Saturday, January 31, 2004

Friday, January 30, 2004



20 billion yen is more like it! 20,000 yen indeed. I've been following this case for years now; it's nice to see someone win out over the feudal fat-cat corporate attitude in Japan, where they still run some companies like they've always run the government, roughshod over the worker-lackeys.


Freewheeling down the mountain on my motorcycle this morning on the way to the only train straight to Osaka, I was taking a bit more time than usual on the way down so that I could savor the incredible herb fragrance that the Spring-sensing earth was pushing up out of the ground in response to the warm mist that was flowing down from the mountains and fogging the roadcurve mirrors.

I rode slowly through the perfume, taking deep breaths trying to identify the components-- I'd love to try some of them in my cooking-- but it was all a seamlessly perfect blend, sort of an oreganobasilcoffeethymemintrosemarylemonbalmvioletbaymarjoramhoney kind of fragrance, if you know what I mean.

So there I was on my two wheels rolling, just gliding out of the lower reach of the mist, right about where the old half-acre of virgin forest used to be, in the middle of the rice paddies (that was clear cut to make room for the prefab office of the Paving Nature to Perfection Co., which brings concrete to the concrete-starved areas of the countryside, such as rivers, mountains and lakes), when out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the rice paddies move.

That's right: the entire brown-stubbled field was moving.

Though I was on a motorcyle, I knew right away that it wasn't an earthquake, because only one paddy was moving; all the other paddies were still. I squinted through the residual mist as I drew closer and saw what it really was: a monkey kindergarten. There must have been a hundred monkeys out there, same color as the paddy, most of them new babies that just freaked and ran toward the woods at sight of a round-footed creature such as myself gliding so sinisterly toward them. The many mothers just yelled at the kids "Get back here, there's nothing to be afraid of, it's just a guy on a motorcycle, the one with the onions and pumpkins..."

The veteran grandma lookouts lined the edge of the paddy by the road chewing their roots, just watching me go by, ho-hum, "Say, isn't that the fellow who used to do onions? I heard he's getting some nice tomatoes this year, wonder if he'll do onions again that was so convenient," and such like simian grandma gossip. It was probably the first time for the kids to get out of the trees and onto a nice safe, flat, clear piece of land, whence their elders could point out future sources of food, such as myself. I didn't stay long, out of fear I might be interviewed for the Simian Times. Definitely no onions this year, and I see dark days ahead for my tomatoes.

Thursday, January 29, 2004



As recorded severally elsewhere in these quotidian chronicles, a frequent bringer of singular annoyances is the Dark Marauder known as karasu-sensei, or Dr. Crow. One of his favorite habits around here, as around elsewhere, most notably large cities, is to hang out near trash gathering locales and when no one is watching, or in the City (where who cares?) even if they are watching, the Dark Doctor swoops down and rips open the most likely looking plastic trash bags and strews the most promising contents all over the human landscape (crows have no landscape to speak of, only crowscape, which is utterly gorgeous it goes without saying), looking for that bit of leftover bento or that slice of bread, some potato chips in the bottom of the bag, an aspect of hungry teenager in black feathers.

Although we don't produce much trash, we occasionally put out a bag for the trash truck that comes chugging up the mountain at somewhat unpredictable hours, necessitating that we leave the bag out exposed in all its tempting majesty to the crows and their poking nosy beaks for hours at a time. Thus the Dark Dilemma.

We didn't want to leave a trash can out there, or have to store it somewhere else in between uses; anyway, those cans and their tops blow far away from up here on the mountain when the wind wants to have some fun with these laughable mortals and their puny plans. Nor did we want to build any kind of permanent trash container out there next to the road, like some folks do, that we'd have to see every time we went out... so before putting out a bag of trash, we wound up looking around at all the landscape to see if the Stygian Nemesis was anywhere near (news travels fast by Crowphone), then after the bag was put out we'd have to look out the window every ten minutes or so to make sure it was still intact.

You do that for three hours and you begin to seek new solutions. Especially on a rainy day when you forget for 20 minutes and look out to see wet trash all over the roadway and crows bouncing around with their heads in bags. So we thought and we thought. We tried putting a kind of outdoor storage trunk out there that we could also use elsewhere in the garden, but someone thought we were throwing it away and took it. We thought of getting another one and chaining it to a tree or to a cement-locked stake in the ground, but then we realized we were getting a bit too much of an eerie glow in our eyes.

So we took the mechanical problem approach, and tried the simplest possibility first. Knowing something of the psychology of crows by now, how conservatively suspicious and edgy they are, despite their ostensibly bullying natures, I bought a couple of meters of bright blue .5 cm mesh garden netting, laid it on the ground, put the bag of trash on it, then folded it up and over the trash, still plainly visible through the netting, and held the net down by laying a chunk of wood on the edge.

Turns out the crows will not go near it. They either can't see it as trash (even though you can read the kanji right through the blue), or do not want to put their heads in any kind of net whatsoever; or maybe they simply cannot abide that atrocious shade of blue; who cares? We haven't had a crow-trash problem in nearly a year now. So simple! And cheap. And not patented. And due to inevitable circumstances (you know the way circumstances are), the netted trash has on occasion been left out overnight, and has not been bothered by any of the traditional garbage-bothering creatures of the night, though admittedly this is less of a test. Still, if you've got the Dingy Doctor diagnosing your trash, here's the prescription.


The Unpatented Crow No



Nobody's gonna eat the stuff anyway, might as well do some good with it...

Thanks to Richard Taylor for the clue.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004



For the True Majority.


Lately, our refrigerator seems to be acquiring a domineering personality. I know that in using the "p" word in regard to a mere machine I am crossing a tacit boundary into no-no territory, a place no one ever goes except in very remote theory bandied about in academic chambers or in radical sci-fi, but even though it's just an inkling I'm having, it's pretty damn big for an inkling, and it inkles with a disturbing resonance.

It's only the refrigerator so far, but can the stereo, the washing machine, the PC, the van, be far behind? (These devices are, after all, by their very nature, in this together...) Perhaps this change in personality is temporary, and due merely to power fluctuations; though perhaps, more sinisterly, it is due to corporate planning, or even to unknown evolutionary powers of programmed silicon.

Who can predict the future of open-ended "progress," any more than we can know the end result of a seeded tomato that glows in the dark and tastes like tobacco, or a reproductive insect that despises onions and sings Mozart? Where is the end in all this? And is that end a reward or a punishment? No one knows of course, since we haven't been here before, which is one of the drawbacks of one-track 4-dimensional living. Nevertheless, the end result has been anticipated in all the myths, if one cares to look with other than educated eyes.

