Thursday, March 31, 2011

 
STRONG STUFF

Freewheeling down the winding road this morning into the rising sun of an enlightening day - the edgy kind, with an early bonechill but already intriguing aspects to it, even in the scent of the air - as I came to the open portion of the paddied slope just below the last curve through the forest and out into the open, I  could see ahead of me, below the Lake - as odd as that is to describe - the earliest farmer this year out readying his paddy for Spring tilling.

He alone of all the village rice farmers was out there at first light with his long-handled shovel, clearing the irrigation trenches, inlets and outlets all around his paddy, soon to be filled by the water that would gravitate down from the mountain by way of his neighbor's paddy above, and then from his own would flow down to fill that of his neighbor below. An important task to be done each year by each farmer, and so to be done well, to sustain this whole mountainside of good will.
 
He was working at the corner of the paddy above the road along which newbie I would pass on my motorcycle. Hearing then seeing me coming, he paused in his labors, leaned on his shovel with the sun at his back, we shouted good morning to each other and I passed on by, leaving him in the kind of deep, nature-fed silence you can only get out in the countryside, as opposed to city silence, the merely welcome absence of sound.

As I rolled on down the road, although  he turned again to his labors he remained imprinted on my retina in silhouette, burned there by the sun like an icon of some kind, which I suppose he is-- perhaps of responsibility that goes back 20 generations or more, has made it this far, and naturally plans to continue. 
 
Strong stuff.
 
 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


QUAKE UPDATE Day 19



Kasumi and the girls will be moving in with us for a time... This should be interesting...

--

Looks like they’re gonna go all Chernobyl on it... hints at abandoning the reactor site altogether and smothering the whole thing in some sort of substance...

"I think maybe the situation is much more serious than we were led to believe," said one expert, Najmedin Meshkati, of the University of Southern California, adding it may take weeks to stabilise the situation and the United Nations should step in.    
"This is far beyond what one nation can handle - it needs to be bumped up to the U.N. Security Council."

The isotope "most useful for nuclear weapons..."


Interesting little tidbit for all of us currently on this planet [emphasis mine]:
"If plutonium enters the blood it can do a lot of damage to our cells, leading to cancer of the bones or liver. ... Plutonium-239, a byproduct of fission, was found in soil samples taken on the plant site March 21 and March 22, according to Tepco. Two of the five samples contained more plutonium than known to have been deposited by atmospheric nuclear-bomb fallout and probably came from the damaged plant.”

I.e., all soil in Japan and around the world now (and since the sixties) contains plutonium - half life 24,000 years -... You'd think that was important, but funnily enough they never mentioned Plutonium-239 during the long fallout of atmospheric nuclear bomb testing... they only mentioned Strontium-90...

And "Duck-and-Cover"...

Malignant-looking stuff, plutonium...


Monday, March 28, 2011


QUAKE UPDATE Day 17
 
Apartments around here and throughout Shiga and surrounding prefectures are filled now, usual vacancies now all filled by refugees and folks from Tokyo and closer to radiation who don’t want to stay there, living here if only until the threat is erased, which may in effect be never...

"The Japanese government intends to at least make an effort. The first 36 prefabricated homes set up in the tsunami-battered northeast have been deployed in Rikuzen-Takata, and on Saturday a draw will be held to decide who among the wider region’s 430,000 suddenly homeless survivors will be the first to have four walls of their own again."

Fear grows near another nuclear plant in Japan

--

As with the 8-hour battery-operated backup cooling generators that failed because of the tsunami that was unexpected (in the nation that came up with the name! + the word "tsunami" did not even appear in government nuclear reactor guidelines until 2006!?#) and the unexpected failure of this wet thing and that bent glowing stuff  and those molten items over there, and the too-short boots, now it’s unexpectedly inadequate storage tanks for surprisingly huge amounts of who in the industry would ever have guessed there might be such a quantity of: contaminated water! Am I glowing yet?

Also for several whiles there, the public was in danger of thinking they were really in way more danger than they were, which I suppose couldn't be all that bad a mental state to be in, given the circs-- it's best to plan for the worst, unlike the nuclear officials... Turns out the spike was false, though, so you can all stop running... Officials calculated the radiation at 100 times higher than actual, several hours later apologized for the miscalculation and the major world headlines after the public had an ulcer... seekers can find no one really in charge...

“The day began with company officials reporting that radiation in leaking water in the Unit 2 reactor was 10 million times above normal, a spike that forced employees to flee the unit. The day ended with officials saying the huge figure had been miscalculated and offering apologies.'The number is not credible,[but we did not know that?! "not credible" is "not credible" from the beginning, isn't it?]' said Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Takashi Kurita. 'We are very sorry.'
A few hours later, TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto said a new test had found radiation levels 100,000 times above normal-- far better than the first results, though still very high.
But he ruled out having an independent monitor oversee the various checks despite the errors."
Likely because it appears they never make the same terrible mistake twice.

--

Okawa Primary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture was totally destroyed by the tsunami and of its 108 pupils; only 30% have been confirmed safe. Many children in the region have lost their parents.

Hundreds of kids... and that school was only a few kms from the twins and Kaya in their schools... unbearable to think about... how that pain can be lived is incomprehensible, let alone in the midst of all the rest that's happening... it can't be lived... it can only be borne, as time takes it slowly away...

--

"Mourners took lids off the coffins, placing inside food, flowers, pictures, a fresh set of clothes and other keepsakes for their departed loved ones to take with them.

