Sunday, October 31, 2010
BEARS WILL BE BEARS
Been hearing in the news about the sudden increase in bear sightings around the country and the commensurate rise in bear attacks, a great number of those sightings being in Shiga Prefecture. The large majority of those sightings and attacks have been on this side of the Lake, which is a lot more foresty and otherwise wild than the more urbanized regions to the east, where bears might occasionally, out of excessive civilizing, roam the streets looking for figurative couches and potato chips.
Over here on the other side, where the bears are more naturally satisfied because we are blessed with harder furnishings and slower food, every now and then there is an announcement over the village PA system that yet another bear has been sighted in a garden or orchard and we should be careful in going about our daily activities or at least be ready to wrestle.
In any case, the bear population in general has increased over the past few years of profuse acornification by the generous oaks, but as we are now experiencing in terms of human currencies - whose intrinsic value is less than an acorn (acorns at least being viable and edible) - the oaks even here are in recession and the bears, though not exactly homeless, aren't eligible for anything like food stamps, so must go off to wander human vicinities in search of sustenance for themselves and their young, an effort that can put the brawny creatures in a mood even worse than mine after two hours without breakfast.
One aspect to all this that is seldom mentioned in the news accounts is that bear gall bladders are worth their weight in gold because of their alleged tonic properties, which may explain the occasional rifle shots I hear at dawn in the mountains above. Mind you I'm not pointing any fingers, especially at folks holding rifles; anyway, if they're gunning for bear I'm sure they have licenses.
As for myself, after 15 years of not having directly confronted any of our ursine cohabitants, I still go outdoors and wander as usual in forest, to and from garden, firewood and mushroom inventory amidst the absence of acorns, while my garden grounds are rich with fallen chestnuts bursting with beary goodness, without giving a thought to it. I have to change that routine, especially at dawn and dusk: I should make it a habit to check the property before I go wandering out there. Despite my familiarity with habituation, though, it's surprisingly hard to create a new habit out of bears.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
WINDY RAMBLE: THE DEBRIS OF FREEDOM
Well the wind came barging across the landscape last night like it owned the place - which I suppose it does - carrying on all through the dark, toting in skyloads of Siberian chill without so much as a how-de-do-- no passport, no visa, no customs fees, no license, no permission of any kind, not even a declared nationality such as we all have.
The rampant wind is no respecter of national borders, fences or property; it just laughs that air-sized laugh at national boundaries - roars in fact, as it flies right over them - tossing aside all the KEEP OUT! signs like so many snowflakes, sending immigration officials scurrying indoors holding onto their hats, toying with temperatures, breaking off trees, tearing off roofs like King Kong and flinging them all over-- throwing big stuff around in general and having a greater time than any of us ever has, except for maybe that long July night in 1967 when I - but that's a tale for another time - and doing so whenever it wants.
If any of us did that we'd be in jail in a flash and deported to other borders without recourse, but governments just don't treat wind (or precipitation either, for that matter) the way they treat people, you'd think they'd be all over that blustery phenomenon and right away get it under lock and key, or at least put up a big wall like they currently want to have between Mexico and Texas to keep out people, though the even bigger Great Wall of China didn't work, either people- or weatherwise, and now it's a lucrative tourist attraction that draws folks from all over the world, puts China even more on the map historically, so you've gotta hand it to the Chinese, they take the long view of things in important matters-- but the fact that governments do pretty much whatever they want with us humans while letting the weather run free just seems like favoritism to me.
Over a century ago Mark Twain, who knew a thing or two about wind, directed public attention to humanity's chronic inaction regarding the weather; yet we've made no real advances in that regard since his clarion call. Makes me wonder about the old hierarchy of intelligence that has us humans at the top, getting all windy about freedom and such, well I'd put the wind way above us in those regards, seeing as how it's crafty enough to completely evade the fetters of human governance and run roughshod over restraints of any kind, doing pretty much what it damn well pleases despite whatever borders we sapients decree, just as it always has.
Just imagine all that the wind knows about the world. It has its songs, it has its voice, its music and its rhythms, it dances in the leaves on the ground, in sand across the deserts and in the tips of trees across the forests, flings itself along atop the waves of the sea in lyrics we can't begin to fathom. It is the breath of pure freedom, blowing wherever it will, leaving us to clean up after it, such as me right now on my deck, up to my knees in the debris of freedom.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I just realized the other day that in my 15 years of living here beside the long, narrow and twisty road down the mountain, a humble thoroughfare crossed back-and-forth day-and-night year-round by foxes, deer, wild pigs, bears, snakes, rabbits, raccoons, ferrets, crows, hawks et al., I have never seen a single instance of roadkill anywhere along its length, apart from a flat mamushi I saw once a few years ago on a side road.
