Sunday, January 31, 2010
HOLDEN CAULFIELD, SENIOR CITIZEN
If you really want to hear about it, here I am, still acting like a teenager, over 70 years old now with no hope of ever retiring, pension forget it, still mouthing the same damn text word for word, following the same old routine page after page in the same depressing scenarios, even though none of those places exist anymore, if they ever did, how the hell should I know, locked in sentences and paragraphs like I am, day in, day out, acting like a self-centered 1950's adolescent in millions of copies of the damn book by now and I'm telling you it's making me sick, I think I've got cancer. Or maybe it's my gall bladder, this terrible diet and lifestyle...
I'm not a teenager anymore, and for once in my life I'd like to act my age, get to bed early, have a decent meal, wear some adult clothes, maybe marry, have kids who aren't disturbed characters in novels like their old man, live out in the country where it's quiet, raise a few vegetables, forget all this. I'm tired. I've grown way out of the stuff in the book, it's been over 50 years now. I'm not self-centered anymore, I'd like to be more like a character in real life, a guy who's responsible, thoughtful of others, maybe a country doctor or organic farmer. But to think that I'll be going on exactly like this for as long as people read this damn book is enough to make me commit suicide, as if I had the option.
I never did much reading myself, my author saw to that, but I was talking to Ishmael not long ago, he's had it up to here too, with Queequeg, Ahab, Starbuck, whales, the sea, every damn thing day after day in libraries all over the world, wants to get his landlegs back, maybe open a bed-and-breakfast in Nantucket, fat chance. Raskolnikov was saying just the other day how he wants to lead a less stressful life, maybe join the clergy, but he's always got to have killed some old woman with an axe, no matter what he might think about it now.
Even though all of us are famous-- Hester, who's been pregnant in another century for I don't know how long; Tristram still living with his crazy family; Oliver still picking pockets in the London smog; Huck still trying to get back upriver; Valjean, all he wants is to return that damn candelabra and shuck the whole sewer scene; so many others--- the libraries are full of us, but what do our true feelings matter, we're just literature.
Fame means nothing to us; how could it, since no one knows who we really are, who we really want to be, what we truly feel after all this time; characters do change; but no one cares, not even our authors, who put all these words in our mouths; they're mostly dead now anyway, or if not they're writing some other characters into this hell; anyway they never really listened while they were writing us, then they just cut us off at the end, like they were god or something.
Just once I'd like to get my monotonous hands on that sneaky-fingered guy who did this to me, created this whole damn thing without putting at least one decent female in here, not even a good meal, or some interesting people, just a bunch of discontents like I used to be, full of aimless angst and all that fifties' shit, over and over again. I've had it up to here.
At least I haven't got it as bad as Anna, though, poor woman, jumping under a train for over a hundred years now, she's a trooper, but I can tell it's getting to her; she'd just love to get her hands on a guy called Tolstoy. Hester offered to switch novels with her, but Anna would rather jump under a train. Huck offered to switch with me too, get away from his old man, see some modern life, such as it is; not that I want to get anywhere near Huck’s old man myself. Anyway Huck's way older than I am, doesn't know a thing about the fifties; besides, he hates history, and the future is just history in reverse.
Well, nice talking to ya but I gotta go, some blankhead just bought a copy, gotta get back to where it's cold as a witch's tit, and that secret slob sneaking his finger up his nose, start all over again from the beginning, word for word for the trillionth time, settin' out to catch whatever the hell is in the rye, and old as I may be, I'm still the only one who can do it right, I guess. One does have a certain responsibility to what they call The Canon.
Don't misunderstand me though, I'm sure as hell not recommending you read the book.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
FROM AN OLD PROLOGUE IN MY WASTEBASKET
...so I decided it would be best to live in a place that folks living cheek-to-jowl or shoulder-to-shoulder (or both) in the big city cram the trains and jam the highways to scramble to, when at last they get a vacation (L. vacare "be empty, free") from the cramped, air-conditioned, vistaless, greenless concretions they spend their everydays in.
And so I searched and found the place to build the house where I now live, seeking a more natural pace for my walk of life here amid the sylvan sights and sounds, where I can savor the tree-breathed, mountain-fed, lake-nourished air, admire the shapes, works and breadth of nature from the edge of a forest high above the distant hurrysounds of trains, buses and cars full of folks rushing back and forth between vacation and the aftermath. Their struggle is palpable-- so unlike, for example, the effortless songs of birds, the swelling buds of trees, the open gift of blossoms or the sound of waves washing to shore, the steady beat of the endless heart...
