Saturday, January 31, 2009


TRUST - you remember that word - used to be part of all those inscriptions carved over institutional doorways now falling into economoral decline everywhere-- archaeologists dig one up every now and then from another older and forgotten society that made earlier versions of the same mistakes.

One of the first places they used the word TRUST was on the money, especially when it was no longer gold and became the matter of faith it's now lapsing from.

TRUST was also commonly used in the names of the biggest banks and most reputable finance companies, First Trust this and National Trust that, the word had that much heft; politicians even used it now and then in high-sounding speeches of once upon a time, before microphones and tape recording exposed the de facto conversations. The word was embroidered on old flags as well, then later printed on t-shirts manufactured abroad. Ironically, in the present day it's still stamped on the US dollar! The lost cachet is needed now more than ever.

TRUST was the word, back in the day. You could find it in all the holy books-- and look what they've done with it. Things have changed so much since the word itself could be "trusted" - in the original, uncorrupted sense - to mean what it originally conveyed. We should maybe find a new word for what TRUST used to be, when it didn't cause a chuckle - you'd see it in those big bronze angular Roman letters engraved for the ages and gilded, when it still had dignity and semantic power, when it was a word you could... whatever that new word will be.

As for ourselves, there is still Truth in us-- Here's hoping that when next we put the new TRUST over doorways, we've reclaimed the old meaning and lived up to it for at least 1000 years...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


"We denounce the international and national economists as complete frauds, crooks and liars who have only their own interests at heart and screw you out of your money any way they can.

We denounce the private bankers as a bunch of crooks, liars, scumbags and frauds.

We denounce the international economic institutions to be the instigators of this whole fraud scheme, and we think they should ALL go to jail."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


On Sunday we took the bridge across the Lake to visit a superb unagi (eel) restaurant in Omihachiman we'd heard about that was quite expensive, but moneywise I've always figured respectively as in this instance: would you rather have delicious broiled eel brushed with the finest sauce arranged atop perfectly cooked white rice beside quality pickles and miso soup on a lacquered tray amidst the serene environs of a fine traditional establishment, or a piece of paper with governmental assurances and the picture of a dead person on it? As usual with such internal dialogs, it wasn't "no contest," it was "there was a contest"?

As I drove, Echo was elaborating on the types of eel dishes they offered at the restaurant, at some point saying there's one that's sort of like an unadon (unagi donburi), but in which they cut the eel into small pieces and mix it with the rice, at which point I instantly responded as though I didn't want to hear another word, and with such severity that I surprised myself: since when did I have such severe opinions about eel meals? Cursory self-examination revealed that I had no idea. I enjoy the occasional fish and I am a fancier of the traditional eel bento, teishoku etc.; in fact, when pressed I consider myself somewhat of an eel liberal; but fanatic or gourmand I'm not.

Yet here I was practically yelling that I absolutely, no, no, no, did not want a dish that in fact I had never heard of before, and with such adamance that I was instantly puzzled, so when we got to the relatively relaxing main road I began to explore mental regions where some complex underground aspects of RB were apparently living unbeknownst to myself, sort like a Viet Cong of the mind. I am often surprised at discovering that I know things I'd had no idea I knew, but this was the first time I had so strongly held an opinion of which I was unaware. Life is always new territory.

Later, as I ate my delicious meal, my continuing explorations in the netherness led me to discover that at some point in my Japanolife I had unknowingly evolved what, for simplicity's sake, I'll call the E/R ratio. Over my decades of effort at unconsciously but steadfastly developing eel opinions, I had apparently set down the Broiled Eel Parameters, parameters that were severely violated by this variation Echo had been describing to me.

Figuratively lifting up a rock in my brain, I discovered that the E/R ratio involved the correct proportion of eel to rice. I have instinctively evolved what is for me the perfect ratio, which must be maintained or the whole delicious construct falls apart, don't you see? Cutting the eel up into small pieces and mixing it willy-nilly with the rice is not only a sign of mental instability, it it is an extreme and unwarranted usurpation of the supremely established Broiled Eel Parameters, a violation so extreme as to induce my sudden and understandably emotional response.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the bento; I leave that other spurious method of eel preparation for the troublemakers who lack the fundamental underpinnings that lift society to a certain level of gastronomic discernment.


