various impacts, a keen one where the ribs cracked, and this morning for the first time since the accident I was again motorcycling down the curving mountain road.

It was one of those exhilarating autumn mornings only a goddess could come up with, golden sunshine draped over everything and all for free, rich autumnal perfume adding to the pricelessness, the kind of morning when you might plan to stop at lottery headquarters and pick up your winnings before heading off to grab your Oscar en route to graciously accepting your Nobel for Happiness.

But there at the heart of that lifeworthy mood, in some fuddy kind of caution I found myself holding back, tootling down the road like I was intensely 68 for godsake, which I am, but let's get real, there's no practical reason to be any particular age, so I stepped on it: there was a familiar roar of air and engine, an invigorating burst of speed and wind inside my shirt, my hair fanning out behind me, the wind making my eyes tear as I leaned back-and-forth into the curves, into the way the road really is in its own soul, and what use is the road if I don’t use it - all I have to do is pay attention - and what the hell, you can't be your age for even a moment, let alone forever...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


TRUE DESTINATIONS


Some folks still think of life in the old-fashioned way, as a river flowing to a majestic sea, or as a long open highway leading to a wondrous destination, and either metaphor can still capture in a sort of word-amber what is becoming an increasingly packaged process. I can't help it; even though I don't commute much anymore, I still tend to get systematic.

I realize now that back in my commuter days, after commuting for only a short while I subconsciously began to view life, modern life, modern urban life, ok, my modern urban life, as more like a loop line. There was something manically repetitive about it, something worryingly cookiecutteresque, and every day I felt more and more like a cookie but it wasn't my recipe.

There was an unfamiliar aroma to my future, an artificial flavor I couldn't help sensing when I crowded onto the line and began my daily loop, soon falling asleep from the carbon dioxide level and waking up to look out the window only for the name of the station to see if this was where I was supposed to go, it was only a name I was supposed to go to, could have been any name on the line, depended on where the corporation was.

For a while it was one name, then I changed offices and it was a different name, there was something accumulatively deweydecimal about it, a catalog of places into which I was filing my numbered days, all linked by a macrocosmic infrastructure that took me where I had to be and then took me home again, whichever way I went.

It can take a lifetime to leave the loop line, if you ever get to want to. Lives lived in a standard place (however eclectic) at a standard pace (however frenetic) acquire a virtual quality, the buildup of habit and pattern and repetition forming layer upon layer of time after time slipping by, chronically laminating over the actual life until it resembles a sculpture standing on a platform waiting for a streetcar.

Time isn't as big as we think. Fortunately I didn't set out on this career thing until rather late in life, so I only commuted for a comparatively brief while until I departed for the countryside and the joys of actual solitude, part of which joy is talking aloud to yourself, finding out what kind of a conversationalist you really are, confronting the vast secrets to which you carry the keys. It can only happen off the loop line, where you wake into a morning like when you were born, and go out into the fresh new world with true destinations in your eyes.

(Mostly as published in Kyoto Journal #49)


Saturday, October 11, 2008


WORK OF THE EARTH


Got riled the other afternoon with the office over some common editorial hassles and I was at home so no point in sharing it there or stewing on it but if I just sat around my mind would turn it over and over, pushing the same aimless mindrock up the same pointless mindhill so I went out to the tool shed and got the rake, hoe and pitchfork, made another couple of garden rows and planted some carrots, which are immeasurably more important than anger, mean more than any argument, are nourishing and delicious, just as the tilling of earth and the enriching of soil are more important and meaningful than cultivating bitterness or digging up bad feelings.

Gardens of light are better than gardens of darkness, rows of nourishment better than sloughs of toxicity. How much nicer to turn the deep and living soil, watch it gleam in the sunlight, alive with tomorrow, than to foster shadows of past illusion... When you till your garden you till yourself; when you seed the earth, you grow; when you nurture life, you live the more.

When at the end of the day I looked upon the result, at those straight, dark, rich, seeded rows, at what I had shaped with my hands, my tools and the work of the earth, rows that soon enough would bear little green flags of hope, that in their time would grow to food, I had never been riled at all, it was just a useless imagining back there, spent in a dream from which I'd awakened some time ago.

If you're upset, plant something.

Friday, October 10, 2008


LARVA MINING


One doesn't generally associate neatness with compost; in fact, I never do. For me, compost has always been synonymous with mess. A lovely-in-its-own-beautiful-way mess (with fermentation added, to differentiate it from my workspace). That was certainly true of my own compost pile, a chaotically ongoing accumulation of leaves, cuttings, fertilizers, kitchen garbage, wood ash, wormy chestnuts, chestnut-burr ash and various other random organic detritus of country living.

A couple of weeks ago (as chronicled below) I added some lime to the pile and raked it all to one side to sort of sit there and cure, and it was a mess the way I left it, sort of like a stormy sea of darkly vague unpleasantness. I was going to rake it all out maybe this weekend if I could find the time, good luck on that, and then at some point spread it all on the garden and make ready for next year's pile, starting with the soon-falling leaves, but before I had to do all that postponing I had a little brainstorm.

As the attentive reader will recall, I had found a number of kabutomushi larvae in the pile when I was raking it out, they seem to like it there, for its heat, softness and nutrition... I thought maybe since kids (mainly boys) paid money for the adult insects, someone might like to take a few pre-insects for their science class or something, then they'd get their beetles and I'd get my compost pile properly organized, without lifting a finger.