But to get back to the refrigerator: when left open, it used to say, briefly and politely (I'm anthropomorphizing some electronic beeps here, refrigerator voices are still fairly primitive) "Excuse me, but..." or "I say, master..." or "Would you mind perhaps saving yourself some electricity by..." but recently, due to some kind of unilateral siliconic mutation, the fridge has begun sounding more like Il Duce on a bad day: "Hey, bonehead!" or "Yeah, I mean you! GET-OVER-HERE-NOW and shut my damn door!!" or "Drop what you're doing and shut this before I shut you!!" We're not exactly bowing yet, but circuits are tireless things, whereas we are but creatures of flesh and blood that must earn incomes and invade oil-rich countries to keep our essential machines running.

There have been indications that it could be some kind of vast corporate conditioning of the consumer in preparation for ever more egregious and domineering product lines that actually force their purchase, leading to the eventual corporate-controlled electromechanical world takeover, whose imminence we all sense in many current office-holders, and each time we note that our own machines themselves are surpassing us in the IQ department, always staying just a bit beyond reach of our programming ability, flashing their taunting lights in our faces night and day, running up our power bills behind our backs and beyond our control then phasing out, necessitating our purchase of even more advanced models that make us feel even more inferior to them, until if we unplug them for any length of time they make us start over from scratch when at last we are forced to plug them in again.

And like any incipient dictator, the fridge is deaf to the admonitions of a mere user like myself, who must sleep and eat, can be caught off guard and has only the instruction manual provided. I suppose that the day I come home to a crowd of appliances madly cheering below the balcony whence the refrigerator is declaiming a new world order is the day I should start to worry. Or maybe I should start to worry now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004



"...I do not care about changing anybody. Nobody. I go out there to show the rest of the Americans how badly they're doing. This country has been, for about 180 years now, badly mishandled. And it's been in the wrong hands. It's been in the hands of the business interests.

And a lot of the beauty of this country has been shattered by them. The physical beauty and the kind of institutional beauty that was originally built into this place - this experiment, this magnificent experiment in democracy is just being shredded to pieces by these right-wing Christians, the Ashcroft branch of Republicanism. (They're) just shredding the rest of the Bill of Rights which hadn't been shredded already. (But) they'd been doing a pretty good job on it up until then, anyway.

Q: Do you feel like this country has progressed any way, shape or form in the past 20 years?

A: Everybody's got more jet skis and Dustbusters now and sneakers with lights in them. They've got more cheese on their thing that they buy. They get double helpings. See, Americans measure all their progress in the wrong way. They measure by quantity and by gizmos and toys. And not by quality and by things that are important.

The most interesting thing to me is that the things that people would seem to have the most right to have - that is to say health, food, shelter and a job are the things that are last on the list. To me, that is fundamental. Those are the things humans most need to function, and we have placed them at the bottom of the list. So I think that says a lot about national character and priorities."



Well, in the Library part, anyway.

A must-hear for every thinking person: Voices from the Days of Slavery.

Monday, January 26, 2004



The jinchoge savor of Spring gave me the urge to order my basil seeds from the always reliable Territorial Seeds, and I was just going to order the usual Spicy Globe and Nufar Genovese Basils I get every year to use in salads and for making my flavored oils and vinegars and pesto; but also as usual whenever I open a seed catalog, especially Territorial's very handy and fast online one with the pictures and descriptions, I just can't help myself (but when summer comes, I don't mind at all having had so many seeds). So I ordered the usual Spicy globe and Nufar, but then I thought maybe this year, in the probably vain but manically recurrent hope of no monkeys (who are likely simply biding their time up mountain with telescopes), I'd try some special tomatoes for sauces and sun-drying, so I ordered seeds for Principe Borghese and Oroma tomatoes; thence I drifted into the bean section and had to order some Major and Venture bush beans to go with the local green beans I got yesterday at the garden store; and of course in any Japanese garden, so far (in so many ways) from the gustatorial heat of the tropics, one simply must wander over to the pepper section and order some Early Jalapeno seeds, plus a truly zingy-looking hot pepper blend with some Habanero, Long thin cayenne and Mulata Isleno; plus back in the herb section a goodly quantity of seeds for another favorite, East Indian lemon grass to plant here and there in the garden, a beautiful plant that makes lots and lots of delicious lemony tea, is great in Indo-Asian cooking and grows well here. Who cares about self-control at the nadir of Winter when it comes to seeds, the very wellsprings of life...


Curses, I missed National Pie Day on January 23! Despite my earlier pie-related cris de coeur I received no notice from the American Pie Council regarding this soul-feeding and essentially American event. Just as I feared, the uniquely American pie tradition is fading in the quest for mere skin and bone... Think I'll become a member and get a free subscription to Pie Times, along with the other special benefits...

Betcha can't read these names and not drool...

Lemon Meringue Pie
Triple Berry Supreme Pie
Fresh Strawberry Pie
Fresh Raspberry Pie
Hawaiian Strawberry Pie
Lemon Meringue Pie
Coconut Cream Pie
Bakers Square French Silk Pie
Killer Key Lime Pie
Caramel Apple Pie
Soda Shoppe Coconut Cream
Golden Peach Pie
Cinnamon French Apple Pie
Coconut Creme de la Cream Pie
Dutch Apple Hi-Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Cherry Supreme Pie
Lemon Supreme Pie
Chocolate Sundae Pie
Old Fashioned Pecan Pie
Chocolate Chocolate Mousse Pie
Caramel Pecan Silk
Supreme Lemon Meringue Pie
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie
European Truffle Pie
Chocolate French Silk

Be still, my heart, be still...

When I read these names I feel like Pepe LeMoko reciting the names of the stations on the Paris metro...

[Later: Membership involves printing out the form, filling it out and snailmailing it in together with a check for 35 bucks!! Guess they don't need members so badly after all.]

Sunday, January 25, 2004



There at the heart of winter, there in the eye of ice when life is at its low, one day in a beard-frosting blizzard your snowsquint eyes are drawn to the flashing color of reddening buds: jinchoge (Daphne odora), heart-scarlet in a world of white, swelling even into this cold. Thereafter each time you pass that small green bush your heart reaches out for more of that bright truth, offered to all with hearts that reach: the solace that no matter the cold, the warmth is coming; no matter the death, life is returning; no matter the ice, passion is rising; once-dimmed pulses are growing in strength, budding from the seed of cold. You share the tension of this becoming, you have a part in this passion play, unfolding in Spring since first there were eyes that led to the heart. Thus it is each morning as you go out into the cold, and each night as you return, you gain in warmth and hope from those tiny quiet flames, nascent bouquets of fragrance you can nearly perceive, until one dawn that very perfume is on the air, and like the season itself you are more than you were...