There was little time to linger. The burial for the next 10 people was about to start in a few minutes in similar funerals expected to run for weeks at the wooded hilltop a few kilometres away from where the tsunami tore through the city."

--

Here's a great idea for those who want to help surviving Japanese victims in a fast, direct and personal way. I can vouch that this gift would be most welcome these cold days and nights, even for those living in shelters:

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I DIDN’T DO IT NOBODY SAW ME YOU CAN’T PROVE ANYTHING, PLUS THIS IS FICTION

On my way home from the farm store a few weeks of mornings ago I stopped at another store, sort of a wine/liquor costco, where I now and then pick up bulk canned goods, which I did, and incidentally - more like cosmicly - found there on sale those-dark chocolate cherries in liqueur they used to sell back in the fifties, the ones with the little chocolatey swirl on top, exotic Italian brand name I think - began with a Z, I also think, or maybe a C - wrapped in red and silver foil, sold in the sort of elite section of the drug store if you can imagine that today, you younger folk, no penny candies or lowly nickel Snickers these: two for 15 cents, some odd price like that, you couldn't buy only one, and I would afford myself just two each week from my paper route money and they were all the more delicious for that rarity...

Well in that morning's store I spotted as I say some bags of dark-chocolate liqueur cherries wrapped in red and silver foil, and of a brand name starting with a Z of all things, so I bought two bags nobody saw me and when I got out to the car I opened one bag and as that 1950s dark-chocolate-cherry fragrance filled the car I was 15 again, a familiar heedlessness coming over me, so I opened one of the red-foil-wrapped gems, popped it into my mouth and chomped down and time became as nothing as it had in that 4-on-the-floor souped-up '57 Chevy I used to have because when I was young I was so rich in time I didn't even notice it flying by, except that now instead of only two cherries I had two bags full of them so I ate I won't tell you how many but I bet you can guess, and time was rich with what age is all about...


Saturday, March 26, 2011


QUAKE UPDATE Day 15

Apologies for the gap - missed a couple of days - but the girls came on Tuesday and...

It’s snowing here again, been colder for the past few days, during which time I have been laid low by a virus likely imported from the earthquake region where it was caught first in the chain by one of the twins, then by the other, then by Kaya, then by Kasumi and so to me last Wednesday.

Echo had it after me, but all of them had apparently had the virus in one form or another not too long ago, so their bodies were defeated it rather quickly; none of them were long or seriously affected; none embraced it as enthusiastically as I did.

I haven’t had “the flu” for as long as I can remember, so to this well-honed virus my body was a new continent to be thoroughly explored and colonized-- perhaps become the home of a new form of viral government... By midnight Wednesday I was fully embarked on embodying the potential of the virus in these regards, with little thought for myself, or what remained of that entity.  I can’t imagine having this virus under conditions that prevail in the earthquake region-- dodgy warmth, occasional water, occasional aid, not even at home...

Elderly woman in her lifelong home, in a remote region only just reached by the national guard and designated for complete evacuation, she refused to go, said she’d do better where she was, enough was enough, she wasn’t leaving; everyone else there had either already left, was being evacuated or had died in the quake; she’s still there, alone now...

As I hear the reactor news roil in day after day like wordsmoke, I keep being amazed that this is JAPAN, the country that, in one of the miracles of the modern age, transformed itself from a feudal backwater into a leading world nation in one generation, then went on, mesmerized by its power, to suffer compete devastation by war, then from below zero grew quickly to become the world’s second greatest economy, a marvel of technological prowess, by improving on what the rest of the world had been creating... Here was a country with a history of creative attention to detail, in which now three workers at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant who were working in reactor no 3, the one that contains the MOX fuels, suffered radiation burns when the 15 cm(!) of water they were working in leaked into their boots BECAUSE THEIR BOOTS WERE TOO SHORT...

What happened to that ancient focus?

+
I remember back as a kid in grade school when authorities around the world were enthralled with the A-bomb and everybody wanted one and continuous aboveground nuclear tests were an everyday occurrence (they didn't even call it 'above'ground, then; above was all there was) until a conscientious whistleblower somewhere found Strontium-90 in cow's milk and thence in the bones of children who in those years (as many still do) drank cow's milk, and who for the rest of their lives would presumably embody Strontium-90 to some unknown effect. I was born before the A-bomb and hated milk, so I was somewhat fortunate, but am likely nonetheless Strontium-90fied. Who isn't, these days?

Anyway, having been found out, the big boys took their play underground for the next 50 years, and finally back aboveground again as the benison of nuclear power, and so here comes Strontium-90 doing its thing once more, this time with a few new friends that the uberfolks probably knew about back then but didn’t mention (for our own good, as always): Cesium-137, Iodine-131 and their dark companion, Plutonium-239.

Becquerels on the broccoli, microSieverts in the milk, Curies on the cabbage-- they keep saying it's nothing to worry about again, and maybe they're right - we'll know for sure in seven generations or so, won't we - but why should we even be asking, let alone again? Anything wrong with this picture? Seems you just can't trust unprincipled humans with weapons, your health or your hard-earned money...


