Tuesday, March 30, 2010


We enjoy full and long-term rainbows all the time out here in the countryside, as compared to the barely distinguishable fragments of arc we used to glimpse between buildings in the city sometimes, already kind of faded and archaeological, like a suddenly exposed artifact that disintegrates on contact with modern urban air, such as that is, but these gateways of light we see arcing from mountains to Lake are real rainbows, wide ones, bright ones, deep and full ones all the way from here to there, in the true meaning of those terms as used in the countryside.

This rainbow I'm looking at now reaches from down on the lakeshore all the way to Hiei Mountain, pots of gold everywhere, from violet to orange with all the colors in between, and while gazing right at the rainbow you can't help but ponder the fact that you can't find its edges - though the rainbow is distinct, isn't it - yet it isn't, is it - and none of the individual colors themselves have an edge, though they too are each distinct but not, which leads you to realize right on the spot, fully rainbow-minded by now, that this narrow band of colors we are gifted to perceive is but a short segment of the Big Rainbow; that sound waves and gamma rays are vibrations on the same continuum, as are all other 'waves,' including us (and why should we in our existence see only this little portion, could we bear to see it all?), that in a way we're seeing with our ears when we hear sound waves, hearing with our eyes when we see light waves, and hearing/seeing with our skin when we feel heat waves, all part of the one continuum we chop up into different senses because that's the way we self ourselves and word the world; and in the very same dark-age way that we used to think the world was flat and still think of the sun as rising, so we continue to believe our senses separate, our perceptions isolate, each as distinct from the others as we ourselves are from all that we perceive, all as clear as 20/20; and there at the edges, where the senses get fuzzy, the dogma begins...

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Tomorrow night is No Electric Light Night for those of us in on it in these parts, when we will use only candles and lanterns and show ourselves and the kids what darkness is and means, how much a part of life it is and true, and how familiar it can be and not to fear, so much has been forgotten of where we were and whence we came and how--

Already it recalls to me one moonless night while we were living on an island off the coast of Spain, out on a point with the ocean at our front, with no electricity, not long after we'd moved there - with only one candle to cook by and eat by - there was a knock from the dark at the dark door, it was an elderly man without light who had come round the point from the sea and had walked the long dark path up to our candle to ask the way to the village over the mountain, and would go hence into the night and over the mountain without light and how would he see, I city-wondered.

Before long we too were walking over the mountain along stony paths even on moonless nights, seeing fine by the light of the stars and the ancient light-finding strength that had been in our eyes all along unasked for, and so never received until now. More than ever, we need to learn what darkness has to teach us that we do not know we already know, from long before our own lives. We should share this knowledge with our children, that the world may be the simpler place it is, both day and night--


Darkness, as one might expect, is a lot darker out in the country; it's pretty much actual darkness out here where we are, except for a small light out on the island and a few sprinkled far across the Lake that go out one by one as night deepens.

Until a hundred years ago, city and country everywhere were pretty much the same at night; now the city has a 24-hour day. But though we all know this, even out in the country what has been lost to us with the loss of the dark tends to slip the mind when one has recourse to brightness at a switchflip. Easy light has made us lazier than we know, has let us drift from attentions we were born to give to the darkling edges of our lives, it has taken us farther from the forebears in our eyes and from 99.9% of our evolutionary history. Living in familiarity with darkness is in fact fully natural to us.

So it was like seeing an old friend last night when we came home to a dark house, went inside in the dark, lit some candles, a small kerosene lamp, and proceeded to prepare and eat dinner. Kaya was quiet, more thoughtful and studious of distances than her usual brightlight boistery night self. She was intrigued, instinctively contented with this new face of things, the space closing around her like a soft blanket. The food was different, the faces were different, the rooms and the house were different. We talked about darkness and history; we talked about how you don't have to be afraid in the dark, because in fact you can see in the dark: see?

We talked about how humanity had until just a few decades ago always been familiar with the dark and lived in close adherence to the cycle of dark and day, and how loss of the night must have deeply affected us humans, who have evolved through eons in bond with the natural cycle of dark and day; how light has changed us, how dark has changed us, and how the loss of one-half of that equation must have unbalanced us in ways we do not know.

We noted how things had a new beauty when shaded by the night, acquiring depths that light cannot contain, that only its absence can provide, and how without electricity conversation gained importance and intimacy. For her part, Kaya watched the candleflames flicker and smiled with an ancient, familiar delight.