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
THE DAILY LIGHT
Had a big frost last night, to let us know in the clear blue morning that there's a genuine winter around here somewhere, so what a show there was at sunrise. Not long after the golden messenger got high enough to broadcast the early edition of the Daily Light, every leaf and needle of every evergreen exposed to that warm announcement, every papery leaf of the drooping bamboo was painted with light that danced in the barest morning breeze. From the tip of every leaf hung dewdrop ornaments of all the colors, the sunsides of whole mountains of trees shining as if dipped in a rainbow. Through the trees against the horizon you could see tiny glimmers of violet, gold, silver, green gathering at the leaf tips, sparkling on a breeze too light for skin to feel, flashing through all the rainbow colors as they grew and wavered in the moving air, swelling and swelling until it came their turn to drop a quicksilver bead splashing rainbows through other leaves and to the ground, where the white of the frost still waited down in the shade for the touch of day.
What a show. Fortunately I had a ticket.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
THE EMPRESS OF PENNY CANDY
We thought nothing special of her at the time, as is the way of little kids, who've not yet seen how few and far apart are the genuinely heartfelt kindnesses of the world. We boys would be playing in the park or catching lizards, frogs and snakes, or chasing girls, or getting into whichever of the many forms of mischief we could manage, when one of us would pause, jingle his pocket pennies and say "Let's go to Mary Myer's!"
Mary lived in a house just down the street on the opposite side from the flower lady. There were a lot of such ladies who lived alone after the war. Mary's was a regular house on the block, nothing special outside, no sign, nothing to hint of the cornucopia that awaited inside in the form of all the penny candy varieties that could be yours if you just walked down the empty concrete driveway and opened the wooden door on the side of the house at the back, went in and climbed the 2 or 3 steps to the inner door that was always open and waiting. That was the door to Mary Myers' pantry, a kids' version of heaven in the neighborhood.
Mary was the very image of her role in presiding over the sweet delights of all the neighborhood kids. A pleasant woman with granny glasses and graying hair, she was the greatest exemplar of patience I've ever seen: she was our Empress of Penny Candy. As befit that title, Mary was up to date on all the latest in sweet treats and tricks from around the civilized world, from bubble gum cigars and red wax lips (and mustaches) to jaw breakers with a coriander seed at the center that you'd reach after a few pleasantly exhausting hours.
We'd stand there for long times, eager eyes roving over the many dozens of tasty items laid out invitingly in that tiny room, on shelves that rose to a heaven only Mary could reach. We took our time, jingling our pennies in anticipation, pondering the meaning of our growing universe as expressed in the form of (all honorifics must be capitalized) Candy Buttons (on paper strips), BB Bats, Kits, Mary Janes, Marshmallow Peanuts, Mexican Hats, Root Beer Barrels, Maple Cremes, Popcorn Squares, Chocolate Babies, Sour Balls, Red and Black Licorice sticks, Peppermint Sticks and Whirls, Red Hot Dollars, Bolsters, Orange Wax Whistles, Candy Cigarettes, Fireballs, Spearmint Leaves, Tootsie rolls, Orange Slices, Nonpareils, Wax Soda Bottles, Bazooka Bubble Gum (and that arch-competitor Dubble-Bubble), Licorice Pipes and the many other penny candies that are enshrined up there in the Penny Candy Hall of Fame.
When one of us had at last made his mind up about an item, Mary would place the carefully chosen choice into that kid's little paper bag among the many other little paper bags she held in one hand, one bag for each of us, while keeping track of all the 1-cent, 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-for-1-cent and 2-cent items in each bag and answering fastfire questions about prices and new stuff.
Sometimes there were 6 or 7 or even more of us crowded into that small space (not counting Mary), noisy with shared delight and the exchange of valuable information on the flavor, texture, duration, function, general value etc. of various items - all the high-tech candy parameters - each of us with anywhere from 2 to 12 cents to spend (what a rich day was a 12-cent day!) so we'd take longer than bankers to decide, till at last we'd choose, then often unchoose - then rechoose - without a thought for Mary standing there waiting.
Or we'd ask her questions or for a glass of water and then all go into Mary's kitchen, Mary as patient and smiling as any of the highest saints, for saint she was and full of grace, and brought many sweet blessings upon us. She was our special mother in that neighborhood.
She'd stand for what must've been hours each day as our variously raucous hordes descended upon her home and interrupted whatever she was doing at the moment; she'd hover there among us with that Mary smile upon her face, all the more remarkable as I look back from all the world I've seen since.
