Sunday, August 23, 2015

                                                                         (From journal archives, 1996)

At this stage in my life I'm having a lot more conversations with vegetables, particularly eggplant and cabbage. The lack of in-depth, one-on-one vegetable conversations in my earlier years reached its low point when I moved into the city with its hypovegetable ambience of concrete, asphalt, sirens, car horns, subterranean rumblings, auto exhaust, broken sunlight, demented wind, artificial weather and whatnot, unlike the countryside with its genuine climate-filled original silence, rich with the whispers of history and teeming with animal and vegetable conversations, including those of weeds and other less raucous foliage, all with a core of tranquility.

Though I realize now that vegetables have always sought my attention in one way or another, whether through their varied crispness, showy leafery, supermarket vegetable signs or by just pushing up out of the ground right at my feet. The turnips, kohlrabis, eggplants and broccolis of my younger days didn't get through sometimes, and when they did I often wasn't listening (youth feels little kinship with the vegetative, except during college) so I didn't get to hear their half of it, though I've always appreciated the fiber content.

When after marketing my older adult life for a sufficient number of decades I was at last able to move back into the country and resume the vegetable dialog pretty much where we'd left off, I began to realize how much vegetables had done for me, how big a role they'd played in my life despite my early disdain for their contribution (vegetables are a lesson to us all) and I could understand more clearly than ever how they had called me back home in their various accents, from the crinkly flutterings of lettuces and the dry, aristocratic tone of eggplants to the sensual implications of tomatoes. The firm gesticulations of cabbage and the tacit attitude of carrots have also become more endearing over time, as have the glottals of okra and the orotundities of pumpkins, just to mention some conversational rows in my garden.

There was nothing in the big city like my old and true friends, who always say precisely what they mean and then live up to every word.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Today I at last received a proof copy of my new book, The Big Elsewhere, which has been a couple of years in the writing and compiling, with sumie illustrations by Komori Fumio.

In the book I have distilled our 20 years of life here on this rural mountainside into an organic arrangement of "Views from a mountainside," slightly over 300 pages, from my journal writings, publications, public readings and selected, edited Pure Land Mountain entries arranged ("choreographed," as I like to think of it) by master arranger Ken Rodgers, with such chapter headings as: Living High, Deep Weather, Talk on the Wild Side, Monkeys and Onions, Walking with a Child, True Destinations, Where Is the Wild? and The Endless Breath, to name about a third of the chapters. It's a full volume in more ways than one.

Following thorough proofing and final editing, The Big Elsewhere will initially be available via publisher Heian-kyo Media at the Kyoto Journal, hopefully some time in late September-early October. Feedback and suggestions for reviews and promotion most welcome.

Thursday, August 06, 2015


Here and there in the grains of photos remaining from that time you can see the blurred outline of a person, sometimes with a child or even two, walking where the way was once familiar, but now was the bottom of an incinerator the size of their city, still burning through them even as they walked, perhaps to escape the heat of all the nothing that remained...

At other places in the mass of the ashes of a hundred thousand lives turned into wind and rain you can make out the speck of another one still living, bent over searching, sifting in vain through blackened flakes of what once was life, once a place of daily living, where now nothing stood, where all was flat and dark, dust and fragments of death...

After the fires died, first the relatives came seeking their loved ones, one mother searching for her daughter who that morning had gone into town early so she could pay the rent on her way to work, but the mother never found her daughter...

That mother and all the others - fathers, sisters, sons, daughters, brothers - wandered for days, weeks, the rest of their lives in their hearts in those ashes of a city of families, passing by in their dreams those passengers on the train who were charcoal statues in their seats, or those still just alive who wandered also, in search of death that waited only days away, or those who had left their instant white shadows on the flash-darkened stone of the bridge or the building when they'd joined the unseeable light...

All of it on that August morning-- every ash of bone, every unheard scream, every sear of pain or cry for love, every tear of life, every atom of vapor that had been a person-- all of it, is in our voices now...