Darkness was good.
(From two PLM posts of June 2003)

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Of course it cannot be put into words, but one has to try, especially if one is Irish and there is the sky, just before sunset, taking this moment into the dark, the distance made of winter thunderheads rising higher than birds and man with wings can fly, the horizon lit inside by flashes of lightning, same family as the stars, now brightening between the columns of cloud...

Life is best lived deep and wide, not necessarily long - longevity is the least of it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Warbler on the wire
asks what we're doing
to everything

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Yes, nature just isn't gonna take it any more; severe adjustments will have to be made. One unthinkable change is already under way...

Everyone from teens to senior citizens are saying no,
but mongers and meisters are trying to turn back the tides of change,
after a brief commercial...

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Pure Land Mountain included in a tastefully selected group
at Ageless North Shore...

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Slowly and relentlessly the front advances to capture the nation, edging ever closer toward abject populations that await on the tenderest of tenterhooks as silently the edge draws nearer, marching steadily forward across the terrain on the quietest of feet - nothing can stop it - not that anyone wants to, for any day now it will engulf us each and every one in its delicate effusion, washing over us in a tidal wave of implacable pinkness, a nationwide lava flow of tiny petals, a torrent of ever-so-softness frittering down over folks who can only sit vanquished on blankets on the grass in the parks beneath the unstoppable vanguard, eating their bento and drinking their sake even unto the end, dancing their delight to the continuous music inspired by the ruthless beauty of the sakurazensen (Cherry Blossom Front), which will soon conquer this entire nation, overcoming its grateful populace in the subtlest of pastels and the most passionate moments of florid camaraderie you ever saw, when everywhere the air will be floral with fluttering sighs, and tears will fall like pale pink petals at the passing of this brief beauty everyone embraces but none can hold on to, as the transient vanquisher moves on to its next new conquest about a year from now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Seeds in their infinite nature are a vast topic, deeper than the oceans of a mind, especially at this time of year when thoughts are beginning to germinate about planting or starting gardens (now moreso than ever) and about appreciating the value of genuine (ergo, slow) food.

Genuine food is best when you grow it yourself, and thus to your own golden standards, the own-grown motives being health, flavor and freshness, as compared to the brassy standards of agribiz, which breeds for efficiency, ship3000milesability, bruise resistance, cosmetic longevity, shelf life. Nutrition and flavor are in the equation by default, the bottom line being profit. An agribiz CEO inquiring as to the worth of a cabbage does not have the health of you or your children in mind. As you put that seed into the ground and nurture it, you do.

I grew up in the city, never had a garden, never even had a lawn (the latter of which was and is ok by me). I did spend some time in the Hudson River countryside though, at my cousins' house, where my uncle had a big vegetable garden (sure wish he was still in this world), in which as a little kid I used to wander enjoying the wondrous sight of bright red globes of tomato deliciousness growing right out of the dirt, of carrots pushing golden down into the ground at my feet, only their shoulders showing, sweet strawberries right there and ready to eat; honeydew melons, and going and picking raspberries, in real life; this was an old familiar language to some ancient in the child I was, this was the way things in life truly were and should always be, beyond the confines of dead-tree education. And so was born my strong ambition to one day have a garden of my own. It's been a long and organic journey, encouraged by the steady advances of paraquat and its pals.

What got me started on this ramble was not only seeds and Spring, when the mind becomes a garden of its own; the catalyst was finding a mention of PureLandMountain.com on CNNGo, in an article about Blogging Japanese Farmers, which led me back to its source on Martin's blog Kurashi - News from Japan, where I am complimented with praise that is way over my head. Wow. Thank you, Martin.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


...the first notes of fragrance on those tiny lavender trumpets...

Monday, March 15, 2010


Up on the ladder this morning mending fence, I couldn't help but hear, in the recesses of the idle mind that such labor kindly affords, the words of Robert Frost, who as a relative newbie couldn't quite grasp why fences were needed when there were no cows around, and when his neighbor had pine trees and he himself had apple trees, so as they went along mending the wall in his famous poem Frost kept bugging his neighbor about the need for the thing, but the taciturn fellow would only say that good fences make good neighbors. Which I suppose may well be true in Vermont, where things are simpler in their ways.