Tuesday, March 22, 2011


QUAKE UPDATES Day 11 ++
+

Had the trio stay over Sunday-Monday, on Sunday took them for lunch to Hot Station, where we ate outside in a field of nanohana with (nanohana in our bento!) beneath the snowy mountains, then went to get some spring water - which the girls love to do - then back home to our very own mountains of private snow that have arisen from the multiple shovelings of the deck over the ages of this winter, so the ladyettes could make snow men and in Kaya's case (quite the little artist) a snow rabbit. In mid-task she asked if we had some red berries, we had none; I thought a minute and gave her a small dried red pepper from a bunch hanging on the wall and her face lit up; I went out later to see what she had made and it was a wee snow rabbit with its wee snowfriend. Fun till bed, when they made a nest for themselves in an upstairs room, settled in under the big blankets, yawned and were asleep.

I did the same. Woke to laughter of Echo and the girls downstairs at breakfast... how quickly the young recover... giggles are a major gift of nature, good for every ill... and what bright energy the girls are now, for these moment untroubled and happy, with fun to be had... Kasumi was better by Monday and came to join us for the day, which was when we took the photo.

+

Started to order some stuff from the US via the internet the other day and at checkout was told: "Shipments to Japan will be delayed indefinitely." Apparently, all cargo transport is being commandeered for aid etc. for an indeterminate time, which is fully ok with me, but it was something of a shock to discover that sources abroad are cut off 'indefinitely.' Saw no news about that in the media; or when private shipments will be restored...

+

"Now I just feel hatred towards TEPCO," he says. "It is very difficult for me to say this since I have worked for them for 18 years. But I just think they should come clean with all the information they have."

+

One positive aspect to these catastrophic events, and historically perhaps the most remarkable, judging from what I've experienced here and in these past few days, is that because of the media revolution the world has just had its first genuine experience of The Global Community, its first real full-spectrum sense of how we are all in this together.

Japan's harrowing disaster, in all its horrible reality, was borne at the speed of light directly to the eyes and hearts of different cultures all around the world, whose people could right now see and be with and among the victims of quake, tsunami, radiation accidents; they could share the plight of countless of their fellow humans as never before in history-- oceans different from seeing in the morning paper over coffee a photo of some buildings fallen yesterday somewhere else in the world with another Thousands Die headline, then heading off to work...

In this new instant, the world became Japan and Japan the world. For the first time in history, we all felt it: we are all in this together. This was not politics, this was not spin, this was life - our life - all of us, here on this small blue spaceship. I believe that this will go down in history as a major turning point in the hopeful advance of civilization... If we can maintain our native integrity, keep our minds clear and learn to learn what we are being taught...


Monday, March 21, 2011


QUAKE UPDATES Day 10

 A photo at last! 


Finally we got together for a photo at one of those purikura (Print Club) photo booths in the game center at the super where we did some shopping. Clearly experienced at this are Kasumi on the right, Kaya in the middle, the twins at the bottom (Mitsuki on the right, Miasa on the left) and Echo on the left; then there's that puzzled and suspicious fellow at the top trying to find out where the hell it is I'm supposed to look within 0.3 seconds.


Sunday, March 20, 2011


QUAKE UPDATES Day 9

Found out this morning amidst the chaotic onflow that the Wednesday night before Kasumi and family were to head south, Tatsuya got word from his company to get back to work on Friday, at his office even nearer the nuclear epicenter - no doubt they sorely need his architectural skills - so on Thursday morning he took the family to Tokyo and said goodbye, went to work the next day, is still living in the apartment...! So there will be no family photo, I’m afraid... Will post what photos I can, update later on any details I learn...

Not a good move, in my opinion, but Japanese loyalty to their companies etc. has always been beyond me... must talk to K about all this, but she is still ill over there, we are picking up the trio only today... facts are shifting everywhere... let me check my passport again, be sure I’ve got the right name... and could you tell me what planet this is?

This morning I heard the story told by the grandfather in charge of his village’s tsunami sea gate who, when he received the earliest warning of the huge wave coming, was torn between running at once to his family and urging them to safety or doing his duty and rushing toward the sea to close the big gate, possibly losing his own life but at least saving many others-- he stood torn on that edge for an instant... then ran for the gate and got it closed in time, slowing the destruction for a few moments and so saving many who now had time to escape; he managed to survive somehow, and when he got back to his home, it was gone. They later found only the upper floor, torn loose and far away, with his wife, daughter and grandchildren inside, all drowned. In the midst of all the destruction he stood pointing to where he thought his house had stood, weeping in his official village uniform and helmet as he told the story, how he could have helped his family and did not...

The heartbreaks of this event will live on long beyond... how can they be eased?


Saturday, March 19, 2011


QUAKE UPDATES Day 8

What with the dirty plutonium slight-of-mind I found out about yesterday, K+T and the girls got out of there just in time. Talked to K earlier this morning for the first time since their return, she's still a bit under the weather, so today the girls’ other grandmother (who speaks excellent English, a rarity among Japanese grandmothers, and great for the English skills of the girls) is taking the trio to the Lake Biwa Museum, a great place for kids. Here’s to their new and increasingly healthy life, if the authorities wake up, stop power struggles, openly debate short cuts, eliminate pork dealing and cut bridges to nowhere (dream on! or wake up and take action). Tomorrow we’re going to drive over and bring them all back here for the day of some planning and option consideration, after we've had all the fun and catching up we can take. Next week we all go shopping and renting them a car. Can’t wait to see those smilies.

