We selected some healthy looking, good-sized vines about a half-inch thick at the base where they rose from among the thick mountain bamboo to latch onto the trunks and lower branches of cedars and oaks, then lace their way into the upper reaches. I clipped the chosen vines near the ground (3 vines and a backup).
Then we put on our strong gloves, grabbed hold of the end of each vine and pulled hard - 4, 6, even all 8 hands at a time - then pulled again, then again with a "Heave-ho," and again, leaning backward in the middle of the road, pulling hard, bending the low branches! Shaking the whole tree! Then bending high branches! Then pulling more slowly as the high vine began to come away, even bending the whole tree sometimes!
Working together, pulling another long vine down out of a big cedar or oak tree -- pulling harder and harder as slowly the whole vine surrendered, at last coming away until it was laying in the road and Trio had done that great thing, with the high tree, all the way up the tree and now they had to handle that 15-meter vine from high in those branches-- Kids LOVE to do really BIG things!
Kaya, Mitsuki and Miasa were going to make Christmas wreaths.
A couple of weeks before, while we were doing some winter prep work out in the garden and surrounds, Mitsuki had said, mid-task, out of the blue - as the Trio seems to do these days - that she wanted to make a wreath. I asked her where that idea had come from. She answered "Christmas!" which answered my question well enough; one can't really expect grown-up-minded explanations from little girls, who live so much in their hearts.
Since the Trio and I were finished enough with our prep labors I went and got the clippers, a saw, a big basket and 8 strong gloves, then we went down the inner road, where I know there are a lot of longstanding, well-developed vines of fujii (wild wisteria) and akebi (akebia trifoliata) among the trees and bamboo.
Once the vines were down, the Trio trimmed them, coiled them, tied them with the tendrils and put them in the basket, along with shiny clusters of holly leaves that also grow by the road. They got some good evergreen branches too, plus some perfect pine cones from my pine cone stash in the shed.
Back home, they got the tree ornaments and some ribbon from the closets, then sat out on the deck with the scissors and all those bright things scattered around them.
I showed them how to choose a length for the wreath size they wanted, how to coil the strong vine into a wreath size, how to fix it here and there along its length using the thinner tendrils, and that this was the way you could make baskets too - fujii vine is great for baskets - then I went upstairs for a while to do some editing and forgot about the time--
When it was growing dark I came downstairs into a silent house, saw the Trio still outside working even in the the darkling cold, engrossed in the task of crafting their very first wreaths, absorbed in the art of it. I just stood there watching the design ideas flow, turned on the lights when it began to get too dark. The Trio went on working until they were content with their basic wreaths and went inside to fine-tune the decorations.
Natural ways, natural tasks involving natural interests like the endlessness of seeds, branches and flowers, insects and animals - instead of only brief gadgetry - simply confirm that there is no substitute for the natural reaches of life, the wellspring of thoughts and imaginings that lead always onward, with no end but the heart’s horizons.
Science has informed us officially, just in time for Christmas, that sometime in the next few hours or later the universe will collapse and everyone will die. That's the tabloid version. In hypothetical reality, everything in the universe will become heavier than it is now, as already evidenced in the tons of fad diets that are as everywhere as articles on cellulite, to say nothing of what we personally are actually seeing even now at our very waistlines.
To be more hypothetically specific, and to give you all a heads-up on this, everything in the universe will become billions and billions of times heavier than it is now (so there's really no point in letting out those pants) and everything will be compressed into superheavy and superhot balls (as presciently sung of by Jerry Lee Lewis, back in the fifties) that roll around heaven all day, and the universe will cease to exist-- at least in the form familiar to our world. Which, if you look at what we're doing to the place, may not turn out to be all that much of a change.
Those scientists' humongous guesses may be just as right as the next guy's, but the labcoat denizens seem to have no sense of propriety as to this actual moment in the time and space continuum.
Out this afternoon in the clear cold mountain air, after a morning of uncertain rain that happy-ended with another of those perfect mountain-to-lake rainbows in full dayglow color that spoil us rotten out here-- another typical day in the mountains.
I was out in such a day with the big bamboo rake, intending to pull the tattered fragments of temporary firewood-cover plastic sheeting that had been blown off, stomped on, torn to tatters and tossed up into the plum tree by one of those the histrionic winds we get up here, that stormed through around dusk yesterday while I was in a big city office with no rainbow.