So on the off-chance we checked with the Haruya boys and learned that they had found a female kabutomushi in September and were now kabutomushi fanatics hoping that she'd laid some eggs and they'd get some larvae, so when we said you want some kabutomushi larvae for free they said wellberightoverknockknock. You'd think we gave them each a Ferrari, they were so joybouncy. Of course the kabutomushi is the Ferrari of insects among Japan boys, so their delight was understandable.

We got out the rake and let them have at it, imposed a larval quota, first time I ever did that, told them to leave the compost pile neat when they were finished, and when they were done digging up their quota they rearranged everything, you never saw such a neat compost pile, flat and even as a fine dark shag carpet, I'm gonna feel bad messing up that elegant area out there.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008


BONSAI BANKSY






























Some pictures of a bonsai kind of banksy graf I somehow managed to notice as I was walking into the tunnel from a parking lot to a shopping center out here in relative rurality... No signature on it, three minihoodies heading into the wall... I dub it a jbanksy...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


YOU WANT ONIONS WITH THAT?





Finally they're starting to get honest employment;
soon I may be keeping my own onions!

Monday, October 06, 2008


MOUNTAINS OF THE MIND


Everyone knows that the mind becomes extremely mountainous only a few steps in from the coast. The creatures that reside in this uncharted area on our mental maps are seldom seen by others, yet are common to us all; still, they can be a hazard to the solitary explorer who is not prepared to confront the unbelievable in his hinterland as he wends his way into the nether regions, from which few return unchanged.

Hermits, poets and other explorers of these fastnesses are well acquainted with the species of the inward realms, and are even known on occasion to have them eating out of their hands. But these nether fauna can never be completely tamed; and what would the outer reaches be, without their inner complement of native wildlife?

Between ourselves, however, we can only use metaphoric nomenclature to speak of these denizens we harbor in common, the names we call them imparting no description of their morphology, coloring or way of life. These are not crude and dispensable beings, but highly developed and specialized life forms essential to our spiritual ecology (psychological and religious taxonomy notwithstanding).

And there are many more such beings that have no names; yet we all know very well in ourselves of at least the presence of these creatures, who have at times poked their heads out of the thick undergrowth that adorns the verge of each of us; they are all part of the vastness of the experience when, in the world outside, we see a mountain and its wilds, that call to us as like to like; to climb such a peak and view the world from its summit is to do so as well within ourselves, to view at one remove the panoramas that we are.

And in so ascending we metaphorically surmount the wilderness within, survive vicarious passage to the summits of ourselves, to a clearer light, a cleaner wind. And we take this knowledge with us on our return to the narrow lowlands where we spend our daily lives as habitants of seeming mountainous islands, surrounded by seas of intercourse teeming with creatures that thrive in the depths of the apparent distance between us, those sometimes stormy, sometimes tranquil seas of relation that are as much illusion as the real world; for as each mountain is aware, at the foundation we are all connected.

[From the archives, July 2003.
First published in Kyoto Journal
The Sacred Mountains of Asia issue, 1993;
issue republished as a book of the same title
by Shambala Press, 1995, ed. John Einarsen.]


Sunday, October 05, 2008


ABSOLUTELY FREE

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.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008


CHESTNUTS


And I, oh I of little faith, castigating the chestnut tree as infertile, unproductive, judging by the bug-infested husks I found beneath it last year (having knelt on one in the grass and been stabbed multiply in the knee as by a sea urchin), and empty green ones in early September, at 6:00 this morning I was out harvesting the windfall of chestnuts, going OW! OO! OUCH! as I tried to pick them up in the dim light without gloves, trying to grab maybe one spine only...

Then, remembering another technique I had seen, I had to stop every few inches and winkle out a good-looking chestnut or two from the burrs scattered all over, using my feet the way the farm women do when harvesting chestnuts, stepping a boot on either side and forcing the chestnuts out, and how startlingly beautiful to the morning eye, when suddenly from the drab and spiky husks emerge those sleek, brown-coated thoroughbreds that fill my pockets, the morning silence the while punctuated by further thuds from the chestnut tree, the burrs falling, some bursting and spilling their contents out on the ground, others simply lying there voluptuously spiky in the grass.

And voluptuous is the word, with every bit of the quality of unmistakably overt sensual invitation to all comers, whether bugs, birds, beasts, or botanically lascivious guys like me. There are few sights more resplendent in their way than a thorny chestnut chest bursting like pride with its treasure on the dewy morning ground, gleaming brown gems even in the early light; and when husked and in a heap, how earthlovely is that deep glossy brown plumpness!

Rich brown chestnut-bulging husks all over the ground at my feet, I had a couple of pounds of chestnuts within a half hour, a process of great delight as being so direct and immediate in the link between me and all, like breathing, like sex, like being born, like dying, the ecstasy that pervades it all, so manifest in that brief burst of indistinctness from all that is...

And when peeled and boiled with rice, the chestnuts led me to experience first-tongue the deliciousness of kurigohan (chestnut rice): fresh and chesty chestnuts, steamed to just the right degree together with brown rice, become flavor and mouth-feel ambrosia when bitten into.

Later in the afternoon, home alone watching the veils of silver mist obscure and reveal the trees, wondering what could be the purpose of a life spent doing just such things, I realized like the mist and the trees the nature of revelation and concealment, that what is hidden need not be found to be known, need not be known to be worthy.

From the archives ... Sept. 28, 2002