The "something there is that doesn't love a wall," as detailed in Frosts poem, comprised nothing more than frozen ground-swell and rabbit hunters; that's all he wrote. The creators of the fence are the real reason for the fence. Frost made no mention of monkeys, and for good reason: things are simpler in Vermont. Humans are the only animal problem in his equation, and humans at least know what fences are, so he and his neighbor worked together, each on a side, to rebuild the wall between them-- Frost a bit mischievously, as befits a poet.

Their shared fence was meant to keep their own kind either in or out, and that's the whole of it. Simple. You can tell as you read the poem over and over that Frost and his noncommittal neighbor have had no acquaintance with the reasons I have my fence, why my fence is the way it is and why I mend it alone, up here on an early Spring morning that looks like rain. The animal in my equation does not know what fences are, so we do not work together, each on a side. The monkeys do not offer to help keep themselves from my onions, as I do not offer to refrain from swinging in their trees. Unlike Frost, I know what I'm walling in and what I'm walling out.

In those regards I have the advantage over Frost and his neighbor, who view their fence, in a vague, untested way, as a multilithic, fundamentally existential structure: a de facto embodiment of intraspecial distrust. There's no such factor in my equation, which is short and crystal clear, with no unknowns. Up where I live, good fences of this type have nothing to do with neighbors.

To myself I say, as I go along mending: good fences make good monkeys.

Friday, March 12, 2010


And as to fast food, for my money there is no better fast food than the ancient but always fresh onigiri, which takes about ten seconds to make from the cooked rice that's always around in the Japanese household, and takes its shape from the hands that made it, usually those of a loving wife or grandma (self-made onigiri just don't taste as good).

Molded by wet salted hands around a center of pickled plum, a bit of salmon or scrambled egg, or just about anything (nothing is good, too), the whole then wrapped in a sheet of nori seaweed (nothing is good, too), the onigiri needs no further explanation before eating with wide-open delight.

The onigiri does not require any ketchup, mustard, 1000-island dressing or worcestershire, no slice of onion on top with a pickle and a bun on both sides; simplicity has its own flavor. Nor does it need a plastifoam box to keep it warm inside a bag inside another bag. Warm or cold-- it works just as well either way.

But if you do happen to grill your plain onigiri over, say, the small charcoal fire you're grilling your fish or chicken on, be sure to brush the toasting rice with a little soy sauce and turn it frequently so that it gets equally brown and crispy everywhere and becomes a yaki onigiri. Much delight will follow.

The neat thing is, the onigiri is always exactly the size of your hunger.

Monday, March 08, 2010


Rainy day yesterday, doin' wordwork inside the house upstairs, went down to tweak the fire, straightened up with gaze outside and saw the Emperor of Everything promenading in majestic privacy on the grounds of his vast estate. This morning he had chosen to stroll along a slope of land used by one of his human subjects as the paddy across the road from our house, which is also on imperial land.

Earlier I had seen a member of his large harem hurrying along the same place, almost invisible against the grass, pecking up seeds for breakfast, nowhere in sight now, harems don't usually hang too close around the emperor. They may be invisible in the landscape, but the ruler in his imperial robes, now at their impeccable finest, straight from the winter cleaners, were shockingly gaudy against the dun of the wintered weeds, the general slovenliness of the pre-Spring landscape, but first impressions are a big point for an emperor. There he stood in majestic solitude on the paddy slope, peering cautiously everywhere, now and then carefully lifting his head just above the verge to see if maybe there were any big usurpers up there before he went any further, took him 5 minutes to take a step.

He was built to be nervous and no wonder, being so majestic and so in charge of all this territory, his harem and everything that that entails, he can't even bend down to peck up a seed or two as he clearly wants to (and did, when he was young), starting many times over to bend down to partake of that waiting lusciousness scattered at his feet that is his own to enjoy, that nature provides at this time of year, but he never did, all the while I watched; he just couldn't do it, something else always caught at his electric attention. Clearly there are a lot of somethings when you're that high up in the hierarchy of everything; when you're this wealthy, this responsible, this plump and so apparently tasty while dressed in raiment as beacony as a Vegas casino, you have a lifetime of enemies in the grass and in the sky, where every shadow, every slightest sound, every bit of breeze, is a wing of evil, a claw drawing nearer, a hiss of imminence...