That was in the late forties and early fifties. Many years later, long after we'd moved away and after I'd graduated from college, one of my new buddies happened to have also grown up in that neighborhood - though for some reason we'd never met when we were kids - and one day when our reminiscences turned to the old neighborhood, we both lit up at the name of Mary Myers and set off to visit those streets of long ago. On our walk, we strolled up the old familiar driveway, opened the old door—and Mary Myers was still there! Of course she remembered us. We bought some penny candy and talked about old times.
As all the paths of my subsequent life have led in other directions, I haven't been back to the old neighborhood in the 35 years since that day. So from all this time away, thank you, Mary, from us all, for your candy store and all those lovingly presented choices, but far moreso for all those even sweeter and longerlasting memories of kindness.
The delight of your little store is with me even now.
From a childhood et seq. reminiscence blog of my brother Mick and I, The Blog Brothers
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Out in the colding late afternoon air, the mood of snow looming on the shoulders of the mountains, I’m loading up another wheelbarrow with firewood so we’ll have some nice warm nights, my work filling the air with the ringing music of well-dried sunlight.
That golden orb up there does have a direct connection with music as played on a marimba, a crude one, much like the first one ever made-- in this firewoody fashion, I suspect, the different lengths and thicknesses of the wood making a basic kind of music to the ear that has to do with heat, the music of solid sunlight, it’s a song about warmth and contentment (they go hand in hand), with lyrics about being beside a warm stove. (Whose fuel you had a part in creating!)
Which reminds me of my discovery in re the difficulty I’ve always had in describing the basic pleasure of a wood stove, saying to centrally and otherly heated folks that a wood heater is the most wonderful warmth to stand next to, its not like standing before any other heater-- electric ones get too hot, burn your clothes, fossil fuel ones are too thermostatty and vaguely dissipated, with their fluxy ventrush of god-its-hot-in-hereness; a straight up fire itself, as in the woods, is too focusedly hot, burn your clothes like an electric heater and so on, I just could never describe the way in which it was soulfully pleasant to be beside a woodstove, as winter guests of ours find when they gravitate toward the stove and stand or eventually lie down there with smiles on their faces, sometimes even saying Oooh this feels so good I don’t want to go home...
It’s not like dipping into an onsen either… I finally realized what it was-- of course! It's like being chilled with winter cold and suddenly being able to stand in strong summer sunlight: that deep, ancient, bone-warming comfort that our unending selves know so well as a kind of mother love. For what is radiating from that stove is sunlight, coming to life again after living through trees, then turning into the music that is playing even now, as I work into the darkness.
Friday, January 22, 2010
LIFE AS OUTER SPACE
Walking through the slow winter rain down the big city street to work he was nearing the office when he caught on the moist gray air the merest waft of a fragrance that was - gone - then there it was again and gone again, a wisp of a - there was a memory there; it was-- it was a scented fragment of life from far ago; brief as ecstasy it had another time about it, but in the same life-- time can be like that, you can often be here and have been there at the same moment, which can be disconcerting if you spend a lot of time in time, I mean in time, the whole time, not just about time or on time, especially when walking through winter rains later in life on the way to work if you've been a traveler...
You can learn much about time from fragrances, there is a measure there in the mind that knows such things and always has, lays out the incremented timeline beside the incident and says Wow that was a long time ago, it has something to do with... sweet... romance he thinks, some romantic moment in the distant past, when he was newly a young man, about then, that far ago--
The fragrance is and isn't, like a light bulb on the fritz - suppose that happens more and more as you get older, the thought slips in - he can’t catch and hold it, that magic and uplifting fragrance that takes him back to a self he’s lived in before, like those romantic moments themselves, whenever and wherever they were, impact like a freight train made of air, like any romantic moment in fact, was it a moment on a park bench or just walking along a street somewhere somewhen...
He’s no longer where his body is now, but is strolling in the past along this big city street toward the intersection just before the office, wandering among the kinds of memories that come flashing back into life on wings of the air like this, suddenly there they are, those powerful connections that no longer really connect, just reach back into who you once were, like starlight into outer space...
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
HELLO UP THERE
Spring is here, about three months early; here it is well into the third week of January at our relatively high elevation and it’s like May. Hasn’t snowed yet, the shiitake are bulging as though they have an imminent agenda, the forsythia buds are swelling in rather a hurry, as though metaphorically running for a train; the jinchoge is reddening fast also, practically saying I'm late, I'm late, for a very important etc.
I can practically lay on the deck in my shorts; the thermal boots and snow tires and firewood are looking clunky and quaint, the vegetables appear to be expecting summer this afternoon or maybe tomorrow, the frogs are quietly looking at their watches, I heard a warbler sing, I had to stand there and spread my arms and shout “WAIT A MINUTE!” to the universe at large, as I am wont to do, though not often in public, but does anything listen? No-o-o-o.