**

Interesting to watch the news networks slowly drift from the serious genuine struggle for words with which to worthily update the reality of totally unspun, even unspinnable, horrendous events, as they revert to chippy, chirpy, soundbitey, blowdried newsiness... Me too, actually in my way-- though unblowdried and not very chippy or chirpy, let alone soundbitey, I'm drifting fully back onto the mountain above the Lake, into the house and the garden... but rest assured I’m keeping a gimlet eye on the plutonium mongers and will not sit still or silent for their idiocy...

It’s always amazing, how tiring intense concern is, the more intense the more tiring... I have been focused to a pinpoint...

BUT THERE’S ALWAYS THE BARON 

Having gone out in the fresh heavy snow this morning to unflatten my lettuce, I noticed at the garden gate - which I REMEMBERED TO CLOSE the eve before yesterday -  the big hoofprints of the Baron, who apparently knows now where the gate is and stood there dancing in the snow wondering what in hell or whatever his idiom had happened to his new reality, there was consternation in those hoofy patterns, there definitely had been an opening right here, he was sure of it, that had led to succulent spinach, crunchy onions and other luxury delights unheard of in his otherwise minimalist diet, he was frustrated, didn’t care about no reactor, no uranium, plutonium, hooey... where was his version of comfort food? I enjoyed the moment.

PLUS I GOT A BUCKET

I found a bucket! At another store! A good, strong, big bucket, for holding water!And whatever! It can hold anything! It was the last one left, the laaaaast one, and I didn't have to wrestle anybody for it! There were no gasoline cans there, or flashlights either... chainsaws, two-cycle oil, duct tape, plastic sheeting-- all zeroized! But I got a bucket!

Ecstasy is surprisingly relative...

Friday, March 18, 2011


QUAKE UPDATES Day 7 +++


Another heavy snow here, another earthquake up there, where "suicide squads" are frantically trying to stop several meltdowns as quakes keep happening and it's extra cold for March, but at least Kasumi and family are out of their shaky waterless danger-zone apartment and safe down here, at least till the next step, whatever that may be... no telling when or if they might return up north...

I haven't seen them yet, they arrived in Kyoto late afternoon yesterday, exhausted (they took 5am bus from their town), hungry and with basically only the clothes on their backs and a few things - and from there went to Tatsuya's parents' big house across the lake, ate, bathed (the luxury!) and went to sleep. Miasa was sick but seems better, but now Kasumi is sick. I'll talk to them tonight, find out when they'll be fit to visit over here where the kids can pick some spinach, plant some radishes, stack some firewood, go wild...

I see that the US govt is urging Americans to leave Japan or not travel to Japan, has planes at the ready to assist where necessary; press is interviewing Americans here, most aren't leaving, it seems, though some may, I don't know anyone who is... I've long opposed nuclear power for many reasons, and if this involved plutonium, the use of which is insane, I'd be out of here last week, but as of now I have no plans to leave despite some uranium byproducts in the air. I'm assuming that they'll see the dumbth of their ways, clean it all up eventually under the gaze of a stern public eye and never do it again, but I'm not holding my breath, though I might wear a mask while I withhold judgment pro tem. It's just too beautiful here to let it be destroyed for any reason, let alone greed, and though long-term foreign residents can't vote in Shiga, we can oppose. This site has good insights and rich links on local nuclear activism.

Always amazing, how low ad hoc lowlifes can go; in this case, a potassium iodide ripoff! List price $5.99!...

+

"But what makes reactor 3 so special? In one acronymic word: MOX.

All of the fuel rods in all of the other reactors are made essentially of uranium with a zirconium cladding to seal in radioactive emissions. Reactor 4 uses something different. Its fuel rod are only 94% uranium, with 6% plutonium stirred in and then the same zirconium shell. This mixed oxide (hence the MOX moniker) formulation has one advantage [the public doesn't know what's actually in it]—and a number of disadvantages."

THOSE IDIOTS! 24,000 years!! Five times the length of our civilization!! Rethink.....

+
"Denis Flory, a top safety official at the agency, pointed out that all used nuclear fuel contains plutonium." [Oh, that's OK then...] It forms naturally within conventional uranium fuel as the uranium is bombarded by neutrons. ["Naturally..." that's a nice 'official' touch...]
And although plutonium is a long-lived emitter of radiation, it is also quite heavy, so it is not likely to move very far downwind from its source. [Comforting, to be sure. And just how far IS "not very far downwind," in officialese? Just keep running, folks, and don't breathe too much... only 23,999.999 years to go...]


Thursday, March 17, 2011


QUAKE UPDATES Day 6 ++
“The United States on Wednesday urged Americans who live within 50 miles of Japan’s earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to evacuate, and the top U.S. nuclear regulatory official indicated that Japan faces an increasingly dangerous situation at one of the plant’s reactors.

Got up at dawn this am, looked out the window at a foot of snow, high snow country cloud bank taking up 3/4 of the sky to the north, must be snowing heavily up there...

Message fm Kasumi that Tatsuya will come with them, at least for a while, they will keep trying to get out... if nothing soon I'm heading up there via the Japan Sea coast with a car full of gas and water... Tokyo is panicking to the north, I'm off into Osaka this am, on Tues there were 1/3 fewer commuter train passengers... seems folks are staying home and indoors... More from the big city when I get there...

+

Here's a picture of the girls in their kimonos in better times, a few years ago...

Kaya in the middle, Mitsuki on the left, Miasa on the right.

