Saturday, May 31, 2014


I grew up with books themselves, which impart a physical aspect of knowledge that never leaves you, of choosing, holding and using books, a mind fed by books with the heft of pages turned by hand and dog-eared with book-learning, if you can get that anymore, which seems to be less and less likely the longer I live; you can see it in the oncoming verbiage, so much of which is undergrowth...

That's how it felt when the other day I was wording on the computer, where I now mostly always handle words - workwise, not creativitywise - only now and then eccentrically making notes out in the infrastructural wilds, scribing cursive with pen and ink on paper, like a caveman sparking fire with stones in a cave in winter.

Anyway, I was working via ratatatty keyboard from words written in penbase, when I had to use an online e-thesaurus that had been developed to serve the TLDR mentality that is sponging through young minds of today, so the word that I knew from pen- and-book-based experience, but could not call immediately to mind - a problem Roget also had - was not in the e-thesaurus, even though I scrolled all the way to the bottom of the web page and then left-clicked through all the Nexts. 

So at a virtual impasse, leaning backward in real time I reached over the keyboard and my actual desktop to my actual bookshelf, and grabbed my trusty old Roget's. It was heavy with reality, tatty from so many wrestles with meaning over the years , but it was a way of life that my hands knew well: they were old friends, those pages and my fingers, met again and delighting in the encounter, romping together through those magic fields of hard-copy intelligence.

My fingers knew it to the roots, how to leaf at the back, to get to... right... about... there: the Rs, without even looking, the soft, well-used, hand-familiar pages feathering open in that always pleasant way, somewhere near or even at my objective, and I found my word, for it had been a common word, not too long ago, my finger expertly scanning down the long list of nuance to the desired meaning...  

They really knew and used words when they made this book, and they knew who they were serving; this was before words were handled like allegedly southern-fried alleged chicken allegedly from Kentucky... This was like walking through a meadow of meaning spun from all the mind by the sun of creativity, alive in all ways and as rich with ancient understanding as a wild strawberry...

Then back to the pixel plasma, even more aware of what is waning as we change focus, turn our eyes away... 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Despite what whoever else thinks about spinach may think, spinach has its own life purpose, if only an evolutionary one, and it deserves to fulfill that purpose whenever possible, is my humble opinion, especially since I planted so much of the stuff and nobody here is eating much spinach this year, other than me doing my best, which explains this greenish tint. 

Our weird Spring weather is too chilly for daily family salads and anyway there's only two of us living here now, so it must've been in a spell of zombie gardening that I planted a lot of greens, out of habit acquired from years of more mouths to feed, as I'm sure happens to empty-nester gardeners all over the world, we are united  in this are we not, though no one at the forums ever talks about this type of overabundance; there should be an international distribution system for surplus vegetables. 

In any case it's not easy to rationalize all that succulent, flavorful and nourishing vegetation growing so high and leafing out with abandon, gaining fiber in the natural process of going to seed (a noble idiom, wasted on humans), which is what spinach originally evolved to do and has never forgotten how to do; and now, for the first time in who knows how long - no one I know keeps track of these things - some righteous spinach is getting a chance to go all the way, so who am I to put my foot down? 

Yes, who am I to tell a nourishing vegetable friend what to do-- or even more hubristically, cut a beautiful and licentious plant into compost simply because it's useless to me and is interfering with the artificial comfort parameters of my life, such as what will my gardening neighbors think of me for letting this happen (an interesting variation on Veblen's concept of conspicuous non-consumption, btw), for letting spinach walk all over me as it were, and for not tastefully maintaining my spinach bed. There seems to be a moral aspect trying to assert itself in here somewhere...

Speaking frankly, though, I have never seen spinach have so much fun, or look so wanton and passionate with life, so-- fulfilled in its true mission, spelling itself out in max green leaves on rising ruby stems and the beginnings of seeds; it's almost erotic, except it's a plant, so nothing goes on actionwise other than slow intense growth and general vegetative lasciviousness, which I suppose could be arousing to a more passionate gardener. Nothing salacious, though; it's not like Caligula or anything. Still, what are the neighbors thinking of all this verdant intimacy? No one has said a thing yet... 