Here I am, all by myself trying to get nature back on track and winter in the icy groove, but it’s too big a job for just one man waving his arms and making cosmic gestures; we have to get together on this. Anybody up there listening?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
THE OPPOSITE OF COMPLAINING
Heard the first warbler this sunny so-called winter morning, never used to hear warblers around here in January till a couple years ago... The first warbler used break the silence with that liquid honeysound sometime in February, when the uplands were beginning to clear of snow. Snow?
This warblerfellow was singing like he was in Miami or something, probably wearing shorts and an aloha shirt. I expect some pink flamingos might be migrating this way if this weather keeps up, though as some folks maintain, this warmth isn't really warming per se; nor, as others hold, is it global in reach.
Folks do love to debate things don't they, when they have time and the weather is good. All that hot air could be seriously affecting the environment though, adding to whatever problems there already are. Not that I mind from where I am, since I have a warbler doing the opposite of complaining in my vicinity, so it's hard for me to complain, if a complaint should ever happen to come to mind while a warbler is performing.
An enthusiastic warbler is infinitely better than whatever the opposite is.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
WAITING FOR LUNCH
Little has been written about waiting for lunch, one of the most important activities in modern life. The reasons for this lack are compound. Predominant among them perhaps is the fact that one is, after all, waiting for lunch, an activity that by its inherently obsessive nature precludes other forms of creative endeavor, such as putting the final touches to that unfinished symphony in the case of Franz Schubert; it is as well the reason so many of Monet's paintings remained mere impressions. For this is the time of day when the mind turns irresistably from merely creative or commercial concerns to profound meditations upon the Blue Plate Special. And if at such moments one should attempt anything creative, it comes to resemble in character the present short essay, in which fashion one could maunder at some additional length, but lunchtime is finally here.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Down at the village doctor's on Wednesday morning for my annual physical, good day for it, crisp and clear with a dust of bright glittery snowflakes blustering down from the clouds atop the mountain and... oh yes, the-- the check up: had the usual stethoscope, blood pressure, weight and height stuff, then the doc asked me to get up on the table so he could check my abdomen, then asked me to take off my socks. My socks?
He'd never done that before, why would he want me to take my socks off? I asked him, just out of curiosity, it made no difference to me if I had to take my socks off, even with the nurse standing there and a young intern too, learning the ins and outs of personal GP dealings with village folk-- even, heaven forbid, foreigners -- which also made no difference to me, I've got nothing to hide, I'm proud of my feet, I like them, they're cool, they got me here.
The doc answered that he wanted to check the pulse in my feet. New to me, but it was his examination, so I took off the socks and while he was prodding my feet for signs of life I sat there examining said extremities in quite a bit of surprise. It's not often - just about never, in fact - that one is as psychologically distanced from one's feet as one is in a doctor's office with said feet out there in medicospace. Suddenly those feet become examinable -- and oneself, among others, is examining them -- and as I say, I was oddly surprised by the fact of my pedalities. They looked so... alien, sticking out there like that at the end of my pantlegs!
Ever since I set off on the long travel road nearly 40 years ago I've said probably too often that all I need to survive is a good set of garb, a good sleeping bag and a good pair of highway shoes. Didn't even stop to think about, and thank, the feet that would fill those shoes and carry me along. Let alone stop and look at them as at a new pair of hiking boots like I was doing now. How often does one really study one's feet? I mean gaze at them studiously and objectively, with an alien perspective, such as when you're a foreigner in a Japanese doctor's office and there at the bottom of your legs are two big, naked, shockingly unJapanese feet lying on the table right there in front of you?
They seemed so Martian or something! Look at those toes! And those nails! The feet down there were size elevens, 30 cm behemoths: narrow, pale, thin and long toed, with a long big toe and a second toe longer than the big toe, and all the other toes - ten of them all together there, stemming from the long narrow feet - were skinny and pale too; all so unlike all the broad, homogeneous Japanese feet and toes I see all the time at the bath and the beach and the gym, feet that are all so alike that the shoe stores practically have one size for all Japanese men and another size for all Japanese women.
That's an exaggeration, to be fair-- I think they maybe have two or three sizes to choose from, a half-centimeter apart, but you see my point I hope, much as I saw those feet on that table. And they were MY feet! How could they be such strangers to me? I know the face of the guy in the mirror, but those feet down there on the floor at the bottom, they're so remote! Sure I clip their nails, bandage their blisters and so on, but that's about it. If I had a horse, I'd know my horse better than I know my feet. This all came to me as I sat there staring at those two forlorn appendages lying there on the table naked, living most of their lives in socks and shoes, delighting in the occasional barefoot romp which to them is like the old days, they get so excited at feeling everything until they hit a sharp rock and start limping, realizing how uncalloused they are, spending most of their days swaddled in socks, cloistered in shoes...