As soon as I opened the door to the deck I sensed that Crow had been waiting for me on his perch in the top of the big cedar out front, where he hangs out when he's got issues. Which is always. Sure enough, he was mumbling up there already, starting off on a grumbly string of tirades as soon as I came out and grabbed the big rake from where it was leaning against the deck rail, a procedure that clearly meant action on my part.
Crow hates action on my part. He's on my case whenever I start doing something outside, where he always lives and thinks he owns. When I began to walk down the steps from the deck, clearly with some intent or other - doesn't matter what - he started in, loud enough to make me think of earplugs, saying things like: "What the hell ya doin now, walker?" "Where ya goin down there?" "And what's with that rake, you gonna fix somethin?" "You think you own this place?" (jumping up and down on his branch) "You got no rights here, pal, I own all this!!" (I'm paraphrasing and editing here, for brevity and cultural clarity.)
The irony of Crow talking about rights was not lost on me. As I walked over onto the adjoining property (that really gets his darkness going), over which extended the plum tree branches that had caught most of the wind's plastic vandalism, Crow flapped all huffy over to the top of the utility pole right on the roadside there so he could be closer to whatever I was doing to his stuff, get a better look from an open platform, big beak yakkin the while. "Hey what are you doin over here, this ain't yer property either, it's mine! What the hell you up to now? You can't fool me, walker! I got my eye on you!" (Still paraphrasing; not that much nuance in Caw.)
As I reached up with the rake and began to pull down the nastily entangled ugly plastic fragments from the branches, i.e., actually doing something to achieve an objective, Crow hit the ceiling, so to speak. In an attempt to drown him out even just a bit, I started talking back (I often look like I'm talking to myself, but sometimes I'm not): "I only used this sheeting in a pinch, to cover the firewood; originally, I got it to make garden tunnels for early planting, but the monkeys made a mess of it (no real need to paraphrase here, this is pretty much word-for-word), so it's been sitting unused in the shed, and I--" "Hey, why am I explaining to you, Crow? You don't give a damn about plastic or monkeys!" "You don't own this property anyway! I own that property there, and I own this plum tree too; you don't, you're just full of caws!"
As I went on talking loudly, wrestling down the plastic and getting all the fragments into a bundle, something I said must've hit a nerve 'cause Crow took off in a big dark huff and flapped on down toward the Lake, I could hear him yelling for a long way; folks in the village were gonna get an earful.
It's a lot quieter up here now without a crow, and the plum tree looks a lot better without that plastic sheeting all up in it.
Folks around here kept mentioning the overabundance of kamemushi this autumn - though in my opinion more than one kamemushi is overabundance - and it recalls to me what one of the wives of the fields across the road said to us the summer we first moved into our new house here, how there were a lot of kamemushi this year - there'd been practically none of those bugs in Kyoto - so there would be heavy snows that winter, and so it proved, big time. The snow out here had been impressive the previous winter, but it was so heavy our first winter in the new house that only a tracked vehicle could have made it all the way up. The first early snowfall was over a meter, and the snowtop stayed up to my waist all winter. There was only a walking path up the mountain road, up and down which the mailman walked each day, the folks up here using sleds to pull their provisions (food, kerosene) up to their houses. We newbie city slickers had a 2-wheel drive vehicle (for the last time), so we definitely had to park down below the school and walk up too, but we loved it all: the snow, the solitude, the silence, the vistas... All that snow on the ground throughout the winter was a welcome challenge, and nothing better for a woodstove fire, warming us at the heart of white... Since then (almost 20 years now) we haven't had anything like that snow, or anything like those swarms of kamemushi (in the laundry, in your safety glasses, inside your just-laundered sweatshirt, in your salad, in your coffee. Until this year. At the first unfold last week of a firewood tarp that had been in the tool shed I counted 50 kamemushi, in the second unfold, I lost count, third unfold why bother countin, fourth looks like big snow comin. Now I get to see if kamemushi walk the walk.
Born and raised in upstate New York, traveled for a decade after college, lived in various places around the world, keeping a journal. Settled in Kyoto in 1980, moved to this mountainside above Lake Biwa in 1995. Started Pure Land Mountain in April 2002.
Written and sidebar contents 2002~2015 copyright Robert Brady