Issue # 71
TEA: a glimpse, a journey...
is now out.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A global inauguration...

w/thanks to Bill and Reiko.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Sogyu the garden landscaper and his crew are recreating our driveway over these few days - during the slow time of their work year - fixing up the numerous minor but collectively uberniggling problems like the vulnerable subsurface drainpipe along here, the recidivist potholes there, there and there, the narrownesses over there and down there, the unevenness at the back that is so startling in the dark, that stone wall bulge, that property line arrangement-- and those big stones in the way, to say nothing of the accursedly recurring ironweeds as I call them, and the unsnowshovelableness of the whole-- I could go on at greater length, but who has the time I have stuff to do...

I could fix the whole thing myself except it would take about 10 years of random nows and thens, and so would in the end be unprofessional and inadequate, not to say slapdash, or at worst completely undone - I do have other requisites in my life, after all, as I've just indicated - plus if I did it my way I'd have to do it myself, which is perhaps the worst aspect, given my innate disinterest in driveway restoration as a fulfilling personal activity.

Anyway, when you hire a professional the result is so much better in so many ways. In this case, in addition to getting to see Sogyu more often - he's a great guy - one of those ways is a driveway worthy of the name-- a nice, artistically scaped driveway, created in much-practiced fashion. If I did it myself I'd fill in a couple holes one weekend, dump some gravel here and there some other weekends, hope for the best for a series of intervening and subsequent weekends - no man is free who owns a house - then have to do the same plus alpha every couple years, but Sogyu zones right in, bam, knows precisely how to make the driveway say Yes! and stay elegant for a good long while, plus he has all the right devices.

I could as I say do it all myself with my merely two hands using rakes, shovels and picks, plus hours, days, years and my aching back, on my days off after I finish all the firewood that's stacked up all over; one has priorities, and dry firewood is a big one round about next January and beyond, when I wouldn't only be looking out the window lamenting my non-optimal driveway, I'd be shivering for lack of heat and cursing my inability to grasp the relative importance of things, and at my age no less, when I should have known better long ago...

Yes, it is best to keep on with the firewooding, gardening, composting, editing and other things I have on track in terms of my own skills and capabilities, and engage the hyperefficient and artistic Sogyu and crew to create a passage worthy of the World Driveway Museum, a wider, more elegant and eloquent driveway that next January and beyond I can gaze upon from the toastiness of my window and think my, what a wonderful arrangement is out there.

Ongoing secrets to a happy life, these skilled rearrangements of the cosmos...

Thursday, January 22, 2009


01.01.09: Hatsumode at Shirahige and Mizuo, a couple of my favorite local Shinto shrines. Bought an Ushi (cow) ema (Echo was born in an ushi year) at Shirahige-- Rainy snow, get in the loooooong line of folks waiting their turn to step up to the altar stairs and pull the thick multicolored braid, sound the jangly bell - a deific snooze alarm - every 30 seconds or so it irritates the Gods into wakeful attention to the prayers of the next family...

While Echo buys her ema I stand out of the sleet, next to the bronze dragon under the cleansing fountain roof, and watch all the carp in the clear pond crowd together to nibble at the incoming water, many of them the same brilliant color as the giant persimmon-orange torii out there in the Lake, making a sacred path of the horizon...

Then off to Mizuo, which is even deeper in snow country and its silvery air... No one now at the shrine despite the crowd of footprints... The giant green bamboos bow all the way down to the ground under the weight of feathery falling snow... We sip some god sake, Echo rings the bell before the small outdoor altar, claps and prays as the falling flakes add to the silence in that special preserve of the sacred...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


"Just like your new government, and the rest of the Administration's online programs will put citizens first. Our initial new media efforts will center around three priorities:

Communication -- Americans are eager for information about the state of the economy, national security and a host of other issues. This site will feature timely and in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated. Check out the briefing room, keep tabs on the blog (RSS feed) and take a moment to sign up for e-mail updates from the President and his administration so you can be sure to know about major announcements and decisions.

Transparency -- President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government. You can also learn about some of the senior leadership in the new administration and about the President’s policy priorities.

Participation -- President Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, where he saw firsthand what people can do when they come together for a common cause. Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that. One significant addition to reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I remember when I was a boy growing up in an America that is no more - in so many more ways than time - in our small town, walking home from grade school with the guys and talking about politics in the cold war age of Eisenhower and Kefauver, wondering in our playful boyish ways whether there would ever be such an inconceivable thing as a woman president. Staggering-off-the-sidewalkly impossible was the immediate, instinctive response.

Infinitely beyond the edges of comprehension, let alone mention, was the possibility of a black president. To the child that cores me even now, it is inconceivable.