Through aging and traveling to new places, over the years my feet and head have grown apart; but I'm sure we can become close again, in a manner of speaking. After all, they are the very feet that brought me around the world, carried me all the way here, walked me all over the country, lifted me up mountains-- my feet have been with me every step of the way. All without a word of complaint, except a few silent blisters. From now on, I have to relate to my feet more than I have been doing-- get to know them, let them run free more often, have deeper associations with them than just putting socks and shoes on and walking along to the next place in life.
It's best to be on a friendly basis with those who bear you up.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I don't know why the memory came back to me so strongly this morning, must have been something in the sunlight through the trees, but all at once I remembered that huge box of lace-- first a little background.
Back in 1971, after I'd simply walked out on my fast-track NY office career to travel around the world, free of the chains of salary, the first 'job' I had, when at last I'd wandered my way to the west coast, was as a scavenger in the Berkeley landfill. That's right, I was a recycling pioneer. Big business nowadays. I'd go a few times a week to the landfill, take what I scavenged (you name it) and try to sell it at the huge flea market they used to have every Sunday at the Alameda drive-in.
Being so fresh from a standard-educated non-scavenging lifestyle, I was at first puzzled about what to scavenge, what would sell, what would get the highest price with the least potential for breakage and loss, and of course the least effort (scavenging for a living teaches you the basics of marketing VERY quickly).
One day, as I was cruising the stuff that was about to be thrown into the pit and plowed out into San Francisco Bay forever, I came upon a box of lace, just a big cardboard box holding about a cubic meter of lace (for those of you who haven't handled lace in extremely large volumes, that is a lot of lace)-- doilies, collars, cuffs, yokes and whatnot, some of it ivoried with age, but all still sturdy and all finely detailed work.
Where such a quantity of handmade lace came from I have no more idea now than I did then. As a male at that age and of those times I knew as much about lace as I knew about the mating habits of the giant squid. To me, lace was pretty nearly as old-fashioned as you could get and still be alive; it was what grandmothers pinned to the backs of chairs from the days when men wore macassar in their hair (told you it was old-fashioned). But something told me it might just be worth a few dollars to maybe some elderly ladies.
It wasn't heavy (I'd quickly given up trying to sell old TVs) and wouldn't break if I dropped it, so I salvaged the box and at the flea market that Sunday I just dumped the whole thing right out there on the ground, a mountain of lace (you don't see many of those anymore) and within five minutes there were women of all ages crawling all over me with one hand full of lace and the other full of bills of varying denominations, in itself an unforgettable moment in the life of any man.
Few indeed are the lucky fellows who have sold a cubic meter of exquisite tattings hand over fist to a mob of lace-hungry women. Things are somewhat different now that I no longer have a mountain of lace, but I learned a lot about lace (and about women) as a result of that experience.
Not long ago in one of those exclusive-type antique shops here in Japan I saw featured in the front window a small piece of lesser quality lace, pinned out upon velvet to display the fineness of the work, selling for close to 1000 dollars. They don't make lace like mine anymore. There was probably a million dollars worth of lace in that box at today's prices, lace that had been painstakingly crafted long before by elderly immigrant ladies with centuries of European lace-making knowledge in their hands.
The way, way less than a million dollars I made from that box got me to Japan, where this morning the lace came back to me as it does sometimes, though the older I get, the less the money part of it looms and the more the lace itself stands out, and with it a growing pride in the fact that I saved all that delicately wrought beauty from destruction, sent it on through time to other lives and eyes, where all that art and all it meant will not be lost.
That was one of this morning's gifts to me.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
There are spells within time and language by which the living words are transformed and no longer hold precisely the old meaning because of their new shape, which causes them also to be pronounced differently in the language of the current tongue, and then some generations down the etymological expressway there is an exclamation of surprise at the discovery that a given word, so native to the tip of this very own tongue, stems from a tongue that spoke the word differently a long time ago, a word that in its own turning came from an even longer-ago tongue that spoke another of the same language altogether, passing the soul of the word along the length of breath from the hum of beginning, just as all things and people and tongues have been passed along without cessation if they exist today, and transcending the surprise is the enlightenment that 'your' language is not yours at all, but a borderless portion of a vast, living, autonomically shifting aurora that illumines the minds of the earth and outlives us each, can never be pinned down as so many have so humanly vaingloriously tried to do, and that this one endless breath that is language, as it breathes through you is breathing you too, breathing you into meaning, for you think along the lines and seams it affords you, as dictators (from the Latin root dicere, "to speak"), for example, have always known, and that the freedom and flexibility in your language correlate with the freedom and flexibility in your life; you are as free as your language, and as confined, unless you go beyond its edges into the wilds...