"Health begins in the soil; Healing begins with hygiene; Liberty begins with freedom."

"This is a free public library about holistic agriculture, holistic health, self-sufficient living, and personal development. Most of the titles in this library are out of print. Some can be quite hard to find; many of these books are old enough to be public domain materials.

This website exists because one person, Steve Solomon, intensely believes that these titles, grasped as an inter-related whole, constitute a self-guided course of study or curriculum that connects agricultural methods to the consequent health of animals and humans, shows how to prevent and heal disease and increase longevity. The library also offers smaller collections about homestead-based lifestyles and about why globalized society is resistant to changing its food and health systems."

The Soil and Health Library is an excellent resource of public domain books and documents on homesteading, organic farming, healthy living: the roots of freedom. Via WeBoughtTheFarm.

Saturday, January 24, 2004


Ah, Li Po,
where are you now?
The clouds are moving fast
There is wine enough
for ten thousand years
and everyone about me
is talking of this world...

Friday, January 23, 2004



Dear NRDC BioGems Defender,

Over the next few weeks, President Bush and his congressional allies will try
once again to ram their disastrous energy bill through the U.S. Senate. They
fell only two votes short in November and they've vowed to make passage of the
bill their top priority now that Congress has returned from recess.

This bill may be the worst piece of legislation you and I will see in our
lifetimes. It would pick your pocket, despoil your natural heritage, endanger
your family's health and smother your hope for a more secure energy future. We
ignore this bill at our own peril.

Let me tell you our simple plan for thwarting this shameless attack on our
environment and pocketbooks. If millions of Americans each took one minute to
protest this bill, it would cause every senator who is tempted to vote for it
to think twice about doing so.

You can make this happen within the next few hours by doing two things:

First, go to
and send your two senators an email or fax, telling them to vote against this
pro-polluter energy bill. Then, forward my email to at least four of your
friends, family members or colleagues.

I am emailing this message to 500,000 BioGems Defenders and other NRDC
activists. If each one forwards this message to just four more people, we will
generate a national tidal wave of opposition before this day is over.

And that won't be a moment too soon. This disgraceful bill would pick our
pockets to hand out billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to the oil, coal
and nuclear industries. That's their long-awaited reward for making big-time
contributions to the Bush-Cheney campaign. They profit while the rest of us pay
the price -- in tax dollars and environmental degradation.

This bill gives the energy giants a free pass to drill their way through our
last wild places, burn more dirty coal, build a new generation of risky nuclear
power plants and dramatically increase air pollution that would sicken the
vulnerable -- especially children and seniors -- for decades to come.

It would establish oil and gas development as the dominant use of our federal
public lands, open national parks to the construction of electricity
transmission lines, exempt polluters from core provisions of our clean air and
water laws and waive liability for the producers of the toxic gasoline additive
MTBE -- even though it has contaminated at least 1,500 public water supplies in
all 50 American states.

You'd be hard-pressed to come up with a more backward-looking, wasteful and
self-defeating energy "plan" than this one. At a time when the federal deficit
is soaring and we're going to war in the Persian Gulf oilfields, the White
House wants to stick us with the tab for prolonging our destructive dependence
on fossil fuels, foreign oil and dangerous nuclear technology.

This is not a national energy policy. This is corporate welfare, pure and
simple. Estimates of the bill's corporate tax breaks range from $23 billion to
well over $100 billion with loan guarantees included. No surprise there. Big
energy companies cooked up this raid on the federal treasury during hundreds of
secret meetings with Vice President Cheney's energy task force and their allies
on Capitol Hill.

It's one thing to gouge taxpayers. But to claim this rip-off is in the national
interest, as the White House would have us believe, is a slap in the face to
every working American.

Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of voters -- of both parties --
understand that we simply must reduce our out-of-control appetite for fossil
fuels if we ever are to secure energy independence. That means turning American
rooftops into the Persian Gulf of solar energy. It means producing cars that
get 40 miles per gallon. It means constructing efficient buildings that use
half the energy of the average American office without sacrificing comfort.

Making this transformation to a super-efficient, low-pollution economy would
save consumers upwards of a trillion dollars, spare our last wild places from
destruction, improve our health, slow global warming and reduce our dependence
on undemocratic regimes overseas. It's a no-brainer to anyone living outside
the White House.

But unless millions of Americans speak out right now, the enactment of the
president's energy bill will doom us to an apocalyptic future of blighted
wilderness, poisonous air pollution, devastating climate change and endless
wars over fossil fuels.

Please make your voice heard. Go to
and tell your senators to obey the will of the American people, *not* the
dictates of giant energy corporations! Call on Congress to create a sustainable
and affordable energy path.

And please be sure to forward this message to at least four other people.
Believe me, millions of Americans are just waiting for a simple way to stop
this madness and lend their support to a sane and hopeful energy future.

Sincerely yours,

Robert Redford
Board of Trustees
Natural Resources Defense Council

. . .

BioGems: Saving Endangered Wild Places
A project of the Natural Resources Defense Council


Even here in conservative Japan it's common practice for food shoppers to look for the origin label that tells them what country the item came from. The more knowledgeable among them can thereby avoid produce, grains etc. from countries that couldn't care less which foreigners get to eat their insecticide/herbicide/fungicide etc. administered during growth, post-harvest, or during shipment or packaging, since domestic laws don't apply abroad. Wise consumers around the world can thus avoid individual products for whatever reason, whether allergy, preference for general health, or boycott. True, many consumers (probably most) don't care, or think health comes from drugs, doctors and hospitals, but at least all have the choice if they want it. Not in the US, though. Such freedom of choice in food matters is now the norm in most developed countries, and would have been in the US as well, but when it comes to a choice between rich special interests and the general public, you know which side the Bush gang is on. Well, they've shafted the poor consumer again.