Somehow, though, for what remains of the country I remember - mostly the good parts - the inconceivable may well be the only hope for once again even approaching the future to which America's founders, in their singular congress, opened the doors to the future of history: humane, life-filled integrity, with equality for all.

As much as I would love to see a woman president, I must confess that the ancient horizon-seeker in me (a quality we all share), would trade every horizon to attain the ideal our fathers fought and died for, an America that will genuinely, originally grow as it was intended and hope-fully foreseen to grow - far beyond the ancient struggle that all mankind has borne throughout history - an America created in hope of surpassing even the furthest dreams of its founders, if humanity itself has any chance at a future of freedom beyond the mindset of schoolboys.

When Obama today says "So help me God," that America has a chance to be.

Monday, January 19, 2009


An interesting documentary (67 min.), puzzling in places (Two-wheel drive pickup? Dowsing?) on trying to get off the grid in Canada. Useful insights into the breadth and depth of such a change. I'd recommend, though, a 4WD vehicle, kerosene lanterns, a garden...

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Even splitting as many logs as I do, I'm always surprised when now and then I find living creatures inside one. The other day I was spitting a 50 cm section of hard pale oak, straight and unblemished, with no holes or cracks, and the clean white halves fell apart to reveal a long brown enclave filled with stunned and hunkered-down ants: Armageddon, right there at the heart of a log!

There they'd been, just a minute before, sandbagging securely into the future, safe from the cold, instinctively anticipating warmer days to come and thousands of little ones running around, and the next thing they knew there was a great pounding and cracking, their world split in half and they had no plan, didn't run or attack, scramble or panic, just stood there in shock at the impossible, this sudden intrusion of light, cold and actual weather into the dark silent paradise they had found and made-- not even tending to the eggs! The warriors just standing there, with the frozen air that I suppose always attends the big question...

So I set the halves of the log down on the ground, sunny side up (fine day) to give the little society time to gather their wits about them, find a new paradise and clear out in peace. I can't really preannounce these foreclosures, can I; still, I felt a bit like a US banker. Came back the next day and the ants were still there, but I don't have a sheriff.

Then some days later I was splitting a ca. 50 cm section of red oak and it fell cleanly apart to reveal a wood beetle larvae about 10 cm long, reaching out in a 'What the hell...' sort of way into a new and unimagined air, slowly moving his head back and forth as far as he dared into this unfathomable space where there was no wood, that had nothing at all to do with wood, trying to be where the rest of his world used to be...

The split had gone clean down the middle of his comfy-looking home of narrow darkness, his almost flatland universe, and suddenly half his reality was gone and something inexplicable had taken its place, he couldn't figure it out, I watched him try and try...

He'd been snug and safe and zoned in all there ever was, when half of it was gone in an instant, replaced by light and air containing mysterious fuzzily moving objects like myself - though I'm not sure he could see - he doesn't need eyes in the zero light of his world, all he has to do is chomp and doze and await his great changes - then there he was exploring the nothingness of a vast transformation, probing whatever the absence of wood was, like nothing in his life or history-- His jaws - his best-functioning apparatus, which does everything that to him is worth doing - worked on the air, trying to chomp it, there's always been chomping in his life, that's his job, but this, what is this... looking for wood to grab and bite a path through as always, the only way into his future, but it's too late, I'm the new owner and I have to foreclose...


Thursday, January 15, 2009


We get the best visitors up here on the mountain.

Siberia came for a visit last night, her storm of black stallions stampeding through the reaches of darkness, the wind of their passage roiling the trees, their labored breath frosting the windows, chunks of ice falling from their bodies and rumbling down along the roof above where I lay listening to the great wild herd as it roared by in the dark, keeping me awake or half-dreaming of riding cloud-high horses galloping their way over the rugged terrain of the night, I don't know where they stop and graze at last or why they begin these vast migrations, just that they are matters of crucial balance in the daytime world...