Monday, January 11, 2010
Last night when we got back home from shopping in the big village up the Lake road, Echo decided that we should have a nabe for dinner, so asked me to go out into the garden of darkness to get some greens, i.e., shungiku, shirona, horenso (spinach), kabu (turnip) etc. But it was too dark to see any of these, especially the darker greens, so I had to put on my headlamp to go deep into the vegetable mine, where the rich veins of green life thread the reaches of the night.
It's not a task for any man, just as the miles-deep gold mines of South Africa are no place for the depth- or darkophobic-- to say nothing of vegephobic. Following the small tunnel of light into a mountain of darkness higher than Everest and deeper than the Philippine Trench, I worked my way to the mine entrance, opened the garden door and stepped inside where, stretched out before me, lay the mother lode.
Following standard mining procedure, I worked my way from the spinach vein to the cabbage vein to the turnip vein and deeper toward the shungiku and shirona veins, slowly filling my gathering basket with rich takings. We Vegetable miners have no need for explosives or special tools; we mine with our bare hands. We also maintain a careful relation with the environment, since we eat what we mine.
After a time, my work done and my miner's basket full, I found my way back to the vegetable mine entrance, which I closed behind me before heading back toward mine headquarters, arriving there at around dinnertime.
Like my grandfather (who, like his father before him was a Vegetable miner) never said, Vegetable miners are a special breed of men.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
LIFE IN LEFT FIELD
The other day I was outside just standing around as one can tend to do on sudden splendid winter days when there is so much to do inside, just go outside and stand there and take the whole scene in from all directions, trees earth sun sky you name it, throw in a galaxy or two if you want (it was one of those days), it'll just lighten my heart all the more, when straight out of left field I saw a large woodpecker stroll right up the side of the tall oak tree like you and I walk down the street.
He'd pause every couple of feet and listen to the tree to overhear bug conversations - that's not illegal in the wild - then he'd stroll another yard or so straight up as casually as if he were twirling a cane, cock his ears and eavesdrop, poke a bit at the bark to maybe make a bug yell for help, then glide on upward, very dapper in his pinstripe.
He strolled thus for over twenty meters before the promenade got too narrow and he flew off to begin strolling another tree. And if I hadn't left my urgent indoor tasks and gone aimlessly outside to just pointlessly stand there on the edge of left field I never would have seen the woodpecker stroll.
So if you've got a lot of really urgent stuff to do indoors, why not just go outside and simply stand there for a while? Left field is the greatest place.
NOTHING GETS HEADLINES LIKE A WORLD RECORD
I'm not a fisherman myself, so I don't fish the Lake, but for decades now there have been ecological alarms and an overall negative view of the largemouth bass 'infestation' of Lake Biwa, with signs everywhere saying "DO NOT THROW BASS BACK!" beside boxes where you can put the bass you've caught if you don't want them (likely because of all the negative press, bass are not yet considered good eating by the Japanese, but we enjoy their deliciousness when Keech visits and goes fishing), while bass tackle shops are sprouting all along the shores. Things will likely change bigtime, now.
All that negative 'local problem' stuff never made world headlines; but a world record that lasted for 77 years, now that's another fish story. Like I always say as of a minute ago, if life gives you a largemouth bass, fire up the grill (btw, I live on those mountains in the background).
"Lake Biwa catch for native species has dropped from more than 8000 tons in 1972 to 2174 tons in 2000 while experts estimate catch of exotic species (black bass and bluegill exceed 3000 tons (Ref. 45327). Social and ecological problems have been experienced recently pertaining to the 'black bass problem.' (Ref. 55372). Considered to be one of the most damaging alien species in Japan"
Saturday, January 09, 2010
THE BIG FAT MATTRESS OF NORMALCY
Well, things have plunged somewhat back toward normalcy now that the grandies have left for their home in the north, it's getting steadily quieter around here I notice, the ambiance is less dynamic following the abrupt decline in spontaneous creativity flying around and bouncing off the walls which is good in some ways, especially for my back, since the girls are bigger each year yet still want to shimmy all the way to the top of the big timbers in the living room with a full body length boost from me and then to be spun around like living tops on the hard oak floor before being dragged around the big room like kidsnakes, then there's always This is the Way the Gentlemen Ride etc., and Ride along to Boston etc., then outside digging potatoes and raking together a big and bigger and biggest pile of leaves there ever was to roast the tubers in while the wild native girls run around the towering flames chanting in some kind of ancient granddaughter ritual as with my rake I try to keep everything from catching fire until we eat, and now it's time to take a nap.