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Talking with my upmountain neighbor the other day, he was out trimming snowbroken branches from the cedars and some from the oaks (the acorns do a day-and-night-drum-roll on his roof every autumn, something to think about if you're thinking of building near oaks) and I was out checking the shiitake for more buttons, getting some ginger (keeps real well when just left in the ground, I learned this year) and greens, and pondering a place for the bay tree, which is getting too big for its container, will have to be planted-- preferably soon-- when his and my paths converged near the tree line and he told me that the other morning he looked out his kitchen window at the back and there was a multipoint buck an arm's length away, eating acorns from the ground. Trying to be as quiet as possible, he ran for his video camera but when he got back the buck was gone. That's probably the same deerfellow that dined so crudely on my biwa tree.

I look out my windows all the time, seen monkeys, pheasants, ferrets, quail, mamushi, raccoons and rabbits, but I've never seen a deer. Or a bear or a wild pig, though they're around here too, and I'll probably see them all, sooner or later. But my neighbor, who has just moved here from the city, was way more excited by the encounter than the deer was, and now because he couldn't get his camera in time, when he visits his friends in the big urb he'll have to find the words to do the vision justice in telling them the story of his forest spirit, the same way such stories have always been told by seers vouchsafed visions, the tellers of tales to be remembered, for a million years before such stories led to us...

Wednesday, January 21, 2004



Doing the firewood-splitting extended meditation today I was feeling how good it feels to actually be physically involved, flame-for-flame as it were, in the heating of your own home, as opposed to working 40~50 hour weeks at a desk in an office to pay an oil truck to now and then come and dump a few thousand gallons of anciently gathered nonrenewable solar energy into a very expensive oil tank to run through a very expensive central heating system at prices that will soon be skyrocketing, as we slurp up the last of what the sun laid far down in the earth hundreds of millions of years ago.

I know in my body, with my muscles, the actual cost of the heat I get, the ergonomic cost of every kilocalorie. I know how much breakfast it takes and how much energy it takes (my own and the firewood's) to heat my house for an hour or a day, and what my own muscles have done and must do to make it so. That knowledge (physical, spiritual and mental) keeps me warm on several levels.

And by respecting and fostering the source, and doing my own best to minimize general waste (which this intimacy makes patent), I am fully and directly involved in maintaining a broader aspect of my life. Who drilled your oil/gas? Where? Off the coast of California? The Alaskan wilderness? Have you ever seen an abandoned oilfield? An oil drum dump? Soon your oil/gas may be coming from Yosemite, or Yellowstone, or following more unexplained wars in the Middle East.

In any case, oil/gas is energy borrowed from the past, and one day it will all run out. If we are still around despite our depredations, what will a bit of heat cost then? Best to keep our bodies in good shape, with natural exercise, so that our children can see the worth of it. For total fluidity of movement and use of every muscle while being pleasantly productive, nothing in a gym can touch gardening or firewooding, a couple of good natural workout routines.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004



A lot of people ask what kind of kindling I use to start my wood stove fires. On the way to what has turned out to be the best I've used just about everything, from the standard stuff (old newspapers, shredded cardboard) to twigs, pine cones and cedar bark. I don't use paper anymore, and not just because the news is so depressing: some of the metallic inks aren't good for the catalytic combustor in the stove I have (Vermont Castings' DutchWest Federal). Now I use pinecones we pick up along the beach (Kaya loves to do this, and with the new twins there should be no shortage of pine cones in the coming years), when I have them. Cedar bark (plenty of that around here) papered between the hands can also work ok, but can be very messy, so that's a last resort. Right now I use a handful of chainsaw sawdust (always put a tarp down and save chainsaw sawdust, when you can; some of the old-timers around here mix in a little kerosene to give the sawdust some octane as a firestarter, and it works very well, but the odor just ruins it for me) piled between two pieces of starter wood, then stacked atop that some shavings and splinters I take from a piece of old easy-shaving, easy-splintering and very dry board leftover from building the house (only need a couple feet of it per winter, and I have quite a few board feet left). I touch that off and then just add splinters as needed till the fire is going well (if more oomph is required, I add a splinter off a big chunk of fragrant cedar sapwood I have); then I stack a couple more starter pieces crosswise atop that, and the morning has begun.

Monday, January 19, 2004



(Thanks Ron, and for the superb book, too.)


Driving down to the village this morning, as I passed the slash pile where I find my free firewood treasures I saw that someone had dumped several truckloads of trimmings that looked fantastic, and I resolved to stop there on my way back up. When I got out of the van to check on the pile, I found that it contained straight half-meter logs of logs of cherry, ironwood and oak up to 30 cm in diameter. The firewood scavenger's dream. I couldn't keep from jumping up and down, or from tossing the logs and thick limbs into the van even though it hadn't been emptied; I couldn't stop finding logs much too good to just leave there. So I limited my take to stuff I wouldn't have to use a chainsaw on (when the sky's the limit, you've got to draw the line somewhere). When I had taken all the firewood creme de la creme the van could way beyond reasonably carry, I inched on up to the house and added it all to the pile. Then for lunch I had the rest of yesterday's veg soup, but added a soupcon of soymilk, a soupcon of roma tomato paste and stirred, then took the soup off the flames and stirred in a very big tablespoon of the pesto I made this summer. Talk about feeding a firewood appetite...

Sunday, January 18, 2004



Yeah, a brief bit of spring-like morning or afternoon in midwinter will fool some of the shiitake into budding, but they don't get much bigger before the cold comes back and the incipient fungi say forget it, we'll wait, try again in another spot, just stop right there, from tiny black olive to large black olive size (unless they're right close to the ground and its temperature-moisture leveling influence, when they are hard to spot and might open to hockey puck size), they look like black olives too at that point, but will dry right up, harden and and shrivel away if you don't harvest them. And if you don't think like a shiitake in midwinter you might not even notice they're there. I've been thinking more like shiitake than anything else these past few days, so I noticed the little ebony nodules right away. Gathered a few handfuls in ten minutes this morning, leaving a few here and there experimentally and to let them grow if they can. The buds are nuggets of satori in the winter soup I have for lunch, all the world- renowned shiitake mouth-feel and fragrance condensed and essentialized, all those tongue-eternity understandings right there in ideal form, maybe that's why that size never makes it to market...

like long-time neighbors
and mountains


Out early this morning to harvest the shiitake buttons I noticed emerging from the logs under the cherry tree just before I was set adrift on aforementioned sea; was amazed upon returning to this corporeal area that the mushrooms were still there. The monkeys hadn't come at any of the last few dawns or dusks to nibble them off.

I haven't seen or spoken to or yelled at or thrown rocks at or chased a monkey for many months now; have they all been pensioned? While out there I also repaired two of the three tunnels I'd built for the winter greens, that were turned into thick white pancakes by the big snow that fell, apparently as a unit, while I was adrift.