More asap...
The train is half full today... even emptier than two days ago... I've never seen this... I can't help but think it's because of the radiation threat, though it hasn't reached here yet, as far as I know... in any case, Japanese workers in the spirit of Bushido never take days off for earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards etc. if they can get to work at all, even when severely ill, as long as they can walk... but radiation may be different; I can't think of any other reason why they might be collectively staying home in such numbers...

+

Came out this morning into the dawn from tsunami dreams to clean the snow off the car for the trip down the mountain and saw that the mountains around were rumpled up like an old blanket with the snow thick in its folds... how clear it was from this broad snowscape that the earth, the mountains and the Lake itself, to say nothing of the sea, have always been shaken, pushed, tossed, buried, uplifted, flooded and stretched, forested and burned, molten and broken into cliffs, ground into ground, smoothed out by winds and rains, seas and ice and torn again with tremors, that we as part if it all live here now in sufferance of the same perils... that we should never be too complacent... that farming and the like labors - the waiting, snow-covered paddies informed me - honor this reality, are matters of hope and gratitude... it's hard for individuals alone to nurture hubris, it's only when they mass into government and big industry, big finance, that the restraints of common morality fall away... the earth, the sea and the seasons are simply being true to their natures-- as we should be true to ours, and to our place in the world...



******

Just got word from Echo that Kasumi has emailed: "we're leaving the house at 5am [not sure whether that's tomorrow or today] to catch the 7:30 bus to Tokyo, then shinkansen..." Hope everything goes smooth...

Turns out that's today, and by around noon they made it to the shinkansen, which is FULL of kids being sent south... they should be in Kyoto soon. Will post a picture of them all when possible...


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


QUAKE UPDATES Day 5  ++++

Yesterday I emailed Kasumi saying since Tatsuya isn't working and the kids aren't in school why not come here and wait it out, make further decisions together, we have food backup etc. I can meet you somewhere with gasoline...

Kasumi family has only a half tank of gas, roads broken and crowded, so as it is, if they could find a navigable way out they'd run out of fuel in the vehicular jam before they could get far, so I offered to drive toward them with cans of gas from here... shops even around here, far south of Tokyo, are running out of essentials as folks anticipate... this am we’re going to make a run for some essential backups, though we’ve been ahead of the game for years now, using kerosene lanterns, woodstove etc.

Six reactors now problematic, say the reassuring heads.... not to worry, just don't go outside or breathe too much... pay no attention to the frantic activities behind the radioactive curtain... we were on lunch break... the plug didn’t fit... the generators ran out of gas... the reactor coolers ran on electricity and the reactors...um... weren’t generating electricity, how could we have foreseen that in all our tons of plans on paper, so we got some more generators... we have a big plan... we’ve always had a big plan... astonishing, when all is revealed...

Once again Japan is the world’s canary in the coal mine...

Cryptic txt note from Kasumi last night: “WE FOUND A POSSIBLE ROUTE”, apparently by bus? or train? to Tokyo, then Shinkansen to Kyoto... no details... emailed back, waiting...

Thank you all again for your emotional support... will keep you posted asap...
Love to all...

+




"They are the faceless 50, the unnamed operators who stayed behind. They have volunteered, or been assigned, to pump seawater on dangerously exposed nuclear fuel, already thought to be partly melting and spewing radioactive material, to prevent full meltdowns that could throw thousands of tons of radioactive dust high into the air and imperil millions of their compatriots." 

 +

Strong winds last night from north, not good; today colder with snow, gentle wind from southwest, good.

Got in touch with Kasumi later this morning, she said they're thinking about delaying the departure because one of the girls has a fever; Tatsuya thinking of not coming south because he has to be ready to go to work when the company notifies him. He doesn't think it's going to be too serious but the girls should leave just in case; it's a bus-local train-another local train kind of route they figured out might work, I can't picture that, carrying so little with them, Kasumi doesn't want to take the van and run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, doesn't trust the roads or access to needfuls along the way anyway, and how would I find them, me without a cell phone...(!) Tatsuya will go with them via their route to Tokyo and then return to their apartment at least till further decision, when he solo could move quickly...  I told her to argue with him, so I suppose she is... he could get back there quickly enough from here... six reactors now problematic, it appears, fewer and fewer reactor buildings left standing, in charge of The Faceless 50... 

Another 6.0 quake up there around noon today... 
Snowing hard now; have to go out and buy supplies...  more later, w/time and energy... 

+

Got back from our foray to find a message from Kasumi, she’s been trying but can’t get a place on any buses heading out, likely all booked up for quite a while... no surprise there... I have the feeling we’ll eventually have to go get her and the girls somehow...

Shoulda said 'have to go out and try to buy supplies'... At the various country shops things are sold out completely like flashlights,batteries, buckets, water containers, masks, gas bombes, cooking stoves, tarps, certain tools, the list goes on, but don’t bother, there aren’t any. Oh. My mistake; there was one tiny flashlight left, for 50$. Asked if the big farm store will be getting some of all the other stuff soon: “No telling when; they’re all being shipped north.”

We did get some stuff though, in case the electricity goes, like a big steel pot to put atop the woodstove for hot water... harks me back to the days of living in rural Spain with no utilities (where Kasumi was born; that picture in the sidebar is us in Spain, her at the age of 3 days and I somewhat older). 


This will be just like old times... only hold the radiation, please...

Lotta snow tonight; hope those good folks up north have at least found warm places in the dark...