Friday, January 08, 2010
Since I don't live 200 years ago in the time of Hahnemann, but in a time of vaster medical (there are germs!) and atomic understanding, when I sense a homeopathic miasm coming on I take an alternative, more vitalistic approach to that costly placeboic therapy by simply determining which homeopathic base substance would appropriately poison me if I ingested it, then sonically diluting it by repeatedly shouting the name of the substance into a mirror, thereby pneumatically succussing the nominative molecules sufficiently to transfer the logorific dynamization of the poison's molecular structure deep into my reflected luxobeing, thence causing the refluxed metavibrations to resonate within the infinity of my noumenal presence, which internalized metavibrations I can then personally potentize through autosuccussion by swaying forcefully left and right and back and forth while shaking all over, after which I jump up and down the requisite number of times thereby actuating the logodrug's atomic mnemonic throughout the total infinity of my molecular construct, where I feel immediate relief from homeopathic dilution of my equity.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Yesterday when the grandies came and I was to babysit for a few hours, Kaya (9) and one of the twins (Mitsuki, 6) set immediately to playing with the toys, while the other twin (Miasa, also 6) sat quietly at the kitchen table, hunched over a notebook, drawing-- or so I thought.
When I happened to walk by and glanced at what she was doing, at first it looked like English words... But that couldn't be of course, since she doesn't speak English - though she has expressed a desire to learn English... Besides, she's only 6, and 6-year-olds often say things... But they WERE English words, beautifully printed and she was printing them! Beautifully! Huh?
One of her sisters was jumping rope and the other was rolling around the room on the big red ball, which are essential activities in themselves, but have the addictive quality of being fun. In stark contrast, Miasa had, before coming to visit, made ruled lines in her blank notebook, asked someone to print an English word on the left of each line and was now intently copying each printed word carefully and in surprisingly expert fashion, over and over till she reached the end of the line, when she would start on the next line and word. She wasn't having fun or showing off, she was just doing it, and had started doing it the moment she'd arrived. While her sisters were playing noisily, she was quietly studying English!
I... I... I was speechless. I just stood there. I... I had never seen a 6-year-old focus with that much intensity, for that long, on a real grownup study task. I... I waited till she had finished the whole two pages (without looking up even once!), when she ruled fresh lines on the next two pages and held it up to me, asking me to print some new English words on the left. I... I... I said: This is fantastic! You are amazing! You are ... This is... Wow... and so forth, at which the other two girls looked up to see what all the praise was about, and later after dinner, when they were about to watch the Wizard of Oz they insisted on watching it in English.
Later, when Kasumi came to pick them up and take them home across the Lake, they had fallen asleep... Out in the car Miasa lifted a sleepy hand and said "My notebook..." She'd left it by the warm wood stove, where she'd been ruling in more lines, just before falling asleep...
My English fails me...
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Every once in a while, because I have been too long at a desk in an office in a building in a city or some other abnatural state of existence and feel as though I am about to dissipate in a cloud of dark vapor like an occult being about to be exposed to sunlight, I step outside the house into the weekend morning garden onto actual earth to existify amidst the sensual actualities of the very nature that begot every basal aspect of my existence, and am surprised by the luxurious softness of the ground that formerly was as hard as winter.
Which is my roundabout way of getting to the subject of the ecstatic Mr. Mole, or Mogura-chan (Molie) as I call him. This morning Kaya and I were outside getting spinach and stuff from the garden when we noticed that over by the stone wall beside the steps Mogura-chan had run around underground in loops and whirls of no particular destination like a madmole, but given the naturalness of his life he was more likely having a party or had just fallen madly in love, it wasn't organized at all-- not that moles have to be organized like a guy in a office or anything, its just that judging by his moundy tracks he looked like he was really letting off some sort of funsteam down there, whirling through the earth like Fred Astaire across a ballroom floor, having the time, essentially, of his life...
Molehood is a worthy ambition.
Monday, January 04, 2010
To celebrate the holiday season and the visiting grandies, we decorated the tree by the stone stairs with all sorts of ornamentations that made a bright celebration out the big window. Yesterday, the festive days being over, while I was out working in the garden Echo began to take the decorations down. She removed them to the extent she could reach and asked me to take down the rest before I came in for lunch.