Not to be all that be humble, but I here and now assert my wish to not have, an eon or more hence, a plaque of thanks in the Leafy Hall of Fame, when Spinach descendants gratefully and capably rule the world... 

It was nothing, really.

Monday, May 26, 2014


I was in LA for an hour or so this morning; glad to be back on a mountainside in rural Japan, I realized, as I stepped out onto the deck into cool air and birdsong, summer green on every side except for the ice blue of the Lake down there, dotted with green islands beneath tomorrow’s LA sky. A little bit of the traveler’s singular homesickness left me. 

I’d spent that earlier time googlemapping my way around several nice areas in LA, looking for places where I'd spent some time in my travels, but those old places were gone; they’re all new places now. I also wandered among areas where Kasumi and Krew are soon going to be living and moving around in for varying lengths of time, starting this summer and beyond, depending on the ultimate selection of scenarios...

Those sunbaked neighborhoods were generally pleasant, tranquil below their palm trees as I moved like a ghost along their streets and walkways, but to the me of now they were no longer places where I would reside... no people on the streets, just cars (Nobody Walks in LA, as the Missing Persons still sing so well), it all had that daytime noir feeling Chandler captured to classic effect in his scenes-- wonderful to remember, electric history, great to visit but not my place to live anymore...

My head was still in those places when I stepped out through the kitchen doorway onto the deck and found myself returned to this forested mountain with cool air and birdsong, summer green on every side except where the Big Lake is ice blue. Glad to be back.

Thanks for that, LA. You’re a fine, fine lady at night, though.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


The rice is all planted, the grandmas are out in the paddies, planting the green shoots by hand in places the machines missed, and likely recalling the unbelievable ago, when entire mountainsides were planted by hand.

Out in the same morning, watering some seedling flats, I am inspired with the fragrance of the blooming lilac and swirled into my own past, just standing there; it makes a tree of me.

There is love in the scent of lilacs; a sweet perfume that knew me kindly, long before I came to be. I get to enjoy Springly nuances from other vegetation as well, the way life moves with chlorophyll. They speak in their own quiet languages, but we communicate; we definitely communicate.

I have learned how important water is to ginger; turnips also request water at certain times, kohlrabi is fussy about the tenderness of the soil, broccoli and pepper have opinions about temperature, and so on. In their gentle way, they help diminish the number of things I'm not sure of.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It's the work of a lifetime 
to find the treasures 
we were born with 

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Here at the end of an overcast day of digging, raking, garden-readying, cleaning after the wind stampede, gathering windfall branches for this Winter's years kindling, amplifying the grunge by handweeding, gathering spinach for dinner, restacking a big pile of wind-and-monkey-toppled shiitake and hiratake logs (a few biggening mushrooms as reward, to go with the spinach), at last comes the rain that has pent up there in the gray all day-- the first real Spring rain of the year, a gentle falling in drops you can barely hear (the bamboos beneath stand quiet as the dusk), all bringing to the Big Soul the same mood that calls blossoms up from the ground, makes already daffodils bounce with brightness in their green corner, sets the plum and cherry branches with tiny opals and rubies, soon to open in glories beyond price, making even spring-busy humans pause in their motions and gaze into the quiet distance in search of what must be there, now and then taking a deep breath of it all, with a look in the eyes that rises from ancient human-Spring relations, an inborn love of calm. Ah, the ancient privilege it is, to savor these moments and the food they are, to the Winter-hungered heart...

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Nothing like the stillness of a mountain rice paddy on a calm early May dawn, like this one. The paddies up here have by now been flooded, harrowed to readiness and let to wait with the infinite patience of water.