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

 
QUAKE UPDATES Day 4 ++

I have been asked a number of times where folks can donate to help alleviate and overcome this disaster. So much is needed, of so many things. This link is to the best list I've seen of reputable organizations through and to which one can donate.        (big thanks to Kimberlye...)
+

No endless "talents" on tv! No ads! No sports! It's real tv, telling real words, with real emotion, about real events! Folks in Tokyo stocking up on radiation masks and bottled water, real food! Gasoline!

A beautiful girl about 12 years old, camera-lit in the dark of the crowded gym, forlorn and tearless, says: "I have no family... I have no home... I have no food... now I know how really happy I used to be..."

Kasumi and family are hanging in there through the aftershocks in their chaotic apartment, thinking the future over... electricity on and off but no water yet, the girls are making the best of it, fortunately K and they went camping last summer for the first time so they knew together what to take fast when the time came in the dark of the shaking apartment: light, water, warm clothing, dense foods... and Kasumi learned from her parents (that's us) to have a good backstock of food in the house... the shops that still exist ration sales in the dark, and are all emptied fast... a friend from a nearby town called Kasumi, desperate for gasoline, asked if there were any open gas stations near her house, but he finally gave up... one station with a line for miles... the owner was tiredly pumping out by hand what gasoline was left... no deliveries coming anytime soon... Tatsuya and so many others called by their companies, told not to come to work until notified... Toyota, Sony, Honda, Nissan, Panasonic also closing down for who knows how long due to absence of infrastructure-- no utilities, ports, roads, rails.. injured/missing/homeless employees... and who will rebuild there? A third reactor has exploded, rolling blackouts everywhere in the north, including Tokyo...

Some foreign journos are puzzled over the protracted absence of looting in Japan following the long quake, like they see everywhere else in the world in the wake of natural devastation-- Chile Haiti etc.... Where are all the looters in Japan they wonder, it’s been three days, where are they... fact is, those poor folks have never lived anywhere as deeply civilized as this country... yes, this level of civility can be achieved, but it may take a few millennia...

They just can't figure it out, though; there must be some reason-- they must want to loot, they must be like us, they'd loot if they could... No, it's because they have respect for one another right from the start, earthquake or no. And as to gangs? One of the most helpful groups at the local level in the ‘95 Kobe quake was the yakuza.

This morning on the way to work I passed several groups of young folks out on the streets with boxes for donations to help the earthquake needy... they were shouting "help the victims" and so forth, the open-topped boxed in their hands were filled to overflowing with bills and coins, and I am certain that not one yen of all that money will be filched, misdirected, or snatched by sly passersby-- it will all go where it is intended to go. That’s why there was so much in those boxes, why folks were so willing to give on the street to strangers: because they trust one another. Anything else would be unthinkable. That characteristic of the Japanese is their biggest asset in overcoming any difficulty, even devastation like this, the images of which at times remind me of the aftermath of Hiroshima. Look what these folks accomplished after that.

Millions homeless, cold night, snow falling up north...

+

“Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight. Don't turn on ventilators. Please hang your laundry indoors,"

Better go cover my lettuce...




Monday, March 14, 2011


QUAKE UPDATES Day 3  ++

Tough day yesterday...

Called Kasumi’s cell phone many times but battery likely out as seems to be a common problem with cell phones inundated with well-wishing inquiries that use up battery life... so on an off chance E called their apartment phone and there they were!

K and T had just arrived back home to look things over; the building was damaged externally but structurally ok as of the moment (T is an architect, so I trust his judgement), so they went in and began trying to clean up while the girls stayed back at the gym and played with friends... When the big loooooooong quake (first tremor 20 times longer than the Kobe quake of '95) hit on Fri afternoon K was home alone working on her jewelry when suddenly the building began rocking violently she stood in the room doorway for a bit but the shaking was getting worse, she figured she’d better get out, got the front door open went out as the shaking got worse, figured she shd head for school and the girls, but by then she couldn’t walk, the building was tossing her around, so she just stood there holding on to the railing... oddly, there was no one else in sight! In quake intervals she finally got down to the ground, took her bike to the school over the broken road, found kids milling around outside and inside, the teachers looking everywhere for the Earthquake Emergency Guide, she took the girls home, Miasa barefoot, lost her shoes in the gym, had to run back and find them amidst the tremors and screaming children everywhere, they finally got to their still shaking home, grabbed some blankets and pillows and slept in the car. Well, the girls slept. K said she couldn't sleep at all in the car... too worrying, too cold and earthquakes every 15 minutes,though it's a lot better now, only an earthquake an hour...

More soon...

Love to all for your kind messages and thoughts...

+

After all I’ve seen, wherever I go around here, my eyes expect disaster... Words fail, the things we’re seeing and hearing 24/7... over 10,000 lost, injured and missing thus far, homes lost, whole villages, cities lost... only by chance and good fortune were Kasumi and family spared... the sorrow everywhere, people finding each other, losing each other, tales of helplessness at watching family members washed away perhaps never to be found... who can sleep? I want to go there with water and food and help... so many tales of courage... husband, wife and daughter washed away holding hands, swirled far away until, passing a stationary fragment of another house managed to clamber onto the roof of the car in the remains of the garage, stood there all night as the water roiled at their feet; father tiring, daughter took off her belt and looped it over an wooden beam of the garage so her parents could hook their arms through and hold on... an elderly man in the flooded house, hearing their panic in the darkness, kept yelling out all night “Ganbatte! Ganbatte! Ganbatte! Hang on! Hang in there! Don’t give up!” His cries weakening through the night... when in the morning they were saved by rescuers, the man in the house was found to have died.  