So just before the grandies arrived to share our noonday meal, as I was taking down the long festoons of gold, red, blue and silver beads and twinkly strings of all sorts, I had to put them someplace safe for the moment, so I just looped the red fuzzy strings and the blue and green twinkly frillies around my neck; then there were the ornaments, which were too big and many to hold-- not into the pockets of course, or down on the stone steps, so I hung them on their loops from my shirt front and pocket buttons, and kept on looping the bright other strands over my shoulders, so by the time the grandies arrived and I headed up the stone stairs with gold, blue, silver and red garlands of sparkle and frilly twinkles high around my neck, over my head and down over my shoulders, loopy festoons of bright beads of all colors reaching to my knees, big round shiny ornaments in both hands and dangling from all the buttons of my shirt, I had come to embody the holiday spirit itself, and as I made my necessarily stately holiday way up the stone steps and into the house there wasn't an icicle of humbug anywhere, so as I opened the door it was impossible to hold back even one of the loud "HO-HO-HOs" that suddenly emerged from that ancient place we all know in the spirit. That's what holidays are for: to bring out the happy holiness in us, each and every one.
As it is in delighted children.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
INTELLIGENT EVOLUTION: LEARNING FROM OUR WILD NEIGHBORS
It is good for us to live amongst the wild creatures, carry on with our lives amidst their close vicinity, the better to learn from those evolved beings the truths we need to know about our own proper place in this world of which we fancy ourselves the overlords.
In fact I had such a lesson this morning, when I almost stepped on a baby monkey. The tiny wrinkled creature, even then in the midst of learning to sneak up onto my deck to get as many as he could carry of the winter potatoes that in my negligence (half the soul of human kindness) I had left in a basket there, afforded me some further insights into our respective places in the universe, and how we civilized, hardworking, largely altruistic creatures and the thieving beasts around us fit together in the big picture.
The unexpected lesson (the best kind) began just as I was putting my lunchbowl into the sink, when out the big window onto the garden I saw a bigass monkey ambling like a lord into my garden through the gate I'd negligently left open (I'd just been out there putting some rice straw on a couple places, left the gate open for after-lunch garden tweaking).
I ran out the door at once yelling and handwaving in regard to my respective place in the universe blablabla vis-a-vis monkey lust for my onions, a complex philosophical question that I gave no consideration as I headed instinctively - like a monkey toward an onion - for the little pile of antibeast rocks I keep handy on the deck railing.
Anyway, to get back to the infant thief beneath my foot, as I pounded onto the deck to chase Bigass out of my garden I came within a monkeynose of stepping on the cute little artful dodger wannabe as he was edging toward what were almost his potatoes. You should have seen the look in his beady already criminal eyes-- he had never seen a monkey as big as me, pale face yelling for justice, a huge beast covered in different kinds of multicolored nonfur, in his entire life. He'd just been born of course, so had but a short time range to choose from, but that only magnified the experience for him; he tumbled backward in disbelief and fell off the deck right in front of I guess his mother, who was grubbing among the lily roots and also freaked at sight of her falling child with me above.
At the same time, I saw that Bigass was out there with his numerous tribe (there must have been a few dozen of them, all ages) all around, so I had to yell louder and gesticulate more threateningly until I had reached a crescendo sufficient to dominate that many monkeys (there’s a formula I use) and they all took off carrying babies and other monkey luggage (though not one potato or onion, I’m proud to say), legging it for the property nearby that has a big dog who is nicer to them, only barks and possible bites. No long-distance definite rocks from a big loud beast suddenly out of nowhere.
I learned much from the experience. From the look on that little big-eyed face, for example, I learned that I am in fact the overlord of this particular fraction of the world, and that little brigand had better believe it, like the rest of his tribe. But most importantly of all, I came to realize that the monkeys in their natural state have an ecological role to play when, in the depths of winter - as they have done since the first tick of monkeytime - they subsist on roots, seeds, bark, whatever the wild provides. Like us, however, the monkeys prefer an easier way if there is one, though they haven't the will or the wherewithal to create it themselves, so they want ours. Thus is their natural role - which historically does not include onion consumption - critically unbalanced when they steal my produce; so in yelling at and pelting them with rocks to drive them from the garden (much like ourselves, in our own mythic times), I am doing my part to restore the natural balance, thereby helping forestall the possibility of global warming, among other growing perils.
Yes, it is good, as I say, for us to learn from and teach our fellow creatures our respective proper places in the world. The little crook and I pretty much have that down now. He'll be back. But I'll be waiting. With more than a size eleven.
Doing my part for a cleaner future.