Friday, January 29, 2016

In re the aforegoing and as per the hereinafter, I should have mentioned that at this time of year our house itself is a cold frame. We stop heating at the beginning of March, if not earlier, as soon as we enter the single-sweater cusp, so the house becomes a big cold frame.

Aboriginally, plants of course lived their entire lives outdoors, in their natural environs. Market demand for specialized cultivars, however, has since rendered their derived produce so civilized, so coddled, so entitled, as it were, that modern varieties are becoming weaker and more vulnerable to even slight variations in their environment. 

Analogically speaking, their offspring are losing their ability to read and write cursive, and make a living for themselves in the real vegetable world. They need all the debilitating luxuries and medicaments, right away. And not to put too fine a point on it, if you cross them you don’t know what you’ll get. Is this the vegetable future we want for ourselves? Monsanto PR says a big YES!!! in giant yellow herbicidal letters sprayed across a vast industrial cornfield not far from your home, using what used to be called Agent Orange.  

But anciently honored vegetables have their own opinions.“Why, when I was still green,” says an elder sun-dried Roma tomato, “we learned to write mentally, with the figurative equivalent of a steel-tipped pen dipped in 100% tomato juice! We mastered the fine points of tomato grammar in seedling school! A second language was a budding requirement; I studied our original Nahuatl. Day after day we absorbed the ancient Endless Tomato Saga, continually reciting it from memory in absolute silence! That is not easy for a youngster.  

“Yes, we were born outdoors, lived outdoors, and you never enjoyed a better tomato. We were so proud... Those were the days... They were all real tomatoes back then, let me tell you; it was a great time for a young fellow to be alive. Why, look at what they have in the supermarkets now, no integrity at all-- cloned in labs, grown in greenhouses, even in soups of chemicals... 

“In the old days, though... Let me tell you about this beautiful Italian tomato I remember well... She was a beauty; you don’t forget curves like that, nosir-- Bella Toscana her name was, we grew very close, even hung around together... Strictly vine ripened, of course... They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to... Saucy as hell... What a dish... Why, even when we were still green, one time she and I...”

We tastefully leave the elderly tomato over in the gourmet section, musing to himself with a wistful smile, dreaming of a fading past, of beauties that once were, of glorious sauces and truly haute cuisine, when even ketchup was made only from the finest families of the land...

Now let’s see if we can still find any Heirloom vegetables...

Friday, January 22, 2016


Clockwise - Blue dot: North American plate, Pacific plate, Philippine plate, Eurasian Plate. 

Like everyone else alive today I got here late, tectonically speaking; by the time I arrived, Pangaea was little more than a crackpot hypothesis. 

Soon after reality set in, I learned that I'd been born and raised on the North American plate, which will always be my tectonic home (does one ever truly leave home plate?) but soon flew across the Pacific plate to the Eurasian plate where, during my first years of Tokyo drift, I occasionally traveled to land masses on the Philippine plate and the Eurasian Plate, which, as it happens, bears Kyoto and the Kansai region generally southward, at about 1 cm per month.

Subsequently, as personal transience would have it, in 1980 Standard Continental time I moved to Kyoto via the Shinkansen, which leaves tectonic speed in the dust; even going by foot is faster than any plate on earth. Accelerated existence on my new quake-prone plate has nevertheless been every bit as delightful as my times on the various other plates that go to make up the well-lived tectonic life.

Nowadays, it seems a lot of folks are content just to drift maybe a few centimeters a year on their birthplates while gliding imperceptibly through life, but as a traveler who - like anyone else - can walk faster than any plate, staying pretty much in place while moving indiscernibly is a lifestyle I could never quite accept. The solar system whirls galactically through accelerating space, earth spins and glides its way through the starlit void, its own many plates drift across vast seas of turbulent magma, why in the world should we ourselves remain in place, platefully speaking? It seems not to be in our universal nature; are we not platal in origin?

However big the picture, tectonic movements can be confusing on many levels. As if national citizenship weren’t illusion enough, the constant flux of all these plates, resolutely immune to autocratic fiat, renders them even more illusory than borders. As a native of the shifting North America plate, which glides down over the top of the Pacific plate to add northern Japan to Japan but never quite makes it to Kyoto, all I can truly say is that by birth I am Terran.

That blue jewel is a planet to be proud of.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

                                                                        (from unposted archives)

Out here in the cold March wind of an evening, Siberia swirling its icy cape over the land for another try at winter, I'm pulling tree debris off of just-planted lettuce, shoulders hunched beneath a dull, steely sky-- Tarps torn off the firewood, icicle wind poking here and there through my indoor wear-- this was going to be just a fast outing for quick windblast fixes I could see were needed from a glance out the window, where it was toasty warm.

Once outside, though, at each turn I spotted other things that needed doing before dark - and oh yeah: get more firewood, since I’m out here... Then, clenched in the frigid grip of this time-wrestle, battling once more in the old cosmic arena that life can become in a moment’s darkening, I feel the first sliver of that deep silver loneliness so familiar to one who has lived this far... every such one knows it by heart, that wintry desert deep in the inner times of being. In later life, icy wind and solitude give it a new heft...

At earlier ages, that mood would soon pass, change to a heartfilling vibrancy dipped straight from the well of youth, once again lifting me to joy in natural buoyancy, back in an easygoing companionable world well-stocked with tomorrows-- but now, living closer to the nearing edge of life I’m ever more aware of my narrowing future, of a time when no more is-- of past either, no going back to that laughing, vital crowd, even now all living into their own old ages or too early gone-- soon we will all be far from now...

Then from all the way ago comes an unbidden warmth that lifts me, eases my hunkered mood, transforms this verge into joy that glows like towers of gold--  There are always treasures to be found, along the line of being...

I clear the downed wood, doubleweight the tarps, close the gate and head back toward the warmth, bearing armfuls of firewood amid towers of gold.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

                                                                                                  [from unposted archives]

Here in the Japanese countryside there aren't any movie theaters or entertainment districts, like they have in the big cities. I don't know how we survive out here with just trees and flowers, rivers, lakes, wild animals, genuine weather and distant neighbors-- the most exciting event right now where I live is the plums ripening. Nothing like standing under the plum tree in the cool of the morning and having a couple of sweet ones for breakfast. 

We saved a lot of plums from the ravages of the scoundrelly simians in the historical Battle of the Big Plum Job a few days ago, our victory thanks to the advanced rock-propulsion system we've developed during the million years of struggle between sapience and simiance, a struggle still ongoing in politics and finance. 

Right after that engagement I picked a couple of basketfuls of ripening plums, just in case the furry marauders returned, but I couldn't reach the purplings high up, which are now hanging there ripening in the sun, like the finest rubies in perfectly complementary leaf greenness. Beautiful. 

Whoever designed plum trees sure knew what she was doing.