When I rose in the morning calm, after my long night's ride, Siberia was waiting outside in her robes of white, but all her horses had galloped on.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Every real street began as a footpath between places worth walking to, later widened for horse and cart and speed and then there were sidestreets, and avenues added in full-blown urban ad hocness to spell out whole cities all the way from foot to car to bus and truck and airport, air streets above the world city, the streets now memorable lines in the long story that is the city, veins in the living urban body, source of its nourishment, character and voice, people, houses, machines, metaphor for going, being, neighboring, community, membrane of private/public, face of the neighborhood, streambed of commerce, other half of home, the street is what the old folks lean out the windows or sit on the porch or stoop to gaze upon, remember the streets of their days, common property, the favorite memories of a former city kid are memories of the street, where all the meeting happens, all the socializing happens, all the growing happens, graffiti museum, streets too evolve, remember they were all once just dirt, even only a short time ago, look at the old pictures preserved in the museums that make people go Ah! The street as mythic theater, and as common voice, marketplace, festival, playground, way to elsewhere, to school, church, work, the way home, the way away, to other streets in towns and nations full of streets and towns of their own, on the street where you live, where happen miracles and terribles, potential stage of tragedy and comedy and romance every minute, and the streets of old cities, old Tokyo gone with the war, and the streets of old Kyoto with their old houses with the fold-down benches on the front for folks to sit on and watch the world of the street pass by too are gone to tv streets. Shijo, Main Street, Champs Elysees, Broadway, Unter Den Linden, Rodeo Drive, the beat, street smarts, street value, easy street, La Strada, the long brown road, life’s proving ground, the heart of the art, the way, the Tao, the Tao is a street, the way of all streets; streets are faces, streets are voices, and beneath the streets are streets above streets…

Slightly altered from Kyoto Journal #55, STREET Special Issue

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


This morning on the train I realized - because of the guy sitting next to me irritatedly rattling his precious newspaper - that his irritability, hence his rattling and reading routine, had something to do with his age, which was near my own (68) but, being of the old Japan school, he was much more regimented, which can make you grumpy, ask any Marine in basic training.

His paper had to be just so before he could even begin to read the article he had finally managed to topographically isolate, whereas I, who was reading a book (so simple to manage, so long lasting, so quiet!), am by intention a much less regimented individual, owing not only to my innate love of the eclectic, but also to my hyper-regimentative experience in Catholic school and the military, so have been spending the rest of my certifiably graduated and honorably discharged life pretty much relaxing, figuratively chewing on a hayweed as I stroll along life’s expressways in my trusty highway shoes, musing on modern life as it races by...

Anyway, at the long rattle I looked up from my book and got to thinking, did a quick little social analysis using the demographic sample at hand, and noted that newspaper reading is becoming entirely an enterprise of elder males. They were the only newspaper readers; elder males who were not reading a newspaper were asleep. In contrast, younger males who were awake were smiling or scowling into cell phones for whatever news was there, as were the younger women; the very few elder women were all asleep; they don’t usually read newspapers on the train anyway, that’s always been more of a male thing (and no longer much of a younger male thing). Fewer elder women also stare into cell phones, though they have them.

No one was reading a book except me, morning train oddball in many regards. For example, I’m one of the last commuters in Japan who doesn’t have a cell phone, which nowadays is like saying I don’t have a liver. Anyhow, it appears that newspaper reading is going to die out when these elder fellows retire, if not sooner. Cell phones are so much easier to hold with one hand when straphanging, and you don’t have to - as with a newspaper - fold them overandoverandover with geometric precision so as not to cause offense to neighbors, other than with that insufferable racket right in the ear of the guy sitting next to you trying to concentrate on his book.

I’m also one of the few elder guys who isn't grumpy on the morning train without good reason.

Monday, January 12, 2009

MORE LIGHT all living things a fire is a river of need, a kind of conversation, a dialog of light with darkness, like the fire in the sky and in a leaf. The heart itself is a flame, ablaze at the sight of itself in another eye; we carry all this like a sky in ourselves, and so when we come to tend a fire, we find that delight of meeting an old friend. Just stir this bit here and the fire flares up, fuel once starved for air now fed, from ember to flame, setting new thoughts alight.

Tending a fire is the whole soul's delight, much like tending to life itself; in return the fire shares more than light and warmth, if we listen to its ancient tongue, for it speaks a language that lived far before and lives yet within us: This is the way you should tend yourself; this is the way you should tend others and your world. The fire is that of us outside ourselves. We recognize this naturally, as we do in the light of stars.

When we gaze into a fire's light we gaze into a shifting mystic mirror, upon vast and untold secrets of ourselves. What we find there we feel to our depths, but cannot say.

From the PLM archives, January 2003

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

(One of the biggest books in my life.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Heard in late December that traveler Nanao had left the local pathways; took me a while to find this poem of mine about one night on his life's journey. Walk in peace, Nanao.