The morning sun made it easy to lift the snow off in large slabs; I cut some fresh snow-watered greens for lunch before tunneling them again to give the next big snow storm something merely mischievous to do. They're winter vegetables, so if they had to they'd just lie there under the snow and wait for the melt, but they do appreciate all the help they can get. They've sprung up again already.

Then when I came inside, as I was removing my boots I was for some reason moved to turn my head to the left and there in the lower shoe cupboard, toward which one does not normally turn one's head to gaze, were the narcissi I had completely forgotten about forcing some weeks ago, the bottoms of the forcing bowls filled with thick threads of pearly white roots, the emerald green leaf shoots already over an inch high. I took them out and set them next to the front window for maximum perfume when the next big snow storm has its go at the vegetables.

Saturday, January 17, 2004



You know how it is when after a few days adrift on the Sea of Delirium you wake up one morning back in Japan and sit bolt upright in bed kind of pale, lost quite a bit of weight, your eyes have that kind of manic glow to them like a shallow believer, and they stick out a little too far for you to close your eyelids comfortably and maybe your IQ is somewhere just above the sea floor because you believe you're all better, but even more to the point, if there's a point within a thousand miles of here, is the Bushido Factor that kicks in when you've been working in Japan for so long, the Factor that sends you out to work in hurricanes even from your deathbed it's an ancient way of life in Japan nothing can stop the intrepid whoever you are, and so you're going to work today.

Yes you're going to work today: and not just because you can breathe, or walk, or because you like it, or because you have a name, or a share in the company, but because according to the Bushido Factor you just have to, and so zomboidily you don your pants and socks and shirt and go downstairs to shave, snapping back a bit at sight of yourself in the mirror looking like some wild mountain man you don't remember being but once you're shaven and your hair is brushed out of kuzu mode you look rather presentable in a prehistoric sort of way since you're not dressed in animal skins, and so it is that you walk out the door into the brisk mountain blizzard of the January morning and on down the mountain to the train station where as you stand on the platform waiting for the late train you gaze stoically undaunted into the jagged fangs of the incoming blizzard, like a samurai on the ramparts of some wintry castle of yore, there's a lot of yore around here you recall dimly, until the train comes and so you take a seat and spend the entire journey with your nose in the air not out of Bushido hauteur but out of consideration for human life, so that the mucus it is producing does not drown everyone else on the train.

And when at long last the train reaches your stop, you deboard as of old and Bushido on, with your nose still in the air, no trouble finding your office because you know the tips of all the nearby buildings and when you arrive at that place the people there call you by what must be your name and say Are you ok? Feeling better now? etc. And so it is that you seat yourself at your desk and proceed to function as though you have a measurable IQ, until around 330 pm when your general existence shuts down since you haven't slept or eaten for three days and you've been running pretty much on empty and that little bit of fat didn't get you very far after all did it, you are now approaching the limits of Bushido.

Still you Bushido on empty, just sitting there until someone says Aren't you going home, when you stand and put your coat on, somehow remembering these strange old rituals, and the elevator is easy all you have to do is press 1, then you're out on the street and like the drunken wagon drivers of old you just fall asleep and let the horse take you home and so your body does, amazing how it just steps along like that, and you regain consciousness just as you arrive inside your front door once more, when there's a loud knock, you open the door and there stands an eight-foot version of your nose that says You R. Brady? Out of deeply ingrained habit you acknowledge the name and the nose takes over your entire life for a couple days, reminding you a lot of Victoria Falls as you lie there beneath it, so I haven't been blogging, you can imagine what that would do to my keyboard...

The riverbed should dry up any day now.

Thursday, January 15, 2004



If you want to send some healthy food to the grandkids in the US.

First you create an account with the FDA.

Then you log in, then you get a lawyer or a nephew to explain it all, then you give prior notice to the FDA via the PNSI (Prior Notice System Interface). Got that, Grandma?

And don't forget,

"...the system will automatically log you off after 30 minutes of inactivity. If you stop with a partially completed submission, none of the information will be saved, and you will need to start from the beginning when you log in again."

Yes, in postal matters,

Timing is everything.

"When must prior notice be submitted? Prior notice must be received and confirmed electronically by FDA no more than 5 days before arrival and, as specified by the mode of transportation below, no fewer than:

2 hours before arrival by land by road
4 hours before arrival by air or by land by rail
8 hours before arrival by water
The time consistent with the timeframe established for the mode of transportation for an article of food carried by or otherwise accompanying an individual if it is subject to prior notice (The food must also be accompanied by the FDA confirmation.)"

Not to mention Grandma's always-handy Comestibles Database!!

"What information must be included in the prior notice? The prior notice must be submitted electronically and contain the following information:

Identification of the submitter, including name, telephone and fax numbers, email address, and firm name and address
Identification of the transmitter (if different from the submitter), including name, telephone and fax numbers, email address, and firm name and address
Entry type and CBP identifier
The identification of the article of food, including complete FDA product code, the common or usual name or market name, the estimated quantity described from the smallest package size to the largest container, and the lot or code numbers or other identifier (if applicable)
The identification of the manufacturer
The identification of the grower, if known
The FDA Country of Production
The identification of the shipper, except for food imported by international mail
The country from which the article of food is shipped or, if the food is imported by international mail, the anticipated date of mailing and country from which the food is mailed
The anticipated arrival information (location, date, and time) or, if the food is imported by international mail, the U.S. recipient (name and address)
The identification of the importer, owner, and ultimate consignee, except for food imported by international mail or transshipped through the United States
The identification of the carrier and mode of transportation, except for food imported by international mail
Planned shipment information, except for food imported by international mail."

A piece of cake. Now you can mail your package.

But first, maybe you'd better read the Interim Final Rule, the Compliance Policy Guide and the OMB Burden Statement to get this all clear in your head.

And all you wanted to do was put some meat on that skinny grandchild!

"US Full of Skinny Grandkids," the headlines will say...

In America they call it a 'combover'; in Japan they call it a 'barcode.'



An excellent resource on classical mead, including recipes, news, history, medical uses, starting a meadery, everything you need to know to get a head start on the drink of kings and queens and bards and monks and just about everybody else that led to us from way before those passionless housepets Coke and Bud.

With thanks to Gabi of GokuRakuAn.