This is excepting the mating frenzy of countless suicidal frogs, who, during the blurry evening light of early rainy season rise from their muddy beds to blunder heedless in every direction, single-minded and courting trouble, crossing the road with such abruptness and in such numbers as to provide the local crows and hawks with gourmet banquets that would be the envy of any French restaurant specializing in four-star roadkill. Yet those feeding birds themselves never wind up as roadkill...
One night while driving upmountain I hit a wild pig that, nervous in the cold, rainy darkness, had suddenly gone for it and dashed across the road a split-second too late, getting a minor bruise and leaving some bristles on my undented bumper (as related in my previous post), but I've never seen wild pig or any other roadkill on this road, no drivers hitting leaping deer, either. Which is strange in contrast to the numerous incidents I recall on the rural highways of my youth in America, where cars all the time hit bear, deer, moose, skunks, woodchucks, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, snakes, pets of all kinds, just about everything; roadkill was as common as potholes. But up here, not one incident in 15 years.
Till a month or so ago that is, when - while I was not home - a city fellow rang our doorbell; when Echo answered he told her that there was a dead raccoon in the roadway just below, and there wasn't room enough for him to drive his car past the dead animal! Plus there was blood on the road! Was there some official that would come and take the thing away? Its insides were coming out and this was the only road down, so he was trapped up here because of this dead beast...
Echo called the neighbor lady to the south and the two mountain females went down to the spot with shovels and together quickly shoveled the departed beast well into the roadside forest for the foxes and crows, thereby freeing the urbanite from the horrifying claws of raw, stark-naked nature.
He's the only victim of secondhand roadkill I ever heard of around here.
Friday, October 22, 2010
SHOULDER OF THE WILD
In the noon phase of typhoon #6, on the way back upmountain from dropping Echo off at the station I stop on the road by the big bamboo grove to watch one of the most beautiful and elegant dances in the world: bamboo in mountain wind.
In the edgy light from the east against the dark green of the mountains and the thunder gray of the typhoon clouds, the pale jade bamboo stems in their tall slim splendor, like 15-meter earthfeathers with golden quills, sway back and forth in a slow, soft roil that shows the edges of the wind as the green arms move in the spirit of waves, with soft bows and gentle gestures, all of an elegance that dancers seek to imitate, the racing wind producing only slow green response in the whole of the grove, much the way tall seaweed sways in an ocean storm.
Inside the bamboo grove stand an old oak and a cedar, imparting darkness and depth, rising in their relative rigidity, and it is easy to see why oaks and cedars blow over all the time, but bamboo never: bamboo knows how to dance.
Monday, October 18, 2010
CUCUMBERS WANT TO BE YELLOW
You could have knocked me over with a vegetable of just about any kind, excepting maybe a sprout. While at last clearing out the garden for some fall planting and reaping the last of my summer rewards, like hidden tomatoes, secret chard sprigs, fallen peppers, unclaimed potatoes etc., in a fold of the winter netting that during summer is suspended from the east side of the fence (where this year there was a small funnel-shaped paper wasp nest that was attacked by an osuzumebachi that took one larva, that I saw; maybe the whole nest was later wiped out by osuzumebachi since, not long after, it was suddenly abandoned) - this sentence is beginning to take on the multidirectional quality of autumnal garden clearing -
Oh yes... after pulling down the withered cucumber vines I could now see, down in the fold of that net, a long, thick yellow fruit of kind I'd never seen before. I couldn't imagine how it had gotten there, whatever it was. It wasn't a yellow squash, since none of the squashes I planted were climbers; it was too hefty and anyway a monkey would have to have dropped it, and monkeys do not drop priceless whole food items they've gotten a good thieving grip on.
It couldn't be a goya either, since those climbing vines came up later this summer from last year's fallen fruit, and the new fruits are not yet developed (if they ever do; it's an experiment). So I reached down in the netfolds and got the fruit out; it most closely resembled the yellow straightnecks that were growing in situ on the other side of the garden. I broke it open, found that it was a fully developed cucumber, and realized for the first time the fact of the title.
Always a staggering experience, learning the inyerface things we never had a clue we didn't know.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
THE VIRTUALLY AUTOMOTIVE JELLO OF THE CIVILIZED WHITEBREAD TELEVISION NOW
Tattooed limbs, painted faces, body-piercing ornaments, ritualistic dances through the mystic night to pounding primitive rhythms; native dress, painstakingly patterned hair, eyes with a jungle gaze, spirit-based, esoteric language; loss of tradition looming as they struggle to preserve their dying heritage--- you see the tribe every day at the mall.