Nanao at Ashuzan

Smiles wide.
And often.
Long hair, gray beard
growing white,
firelit eyes
turning now and then toward the stars.
Cold mountain night
woolen hat
homespun clothes
rubber boots.
Sake Cup in hand
hunkers down by lanternlight
before the forest cabin
banters easy with the children
up straddling the drying racks.
Slow quiet--
wind rustle
fire crackle
stream sounds.
Begins to talk of Snyder
reads a long walk they took once
up the Kamogawa
in Kyoto.
Speaks on of light years
of simplicity
leading to now and beyond,
sitting simply, traveling
the eternity of birth
for this fireside of faces
of the ever going on.

--Nov. 1, 1986
[Published in Kyoto Journal # 2]
Last time I saw Nanao...

[w/tks to Ken Rodgers.]

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


The Grandees came over for their final visit yesterday afternoon and soon after their immediate snow frenzy we pulled and hose-washed more large bunches of baby carrots for the gang to take back north with them.

Then I issued small and medium bamboo rakes to my volunteer raking crew and directed the consequent little-girl-powered leafstorm as best I could so as to fill up a whole big tarpful of leaves, which we all four then dragged along between the trees and down the slope and across the terrace and down the stone step and dumped on the compost pile, which at that point became a 2-meter-plus high enclosure of leaves, a sort of vegetal trampoline atop which the leafy trio bounced in extended worship.

Then later when it was getting dark and starting to rain we all went down to the village to polish a bag of whole rice into brown rice for them to take back home. We did this in the village's big noisy polishing machine, some of the polished rice grains being caught in each little hand before going into the big rice bag. We also saved the bran to throw onto the compost pile, which after we got home we did, then we had some waffles, the first waffles the twins ever had, which was interesting: how DOES one handle a first waffle-- and without chopsticks?

Then later on, over by the stove I showed them some actual seeds, which Kaya knew all about but the twins had never seen before - I had some spinach and broccoli seeds left over from last year - and they didn't want to just look into the packets, they insisted on my pouring out some seeds into their hands so they could see them and poke at them. There's a deep magic to seeds in little cupped hands...

I poured the largish spinach seeds first and explained that a whole bunch of spinach grows out of each seed, just like the picture on the front of the packet, at which statement their minds went churning away in the totally weird-fact-processing area; they looked at the seeds in the light, then gently put them all back into the seed packet, careful to pick up any that had fallen to the floor, then I poured out some tiny broccoli seeds and the twins went Ooooohhhh...

As they rolled the tiny orbs between their fingers I explained that one tall broccoli plant grows from each of those teeny things, and that carrots seeds were tiny too, that just one little seed grew a whole carrot into the ground! Then they ran off to select one of their just-picked baby carrots to nibble carefully from the very root end while they spun around with their eyes closed and one arm extended, so as to experience that particular activity.

Now back to routine daily living, seeded with all those moments...

Monday, January 05, 2009


Noticed this morning by the crunches underfoot, and in the clarity of sunlight, the impressive quantity of senbei chunks and nori flakes littering certain areas of the floor around the kitchen table, indicating that someone yesterday had been sitting at said table scarfing said items in some quantity-- in fact two someones, judging by the area of rampant and heedless chunkification - someones who were below the Age of Senbei, as I dubbed it during my own parenthood.

The Age of Senbei comes at about the same time as the old Catholic workhorse the Age of Reason, at which age one is qualified to go to hell. (Or heaven, the much less likely option in my case at the time-- and even now, I expect.) As you can see, I've based my age classification on more immediately useful parameters. The Age of Senbei comes a couple of years after the Age of Restaurantability-- the age at which you can take children to a restaurant without them grabbing all the condiments on the table for an essential series of physical tests.

At the Age of Senbei, which is about the age of 7, a child can eat senbei without leaving a physical record of the act all over the vicinity. If Hansel and Gretel had been pre-Senbei, they would have been found at once. Mitsuki and Miasa just turned 5, so that seat there and that seat there is where they sat, as you can easily see. Over there is where Kaya, who just turned 8, was sitting. It is clear by the floor that she is of an age.

If they were here right now, I'd have them clean it up, perhaps accelerate their growth a bit, but kids make great getaways, as the crumbs of yesterday attest. And though the trio is coming to visit in an hour or so, since this is the last day they'll be here - and anyway I trust that the twins will reach the Age of Senbei as certainly and fully as Kaya has - I will say nothing to them of the morning crunches underfoot, I'll just clean it up myself and let them be who they are at the moment, under a life system way older than history.

Which is not to say I won't eyeball M&M if they launch into any senbei-- I have reached the Foothills of Reason, after all.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Moving along the mossy slope that's covered with fallen oak and beech leaves, Mr. Thrush bounces quietly from there to there, pointed beak deftly flicking the leaves and twigs left and right to find what's for breakfast-- he's an expert at this subtle art! Flick--flick--flick he forges along, now and then pausing to listen... or snap up some sudden delicacy on the priceless menu...