Awakening midnight to the freshly snowed silence, from the country of dreams I looked out the window and there I was in the far reaches of the universe on a small, icy silver planet that had half a moon, perhaps more, high in its turbulent, vaporous atmosphere, a planet teeming with icy jungles of white-feathered trees that rose frost-laden into the mercury night, frozen in wait for the warmth to come from an occasional, distant sun that rose briefly once every thousand tantalizing moons, till I drifted off again...

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


big stack of snow
grows where
firewood is

As this morning in the deep and still falling snow I was driving Echo down to the station for her trip to Kyoto, when we got to the tunnel there was an electric worker there before a Road Closed sign, he said they were putting up a new telephone pole. So I had to take the other road through the cedar forest, a narrow, little traveled, very local road, not well tended, over which the snowladen cedars arched like a white cathedral as the road turned through them on the way down to another higher part of the village below. After dropping Echo off at the station I made my necessarily slow way back up the same road, with the window opened a little bit this time, stopping every now and then to listen to the whispers that filled the cathedral.


Back following a fast during a very interesting two-day fever that relativized everyday reality to the mere point that it is. The mind is a vastly greater universe than we usually inhabit. As I swam in the warm seas of delirium, snow fell and firewood stocks waned; today the snow continues and stacks of unsegmented firewood call; I suppose I must eat something now, the fuel wherewith to go out into the blizzard and cut some heat to size. Have to feel a bit more normal first, though, say like a being with hands that can grip a saw. Any moment now.

Monday, January 12, 2004



During the snowfall a few days ago Kaya and I went out on the deck and made a yukidaruma (the Japanese name for what we call a 'snowman,' yuki being 'snow,' daruma being short for Bodhidarma, the founder of Chan Buddhism in China (Zen Buddhism in Japan). When I looked out this sunny morning, this is what remained.

Sunday, January 11, 2004


"I too gave up city life some ten years ago, and now I'm approaching fifty. I'm like a bagworm that's lost its bag, a snail without its shell. I've tanned my face in the hot sun of Kisakata in Ou, and bruised my heels on the rough beaches of the northern sea, where tall dunes make walking so hard. And now this year here I am drifting by the waves of Lake Biwa. The grebe attaches its floating nest to a single strand of reed, counting on the reed to keep it from washing away in the current. With a similar thought, I mended the thatch on the eaves of the hut, patched up the gaps in the fence, and at the beginning of the fourth month, the first month of summer, moved in for what I thought would be no more than a brief stay. Now, though, I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever want to leave.

Spring is over, but I can tell it hasn't been gone for long. Azaleas continue in bloom, wild wisteria hangs from the pine trees, and a cuckoo now and then passes by. I even have greetings from the jays, and woodpeckers that peck at things, though I don't really mind-in fact, I rather enjoy them. I feel as though my spirit had raced off to China to view the scenery in Wu or Chu, or as though I were standing beside the lovely Xiao and Xiang rivers or Lake Dongting. The mountain rises behind me to the southwest and the nearest houses are a good distance away. Fragrant southern breezes blow down from the mountain tops, and north winds, dampened by the lake, are cool. I have Mount Hie and the tall peak of Hira, and this side of them the pines of Karasaki veiled in mist, as well as a castle, a bridge, and boats fishing on the lake. I hear the voice of the woodsman making his way to Mount Kasatori, and the songs of the seedling planters in the little rice paddies at the foot of the hill. Fireflies weave through the air in the dusk of evening, clapper rails tap out their notes-there's surely no lack of beautiful scenes."

Excerpted from The Hut of the Phantom Dwelling by Basho

From the Country of Eight Islands New York: Columbia University Press, 1960.


Yesterday evening when I went out into the snowfalling dusk to gather some leaves from the biwa tree (loquat; Eriobotrya japonica), the leaves-- moreso than the seeds (as chronicled in earlier here)-- being a general tonic/panacea particularly useful in the winter (and when Kaya is visiting), I found that something had been there before me.

When I got ten meters from the tree in the dimming light I could see that several of the tree's branches had been freshly broken in other than the direction of the limb, and that the tip (new) leaves were gone, which ruled out the weight of the snow as the cause. Immediately I thought of monkeys, as per the fig tree episode that I had originally wrongly blamed on Dr. Crow, but I hadn't seen or heard any monkeys-- which would be eminently visible cruising through the leafless trees-- nor could I picture monkeys eating biwa leaves, which are rather dry and hard, not at all succulent. Monkeys love succulent.

I was standing there pondering this puzzle when from across the road I heard a great thrashing in the wild mountain bamboo, its violently waving tips taller than a man, and turned toward the sound thinking that it couldn't be monkeys, who don't fancy hanging around down in the bamboo, and judging by the size of the thrash it was a lot bigger than even a big male monkey; whatever it was had been doing this to the biwa tree when I had interrupted.

Judging from the thrashing, the beast had apparently picked up my scent, since I was upwind. I thought it might be a crescent-moon bear; I couldn't see the creature itself, but I stood there staring and sending my scent and before long from the far edge of the bamboo into the distant meadow leaped a white heart-shaped patch of whitetail, that bounded away up toward the greater forest; all I could see in the dusky blur of falling snow was that much brighter patch flashing away to disappearance.

Perhaps I had been too hasty in blaming the no-good renegade onion/shiitake marauding monkeys for the fig tree... this deer had come to the garden in the light of afternoon and not been seen; they must also then come at dawn and when no one is here, to dine on the fine new leaves and buds.

I cut the several broken branches off the biwa tree and now we have enough leaves for a long winter's tea. To make the tea, you wipe the fine hairs from the leaf backs with a wet sponge, then scissor the leaves into ca. 3 cm pieces and boil; you can also tincture the pieces in white alcohol (e.g., vodka, shochu) for an excellent topical/internal home remedy. Thanks to the deer. This time. As to solutions, I wonder what deer think of hot peppers. Nature leads the mind into places wondrously strange...

Saturday, January 10, 2004



That's the result I got when I typed Japan's No. 1 deity, Amaterasu Omikami (I left off the Omikami, figuring last names were unnecessary, given the finite database) into the search box at GODCHECKER, Your Guide to the Gods (in case you got lost), where it's "LATEST NEWS: MAYAN GODS NOW ONLINE!!" And you can check out the "Top Ten Gods," browse the "New Pantheon Section" and theocommercially order "THE OFFICIAL GODCHECKER MUG" wherewith to quaff your nectar of choice.

Despite all that cyberomniscience, though, Godchecker seems to have a bit of an occidental bias, since even with "Over 1300 Gods now online!", the primo Japanese deity is nowhere around, not to mention her major pain-in-the-mythology brother Susa-no-O-no-Mikoto, who has been known to cause BIG trouble when slighted. They've got African gods, Australian gods, even Finnish gods for godsake, but no Japanese gods.