Since he's just standing there trembling with desire to move or just peck at the ground like a mere mortal, I get my binoculars and focus for detail, see he has a dark blonde punk low Mohican do atop his purple headpiece, with bloodred cheeks around a piercing golden eye centered with darkest onyx that takes in all the light, the purple headpiece gradually diffracting into an imperial emerald waistcoat sleekly fashioned of tiny feathers, then come skintight purplish stockings and the wings and tails you gotta see them, speckled with flashing, glowing colors, fanning at certain times into peerless displays that merely human emperors have in vain attempted to replicate in their feeble wish to be the equal of this one and only Imperator who walks alone today upon his lands and will brook no substitutes; just look in those eyes and behold implacable authority, so long as you don't surprise his majesty and step outside...

Sunday, March 07, 2010


Near sunset, stopped mid-labor at a sudden song sounded way up in the oak tree, an intense and passionate song, with a special finish to it, repeated over and over with variations in the curlicue ending. Finally spotted the bird, but only in silhouette against the easterly mackerel clouds. It looked like a wheatear, but he was even a blur as a silhouette, bouncing around up there all alone like something of transcendant importance was going on, and I suppose it was; this early taste of Spring swells the buds in us all, summons that ancient urgency from long before we were. That natural aria up there carried all of that plus something extra, made me stop my next year's work and listen right now to what's really going on.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Just posted Crazy Man, Crazy on The Blog Brothers.

Monday, March 01, 2010


Today we drove north along the Lake to a restaurant that serves only handmade soba that has been naturally grown in the vicinity, a restaurant with an interesting approach to business in that each year it only stays open until some time in mid-March, when they run out of soba. They run out of soba because the limited amount they grow has all been eaten by about that time. Traditionally, life has always been like that.

This is about as slow as food can get, and yes, if supplies hold out, as of mid-March you can't have any more of this soba, just like in the old days, until next year. But folks don't complain about it, or even talk about the fact much, except to note how unusual it is in this day and age as a way of doing business, but as I say they don't complain, they're too busy enjoying the excellent and (by definition) always fresh tezukuri (hand-made) soba. It's grown by farmers in the vicinity, and there are only so many who are willing to grow soba, and only so much land dedicated to the humble grain, so there's a limit to the naturally savory noodles like they use to make back when the whole country was closed to the world and there was nowhere near enough speed to cause fast food.

So whenever in March the soba is gone for another year the classic soba fans look forward to the next harvest time when the restaurant will open again someday in November and they’ll once more see all their smiling friends across the tables at the small countryside soba restaurant in that old building that's only used between soba harvests, it's called Shigino and isn't easy to find, out on that small road in the countryside of Imazu beneath Mt. Hakodate, where they grow Hakodate soba.

Shigino is in the neighborhood of the famous Zazensou bog, which was why there was so much traffic all our way to the restaurant, and which was why they said the restaurant would be mobbed at noon, so we got there a bit after 11 and were seated after about 5 minutes. We had the good fortune to be seated at a table across from an elder Japanese couple, the male of which was, of all things, a monk at a Pure Land temple in Imazu!

He spoke good English, having studied it for many years in school and college, but had little chance to use it in his work, so he enjoyed having me to practice on, which was ok with me because he was an interesting fellow. He said he was proud of the increasingly famed Zazensou bog, because it was his nephew who had discovered it!

About 30 years ago his teenaged nephew (the very fellow I mentioned in my Zazensou blog post of 2003!), who had always had a strong interest in biology, was riding here and there on his bicycle looking for interesting things when he discovered this small mountain bog filled with Zazensou, and told his teacher about it. The word spread, and now every year the bog is mobbed with folks who come from near and far to see and celebrate this symbol of Spring that to them resembles a meditating Buddha.

I mentioned to the monk, who had a brushcut and was wearing civvies, the English name for the plant, and that there were no mobs in the US driving out to a swamp to gaze worshipfully upon skunk cabbage. We laughed in shared recognition of something-- what, precisely, I'm not quite sure. But that's culture for you; it's like a flame, all in the moment's perspective. And imagine in the US a hectically busy restaurant selling its product hand over fist every day of the week, then closing on March 10, when they could grow more soba and store it so as to stay open throughout the year like so many places do, or get it from somewhere else and pretend it's from here, like so many other places do-- anyway, make a fortune, but fortune-making is not the point... timecutting is not the point, business success is not the point-- sharing something worth sharing, something clean, healthy, well made, grown, fashioned and shared in good faith, with care, in its season-- that is the point: one that rises high above all the -isms of economics.

You know-- up there, where we all want to live.