Other glimpses:
...he can’t even find the street where their house used to be... roofs full of people, rivers filled with houses, even the water is on fire... cars speed down narrow streets, the drivers fleeing fishing boats... village floats past its residents, watching from the hillside... all the paddies now sea marshes... everywhere smells of gasoline... boats on expressways, cars clustered like bacteria, no exit from the flooding bridge... waves full of roofs... was that a person? the center does not hold... only the sea is true... the sound of trucks, roofs, earth, walls, cars grinding together... it all... slows... to silence... then reverses faster, faster out to sea... Amid the aftershocks, elderly woman points to building in her garden, asks What is this? How did this get here? So many tales of strength... Tatsuya starting out from his workplace right after the first quake and walking the debris-washed beach road of the lightless night through the aftershocks, tsunami threats, mud and wreckage to get to his family 7 hours away... Husband and wife in their late 80s rescued from the wreckage of an old inn, he and she smiling, saying Let’s push on, let’s rebuild! They remembered the last tsunami and how they did so then... There’s the heart to it all...

And in the young couple holding hands in the distance, walking the lost road out of the remains, their lives in their backpacks...

More, soon as I can...

+

Only once in 1000 years - quake magnitude 9.0

*

Astonishing before-and-after photos of tsunami areas - slide black bar across photos...                    via Mary Contrary

 *
Can’t even send Kasumi packages by private delivery services...

*

--"Partial Nuclear Meltdown 'No Disaster'" says the talking head... The awkwords of authorities trying to calm us down...

*
 Rolling power outages start today in Kanto...



Sunday, March 13, 2011


EARTHQUAKE UPDATES Day 2

8:06am - Thanks and hugs to all who sent messages in all those ways... No more word from Kasumi and family yet, likely no electricity up there in Ibaraki for quite a while, no charging phones, no anything we're all used to... I trust they're well for now in the school gym-- safe, fed, warm and relatively rested... but  the news about those reactors is not good, in fact is getting worse... wonder if those experts have a really safe backup for their formerly safe backup (170,000 to be evacuated from the vicinity so far)...  no point in trying to drive up there, wouldn't even get close and would likely get in the way even if there were roads that went there... the silence is not welcome, though... will post here anything I hear... All night I kept thinking of them, snuggled together in the dark gym, and of Tatsuya leaving his office (right on the ocean in the tsunami area!) immediately after the quake and walking for 7 hours to get home to his family, walking all the way south along the coast during the tsunami, half of the walk in the electricless dark, through the same landscape the whole world has been seeing on the news, arriving 10:30 at night... I didn't sleep much,being more there than here... our hearts to you all, for your love and prayers...


Saturday, March 12, 2011


EARTHQUAKE UPDATES   ++++

Thanks and embraces for all your kind messages-- We are all fine, no evidence of quake up here on the mountain, but Kasumi, who lives near the shore up north in Ibaraki, texted that she'd been at home while the girls were at school when everything in the apartment crashed to the floor-- no electricity, no water, she rode her bicycle to pick up the girls at school, all the kids there were milling around not knowing what to do, Tatsuya, K's husband, had to walk about 6 hours to get home, they had to sleep in their van, no water, no food, can't easily go back into apartment cell phone battery prob fading as they run out of gas, just texted her this am to find out whats up, awaiting reply while watching images on tv of tsunami and after effects-- chilling; now a possible reactor meltdown about 30 km from there; will update with details as they arrive... Hugs to you all...
+

No word back from Kasumi yet... the com networks must be far overloaded... I felt the quake at the office in Osaka, far south of the epicenter in Sendai, the building swayed for a long time, not the usual few seconds... then again ... and again... Been here 40 years, never felt that type of quake before... ominous... more later

+

8:50 am - Still awaiting word from Kasumi... seeing those videos of the tsunami right near where they live, 10 minutes from the ocean and sleeping in their car, hope they were able to drive away somewhat but roads jammed from what I understand... don't want to picture it...  Quake was magnitude 8.9; most powerful in Japan's history

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10:08am - Text fm Kasumi that they didn't sleep all night, too cold... and too dark to go back into apartment, got a bottle of water from roving assistance people, so she and the girls huddled in the van... Tatsuya arrived home at 10:30 after walking from work 7 hrs away, morning came they went into apt and got some blankets etc. chaos in there, possibly structurally unstable in re continuous strong aftershocks... at dawn they were all evacuated, drove to high school gym, roads heavily damaged... still no utilities, no food so far... nearby reactor still uncertain - Headline says Japan may have hours to prevent nuclear meltdown, unthinkable - that be a whole new half-life ballgame for this nation -

+

12:40pm - No further word from Kasumi-- hope they can drive out of there soon--  At the compromised nuke plants a few kms away, because its now too dangerous  to do close-up meltdown-preventive work, the fixers are sitting around at the perimeter trying to figure out what uncertain step to take next, before there's nothing anyone can do (last emergency steam release from a reactor was at Three-Mile Island, btw)... 4000 people evacuated from that neighborhood so far, as the circle widens... 3km...10km... ???km... people seem to be returning to their mountain houses up here... we wait for news fm Kasumi family... wish I could drive there with water, food and wet masks... remaining roads jammed... we gotta try something... going out now, be back...