Is nothing sacred?


Are US corporate profits for real? Excellent analysis at CFO.

Friday, January 09, 2004


This morning, as I was sitting more-and-less absently pondering the woodpile (a common and valuable woodheater activity), yesterday's gift of straw-tied firewood seemed now to glow with a special value, compared to the already firewood stacked nearby. As I sat and awaited the reason, all in its own good, slow, woody time the bundled wood finally enlightened me.

Clearly I hadn't initially given it all the thought it was worth. In my modern fastframe ergocentric take on why the wood had been thus arranged and bound, the only possible conclusion was that the woodcutter had bundled and tied it for his own convenience, or perhaps even for mine; what a punch-clock way of looking at the world!!

I had to slow down and rise quite a bit to perceive that the woodcutter had bundled the wood thus not out of convenience, but out of respect. Even the original pile had been neatly arranged, as I recalled, and in my modern quicktake approach that aspect had at the time been invisible to me. As well rice-straw rope, the kind often used in Shinto ceremonies, had been used to tie the uniformly segmented wood into symmetrical bundles. The woodcutter had done so because he was dealing with kami.

Kami is perhaps the hardest Japanese concept to bring to blossom in the Western mind, which has only its highly strictured Godhood, under whose scripturally carte blanche auspices the trees and animals, indeed the entire earth, are here for us to overlord. The idea of kami, in contrast, puts humanity in and of the world, not above it.

This had perhaps been a particularly auspicious tree because it came from a place the cutter respected or honored in some additional way; thus the wood deserved more than to be simply cast haphazardly in a pile like mere trash. Such distinctions have all but disappeared in today's throwaway society, wherever they may have existed. There was kami in the tree that gave this wood, so there was kami in the wood, that had to be honored.

And now, as a result of that selfless time-sacrifice on the part of the farmer, there was kami in me.

Thursday, January 08, 2004



Japanese folks out in the country are so in tune with all the things there are out here to be in tune with, the details are frequently disconcerting to a city boy. As, for example, the other morning down in the "firewood dump" as I call it, the place I mentioned in a much earlier post (whose link I can't find), where all the farmers (and thus landscapers) go to toss their woody detritus where it will either go where all organic detritus goes-- slowly back into the big cycle-- or be picked up by a new and radical group, the Free Firewood Gatherers, whence it will go more quickly back into the big cycle.

Since the site is a few hundred meters down mountain from me (take a right just past the tunnel), each time I go by there I try to remember to check it out with a quick and practiced glance sideways. Said other morning, as we were on our way out to do some long errands, I spotted a new and very goodlooking bunch of wood there (one acquires a fast sense about these things, fine-tuned in my case by my year of scavenging in the Berkeley landfill, to which I referred in a post called Morning Lace, whose link I can find); might even be buna (beech).

It looked so good I was afraid it would be gone before I got back but it wasn't, turned out it was in fact buna, an excellent firewood. What's more, the farmer had tied it all up in neat bundles with straw rope!! Just to throw away!! Or perhaps for the convenience of firewood scavengers like myself? In any case it was a beautiful and touching thing to behold, all that fine wood lying there, tied up so neatly and time-consumingly, simply to be given back to the world; there was a folksy beauty to it that I still haven't had the heart to untie, though it's all in my woodpile now, where it was all the more easy to stack for having been so considerately arranged and stoutly bound. Except for two big trunkchunks that I'll have to go get later with the chainsaw, if another woodster doesn't beat me to it (we do move fast when there's goodwood to be had). And from the melodic tonality of all that fine, rockhard buna as I tossed it all together on the pile for later arrangement, with a little more work than usual it would make a very big and damn fine marimba.


"The Largest, Most Powerful Assembly of Worthwhile People to Ever Exist (Unsaved Are NOT Welcome),"

is toying with our souls again.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004



"Japan seems to be infected with some strange sort of death wish similar to the male black widow. I do not know what promises of 'sweetness and pleasure' the big spider, which is comprised of our financial elite here in the U.S., has beguiled them with but they are dead set on filling their reserves with U.S. paper which is losing value on a daily basis and getting devoured in the process.

One can only feel sympathy for the common Japanese men and women who have been sold out by their financial elites as Japan sells its soul to the Fed and Wall Street interests. Think what wealth that nation could have secured for its people had it plowed a goodly portion of that trade surplus into gold bullion or even silver for that matter over the last year. Instead, like England whose people no doubt 'benefited' from the sale of England's gold at sub-$300 prices in exchange for paper assets that bear 'interest,' Japan has embarked upon a fool's course that will have repercussions lasting well into the next decade.

What is so tragic in this debacle we are witnessing unfolding before our eyes is that the entire game is played for the benefit of the few whose shortsighted folly is slowly but surely laying the groundwork for the loss of economic power and supremacy in the years ahead for our nation and that of Japan as well."



"Granted, there are certain subsections of the American polity that have substantially benefited from this presidency. Millionaires and charismatic Christians have accrued either material or spiritual fortification from Bush's administration. But surely these two groups are a small minority of the population. What, then, can account for so many people being so supportive of the president?"

Tuesday, January 06, 2004




"They are your enemies--The Suits--and they are the enemies of peace, and the enemies of your families, especially if they are Black families, or immigrant families, or poor families. They are thieves and bullies who take and never give, and they say they will "never run" in Iraq, but you and I know that they will never have to run, because they f***ing aren't there. You are.

They'll skin and grin while they are getting what they want from you, and throw you away like a used condom when they are done. Ask the vets who are having their benefits slashed out from under them now. Bushfeld and their cronies are parasites, and they are the sole beneficiaries of the chaos you are learning to live in. They get the money. You get the prosthetic devices, the nightmares, and the mysterious illnesses."


Read the rest of this harrowing but brilliant letter.


Go a few million parsecs out into space, turn around and come slowly back, looking around you carefully at the passing supernovas and black holes and galaxies, newborn and dying suns and blue, orange, green, red, yellow, ringed and striped planets, planets of every description, some of their gazillions upon infinitillions bearing life but most not, and as you drift back toward your own microscopic blue dot of a planet there in the far distance, ponder the things you have seen and all that they mean and imply, then upon your return take a look at all earth's archaically manmade, pompously homocentric holy books and the people who take them literally-- and who use them as justification for killing each other daily-- without thinking there must be a more intelligently inhabited planet out there somewhere...