We've each been tribally young on our ways to genuine age, the apparently brand-new ontogeny recapitulating what turns out to be the same ancient phylogeny as we pass too briefly through our primitive origins on our deepconsious way to assimilation in the macrocosmic melange that the present has become, the defanged, declawed, virtually automotive jello of the civilized whitebread television now, where we status what's left of our quo while wondering in that heart of our hearts what the hell ever happened to the world our genes used to know, missing those good old days when there weren't yet any good old days, when reality was what reality had always been, right on the mark and no mistake, when every blade of grass had a voice and every eye shone with spirit that had substance, if not reason, and required no justification.
Yes, we were once all untelevised tribespersons, to be virtually automotively politically correct; and deep in that heart of our hearts we still are tribespersons, despite our morphication into ingredients of said virtually automotive jello of the civilized whitebread television now. This explains that secret calling you've been feeling from out there in the dark beyond the edge of your career; the pounding heartlike drums at the core of your merely quantifiable bank account; the primitive melody welling up from far below your bottom line; the enchanting shimmer that draws your eyes toward the depth among the remaining trees, yearns your legs toward the forest path; it's your phylogeny on hold on the other line: you gonna pick it up or what?
Another of my readings from the old days of the Kyoto Connection...
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Thursday, October 07, 2010
TO SAY NOTHING OF A LA MODE
Every nation is renowned for not having certain things. One of the things Japan is famed for not having is cherry pie. At least in this blog. It's been two years now since I had any cherry pie, a salacious, not to say orgiastic, event that recurred serially when I visited the US and cherry pie was everywhere. I could hardly stick out a fork without hitting a cherry pie. Can one ever forget one's native pastries?
In that pieful eden I couldn't wander in one of those hangar-like corner supermarkets without coming upon rows and rows of racks and racks of cakes and cookies and donuts, real donuts, soft and spicy, not the merely sugared image, plus of course pies of all kinds of berries and fruits, nuts and custards and creams, cherry pie comprising a large number of the whole-crust and lattice-crust versions dripping gobbets of ruby juice and displaying their crustily inimitable deliciousness; still, I had restraint-- I only bought one or two at a time, rarely three or four. Discipline is always with me.
To this declaration of currently chronic pie deficiency (which seems to intensify as the weather becomes chillier and visions of juice-laden crust come rising from the delirious depths), some goody-goody type folks might later elbow-comment: Oh you can get pies at a lot of places in (name Japanese city of multimillions), but I'm not talking about ittybitty acculturations that cost fifty dollars, I'm talking about those huge, deep creations of the cherry-pie making god-families who for hundreds of years have been making pies that are as far from tofu as you can get and cost six or seven dollars.
Not that I have anything against tofu, I love tofu, always have, enjoy it regularly, a great food and highly nutritional in its way, but only one small spec on the dietary spectrum. Like life itself, nutrition and the diet inhabit vast spans that call for commensurate balance, not the piddling balance of food that is merely said to be 'good' for you. I'm talking big scales here, transcending just the body-- cosmic balance is the ticket, and in my book a big thick wedge of that ticket is cherry pie.
Here in the pieless island nation, after each cosmicly nourished return from the cherry pie continent my dreams were crowded with flying cherry pies and land-based cherry pies you could climb onto bearing a cosmic hunger, with a spoon like a shovel. (Pay no attention to those pieless old Freudians over in the corner.) Two years without cherry pie can do that to a man. To say nothing of a la mode. Of actually chocolate ice cream.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Now that the cooling days are here, the singing insects are in the summer of their contentment. Here on an early breezy evening I can't even count the variety of choruses from earth, grasses, bamboo, trees and sky; impossible to unweave the warp and woof of this surrounding tapestry of song.
Last night a singing insect of a kind I'd never heard before began sounding through one of our front screen doors not a song but a pure call, a special summons, a rhythmic generation that was more sensation than sound; it rattled the skull and defied such mereness as ears.
Meant to stir the entire bodies of kindred insects with the most important message of their lives, its vibrations implied measures far beyond the spectral pinpoint of human hearing, my ears probably catching only the bare peripheries of the full sonic rainbow flowing over me.
On and on it went into the night, the sounding of a single insect that I could not even find to see, expressing the vast magnitude of a minuscule being taking its brief turn at living a share of life and all it means.
Out there in the darkling air was a tiny Zen master, chanting a cosmic koan.