Thursday, March 10, 2011


BEING SEEDS


Last night after a cold but sunny day of casual work in the garden and firewood (chainsawed a big stash of cherry from the landscaper below) I was beginning to think we’d had our last frost and Spring is here, when I looked out the big front window before heading to bed last night and there was already a big white BAM! on the deck, and snow was falling heavily in fat flakes.

So Spring is NOT here yet, nyah, nyah, said each flake, my potseeded lettuces getting more anxious by the day, like the beginning bergamot, dill, thyme and Italian parsley, all bent in green eagerness from their little pots toward the window each morning to sense what they can about the weather and the temperature out there, is it time yet, is it time? Are we there yet? sussing out the day length and all that other stuff plants know so much about, wind strength, moon phase too probably, angle of sun etc., all that natural computing going on in their stolid green beings. And we think we have the brains.

So this morning down at the ice-covered train station, my thoughts wisping Springy things around in the background there, I gazed at the beauty of the sugarcake mountains powdered with white against the big blue morning sky, when up at the edge of my uplooking eye I saw something moving and looked further upward -- there, coursing along in the high blue were two broad wedges of geese heading north-- in silence, from down where I was, though way up there the air was likely filled with excited chatter at the big goings on.

I stood and watched them go for as long as I could see them, each wedge being 70-100 geese; the sight filled me with the feeling I've been waiting for, the rush I get each year when the unspoken promise is kept once more as nature declares the arrival of Spring, and it came to me what seeds we humans are.



Wednesday, March 09, 2011




Spring wind

wants every thing

where it's supposed to be



Saturday, March 05, 2011


FLAME RECIPE

In late autumn and through the winter I maintain a big stack of firewood (about half a cord) out on the deck by the door nearest the woodstove. Fire demand from mid-December to mid-February is pretty much full flame ahead.

As winter fades, though, the maintained pile dwindles, and by this time of year there are days when we need no fire at all, the sun does a fine job, especially with no leaves on the trees, so there's little woodstack replenishment going on (there are lots of other things to do like soil prep! pruning! raingutters! lettuce! potatoes!), with just enough wood at stoveside for maybe an evening.

But the other morning before dawn, after a few warm days I found myself plunging out into a sudden blizzard to get some firewood for the day; I'd be in the office, but Echo would be teaching yoga so there had to be a fast but long-burning fire that would quickly get hot and then stay hot. For kindling we have a big tin-lined hibachi box next to the stove that we stock with pine cones, autumnal cedar branch windfall and chopped up woodscrap, so starting was no problem, but for a fast first burn I'd need a mix of various woods and sizes, some small split cherry would do, plus a bit of narrow locust and cluster of beech limbs, this thin bit of oak would give it some heart, plus a good piece of camphor to put atop the stove, nice yoga spice...

Out there in the snowy silence I found myself doing the same sort of thing I do when planning to cook: I was gathering a bit of this and that of flame and heat, of this duration and that intensity, to fit the duration/heat/frequency needs of morning, afternoon and evening, and was doing it without thinking about it, it was perfectly natural to be out there among all those kinds of wood, selecting for certain qualities-- nice ring they give off in the snowsilence too, as you stack them on your arm...

So I wandered around the various firewood stacks for a few minutes gathering the right mix for a fast-hot, room-warming morning fire that with a nice piece of ironwood as the long-lasting firecore would segue smoothly into a deep, warm and steady yoga fire that needed no stoking, then some cherry logs to add for the afternoon fire, plus some large chunks of gold-- i.e., hard dry oak, to carry the fire into dinner and on through the night. Took about 15 minutes to carefully select those armfuls of only the finest ingredients to meet the precise requirements of my Endless Flame Recipe for a certain day in March.

Guide Michelin, eat your heart out.


Wednesday, March 02, 2011


AN EVENING’S TASK


From out of a sunny day it started snowing late this afternoon, and up here when it snows like this you anyway want to go walking where you can feel the deeps of calm at the heart of the snowy forest, the calm we are born from, that you hold in your open hands.

The snow whispers itself to itself upon the ground, upon the trees; the way is now untraveled, the snow unstepped as I walk up through the white that is featherfalling everywhere; along the narrow road through the snow-covered oaks, the smaller trees lean over the road in a tunnel to whiteness; here and there along the way the roadside cedars block the fall with their own tall feathers, leaving patches of dark road as though the way beneath the snow were a river of black ice leading into white forest --

Along the higher and narrower path, whole groves of tall, thin bamboo arch over beneath the curving weight of snow, whole groves of pale eyebrows where once stood dense stands of green flags in the wind-- above them now rise empty trees frosted with snow, reaching like their own ghosts into a sunless sky the silver color of themselves and the silence...

I leave the narrowing road and turn upon the rough path upward along the noisy snow-fed stream galloping down through the trees and at the source of our water I step into the pushing cascade in my high boots, begin to clean away the debris of a week from the mountain above and the water rises in our channel-- where there are folks, there are rules, and after a few moments in that wild splash through the heart of the silence my turn at the task is finished.

I emerge from the path onto the road with only my coming footsteps in the snow and stand there looking around me, listening, letting it all soak in: the sky, the trees, the stream, the snow, the road, the breath, the passing of time, the stillness, like water being, like forest seeing, trees reaching, all yet to come alive from the silence when spring brings back all the voices...