He never knows what he's going to get when he sets out for his morning repast at the forest edge right outside my bedroom window, where upon rising I saw him only when he moved, there among all the leaves the night wind had gathered into a broad carpet of shelter for local insect life.

When in the pale brown gradations of his ethnic dress the landlord of the moment stops to listen for any tastinesses that might be rustling softly beneath the leaves, he becomes a leaf himself, disappears from sight by simply standing still - watching eyes are misdirected by the flicked leaves - but then he moves, my eyes do a thing that eyes learned at the dawn of light and there he is, step taken, head cocked, listening for breakfast, driven by a winter night's hunger...

Think I'll go rustle up some grub too...

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Even better, you dreamed of a hawk; or if you had the best dream of all you dreamed of Mt. Fuji. No? Well at the very least, some tobacco or maybe a blind acupressurist?

According to the tradition of hatsuyume, the first dream you have in the new year is auspicious, and tradition covers some pret-ty weird corners of the old racial memory, as we all know. Probably the weirdest corners we all know. But tobacco or a blind acupressurist? Who could combine those things, let alone as sequentially auspicious, but tradition?

So here's to tradition for the new year. We could sure use more of it, by the look of the leftovers from last year. BTW, any traditionalists know if chocolate ice cream in a highly foreign country is anywhere on that list?

Friday, January 02, 2009


In the evolution of knowledge, it's a fact that things keep on becoming unknown. I'm not referring here to elective rasafication of the tabula, as for example by creationists, or to the natural misplacement of knowledge, as embodied in where the hell I put my reading glasses, which is sort of a pro tem microrasafication. To get more rapidly to my point here, I'm talking about how each generation is born bearing the somehow surprising absence of such basic knowledge as seeds and how to use a rake.

When you're raising kids, you try to teach them moment-to-moment about all the things they need to understand or at least know about, from the toilet to the stars, so you never really get to comprehend the particulars of it all, just how much and in what detail they have to learn these things, and so you miss a few, especially the things you'd never even think of teaching anything about, such as will dad's favorite fountain pen write on toast, or how many times can you put a ball in a box and take it out again. These details too must be learned. (Bet you didn't know you'd learned somehow about fountain pens writing on toast.) Though it's been dismissed as an ignorant representation of the newborn mind, the old tabula is nonetheless surprisingly rasa in certain respects.

When Kasumi was born in on the island of Ibiza, the first thing I did when we took her home was carry her out into an old grove near our finca in Cala Boix, break off some wild rosemary leaves and hold them to her nose. She was only about three days old, but I still remember the look of awe that came into her eyes; no rasa there at all (three-day olds are experts at awe).

On the other hand, I remember one day in spring a few years later when we lived in Kyoto and only Keech and I were home, when I said Hey Keech - who was then about three years old - let's go water the daffodils! We got a big glass of water and went out there and I let Keech do the watering; he held the glass up to the daffodil's mouth so it could drink. Way cuter and more endearing than knowledge. Imagination is a beautiful thing.

When decades later I became a grandfather I got Kaya started early learning about plants and seeds and gardening - she'd help me plant whatever I was planting while she was here - but I guess that somehow, due to seasonal scheduling and time crowding, Mitsuki and Miasa slipped by in that regard-- they haven't yet gotten to be here at planting time. Then yesterday afternoon I took the three of them out to help me pick some winter carrots-- partly for thinning, but mostly for the major WOW I knew it would be for them to firmly grasp those green stems near to the ground, pull hard and come up with a large bright orange root right out of the dirt! (We filled the carrot basket to overflowing but still it was Me, me, me, I want to pull up the next one! and for the first time in my life I was a grandfather seeking order among carrots.) Then we took the whole basketful of green and orange to the garden hose, where we washed the carrots off, and boy were they bright orange when I held a freshly washed bunch of them up in the air-- it was the roots of impressive.

This was of necessity followed by the eating of cold, crispy, orange-glowing baby carrots in the warm kitchen-- what can be mind-sweeter than new teeth crunching into a carrot just plucked from winter ground and washed with icy water? For some time the kitchen air was filled with carrot snaps and contemplation. The crunching trio wanted to eat all the carrots right there, but agreed to take some home for later.

The surprise I've been getting to all along came when Mitsuki asked me why I had buried all those carrots.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


From Pure Land Mountain