So it is that these fine days the mirroring mountainside is full of blue sky, passing clouds, now-and-then rainrings and rainbows, the mountains themselves, airy grace of hawks, curlicues of swallows and after sunset our entire universe, gliding over at a night's pace. But for now in this emerging morning it is a rare, pure stillness. You can stand here long and gaze at the sight, let it fill you with your own stillness, that brings to the front of mind a number of things that for some reason were stored way at the back...

Now and then, as so often with actual still life, along comes a slight breeze that shivers the water, scrambling the view till a new calm comes. In other nows and thens comes a crow or a hawk to walk the water, sending out perturbations with each hungry step, or up pokes a frog for a breath and a look around at the newday world, after a night of full-hearted amphibian carousing that I caught part of when I came home from the city last night, fell asleep to, woke up in mid-night to, then went back to sleep to. Like the sight of the widening rings and the feel of the reach of stillness, the sound is kin to the natural mind.

It is a good thing to have such a gift at my door for a few days every Spring at about this time, to re-mind me with the bounty that stillness is, nourishing to all around it, a truth that water knows as fully as anything can be known. Folks who have no time for such vastness might as well just stare at some kind of small screen.

Stillness begets all true nourishment, including rice.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


The Trio of Brio came over for  brief visit the other day...

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


Out there in the noon-plus sunshine just now getting in some of the dried laundry, one arm filling with sox and underwear, I heard the manic warbler up in one of the cedars fiddling with his old standard (he's so used to it year-to-year he just trills da-DA-da, da-DA-da until he runs out of breath) and when he got into a riffy groove he thought was good, he took off on the da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da extended riff that Beethoven sampled in Pastorale

The composer, however, went on to do a few other things with the riff in the human fashion, trilling it this way and that, filigreeing here and there to create a composition worthy of the symphonic pantheon, but in the present case the warbler just went on and on da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da-ing until he was breathless, which is anticlimactic even for a Beethoven fan gathering laundry.
So when the warbler started up again, I unconsciously joined in whistling, and at the right place couldn't help but segue into Ludwig’s delightful version, which I won't romanize here - we all know it - but I tell you, the warbler suddenly stopped short, as if listening to this new and startling version of his anciently popular and splendid melody. 

When I stopped whistling, having gathered all the laundry (the mundane plays a key part in artistic creation; just ask Ludwig’s housekeeper), warbler did a chirpy thing that I can't replicate in mere alphabetics, but to my ear was the avian equivalent of “Wow! That was really something!” It led me to think that he might even be about to alter his repertoire to include a few Pow! additions by Ludwig, which would really be something!

I listened carefully as I sorted the laundry indoors. The silence was pregnant. The feathered master began... sounded great... when he hit the part where Beethoven lifts off into creation, the bird went on exactly as before, right to the end of breath. It was a bit of a letdown, but I wasn't really expecting any more than last time, when I tried to get him to cover just a couple bars of John Lee Hooker.

Like Beethoven, John Lee or any other world-class artist, vonWarbler has his own priorities.       

Sunday, May 04, 2014


Fell asleep last night wearing that pleasant smile I get when I drift into dreams in full expectation of waking to the wonderful sound of spring rain upon the rising green of the waking land, only to learn once more that I am too free with my faith in weather forecasts.

When I awoke, the whole thing, i.e., the entire environment, was just pendant out there in some kind of pressured metabalance: clouds, trees, earth, the whole shebang, combined in that deep stasis you get at certain moments of the year, that heavy silence of imminence where everything there is just feels like hangin for a while, feels good to stretch-- ahh, this is great, it all seems to say in its intricate wordlessness. 

So as the atmosphere was having some laid-back good time I did the same on my own bed, then - lacking the patience of weather - got up and had my breakfast, only a while later noticing that it must have been raining for some time! The weather had pulled another one: the deck was wet, the rain more like a whisper than the lyrical cascades implied by the weather forecast only yesterday.

One way or another, the difference between yesterday and today is always phenomenal.