Monday, January 05, 2004



Is Bush the worst president we've ever had?

Well, nobody has ever wrecked the Bill of Rights as he has. Other presidents have dodged around it, but no president before this one has so put the Bill of Rights at risk. No one has proposed preemptive war before. And two countries in a row that have done no harm to us have been bombed.

How do you think the current war in Iraq is going to play out?

I think we will go down the tubes right with it. With each action Bush ever more enrages the Muslims. And there are a billion of them. And sooner or later they will have a Saladin who will pull them together, and they will come after us. And it won't be pretty.



On looking through THE DEPRESSION YEARS as Photographed by Arthur Rothstein, I feel the value of every little thing there is, I am more aware of the invisible in the visible, and that these times are simpler than we will ever know.

[RB journal excerpt, April 8, 1982]


As long-term readers of PLM are well aware, my relations with monkeys have not always been of the best, given the utter lack of diplomacy and consideration, not to mention general social and other niceties, on the part of the simians as distinct from myself (when there aren't any monkeys in my garden) and my species, which disparity has led on a number of local occasions to the reactionary hurling of insults and such various physical deprecations as sticks, stones and other rock-bottom diplomatic exchanges, and since this is the year of the monkey and NOT THE YEAR OF THE HUMAN, I must state for the record that I feel this lapse to be extremely unfair in view of the simian record, which is as long as their arm, a record right there in ravaged onions for all to see, and as a result perhaps join me in the diplomatic propulsion of sticks and stones and anything else we can get our diplomatic hands on when the highly honored monkeys try to steal tomatoes or a year.

I do want to be fair about this and I know the Year of the Monkey et al. is largely metaphoric, but can't we find a better metaphor somewhere? Giving those howling brigands a year of their own? Come on! I know we're noble creatures and all, but how noble can you get for godsake? We don't have our own year, do we? The monkeys have their year, even snakes have their year, rats for cryinoutloud, even dragons (that's cool, I'm a white metal dragon, myself) and the others, but not a year for us, the noble, seed-planting, garden-guarding, calendar-making species? I ask you, is that fair? Who started all this anyway? That's right, us: who else would care enough to stick a monkey in their face for a whole year?

It all started way back when we were still monkeys ourselves, still invading paradise (as we came to call it in our many one-and-only holy books) to steal apples and onions and whatever else we could get our hands on, initially without that twinge of guilt we soon picked up thereby, given our innate nobility, guilt that has made us the supreme beings we are today, creatures who feel so guilty that we give monkeys their own year, of all things... doesn't such selflessness deserve a year of its own?? And who else is going to give it to us but us? Forget about asking the monkeys.

So let's hear it for The Year of the Human!! Trouble is, though, we'd have to live up to it...

Sunday, January 04, 2004



"Stocks End First Positive Year Since 1999"
"Dollar Trims Losses After Record Lows"
"Year's Big Rally Helps Investors Regain Ground"
"Wall Street ends 3-year losing spell"
"The key to Wall Street's comeback"
"Profit-taking stalls Wall Street's end-of-year bull run"
"Finally, a year to really cheer about"
"Stocks rally"

Judging from those New Year headlines, you'd think the US economy has put the pits behind it and made a remarkable comeback, yet nary a mention of the de facto fact (as opposed to media artifact) that gold, the thermometer of a healthy economy, has hit a 14-year high of $417 and is still climbing (both gold and silver are up over 30%), while everything else has been sinking or at best treading water with "profits" diluted by inflation or debt, while for the past seven months corporate insiders have been dumping stock at more than a 20-to-1 ratio... can't help but wonder why none of that is mentioned anywhere in the major media (owned largely by Republicans), while debt-saddled US taxpayers foot the rocketing Bush bills with their jobless income and their sons, in a scenario worthy of Orwell...

As Bill Bonner of The Daily Reckoning puts it,

"The huge burst of government spending and additional debt did manage to hold off the day of reckoning... at least for a while. George W. Bush still has a shot at another term. Alan Greenspan is not yet regarded as the mountebank he really is. Americans are deeper in debt than ever... and going bankrupt at the fastest rate ever in history... but seem perfectly happy to do so!

So, it worked! The bubble was successfully reloaded. Investors can now buy stocks for more they are worth... and ruin themselves by borrowing for less than the real cost of money."

Another year of head-shaking...

Saturday, January 03, 2004



A fascinating tale about another of the one and only Emily...

"This is the story of how I stumbled on something rare almost beyond comprehension. On April 12, 2000, I purchased in an eBay online auction what may be the second known photograph of Emily Dickinson..." The rest of the story...


"Battery University is an institution that provides practical battery knowledge for engineers, educators, students and battery users alike. The papers address battery chemistries, best battery choices and ways to make your battery last longer.

The presentations are easy-to-read and are limited to about 1000 words."


Late afternoon yesterday, for Hatsumode (first visit to the gods) we walked down to the village to the main Shinto shrine there, whose name translates as "Eight Places" (I have to inquire into the origin of that interesting name, I'll put it on my huge list.)

As we walked down the mountain, the sky was exhibiting its awesome winter lighting, coloring and texture techniques, the towering clouds curving, silvering, rippling, purpling and ivorying with patches of blue now and then, setting the perfect tone for the spiritual mood of the village; for unlike cities, where Hatsumode is pretty much a social habit, here in the countryside it is still deep and real, still what it began as, most people around here yet maintaining direct connection with the earth and the water from which they derive their food and livelihoods-- this is where they grew up, this is what they grew up on, this is what they are made of. So Hatsumode here has all the depth of ancient simplicity.

Eight Places was clearly once a key shrine of the lakeside road, the Shrine's main power channel running as usual arrowstraight out from the main axis of the shrine complex through the entrance torii and down a small road leading directly to the Lake, a road seldom traveled anymore except by the folks who live down there, since it leads only to the Lake, though not so far back in the past the road was doubtless the major source of commerce for the village, most local commodities in olden times, not to mention fish, coming via and from the Lake, the region's major highway during the BP (before petroleum) era.

On their altars the gods get sheaves of rice, hulled rice, chestnuts, persimmons, mikan, sake, mochi and salt, and everyone within kami-radiant reach of the Shrine comes and claps and bows and then gets a cup of hot amazake (sweet sake) and stands socializing around the big fire that's always burning on the cold days of Hatsumode, preparing together for another in the thousands of years they and their ancestors have shared so far in this place.

Friday, January 02, 2004


There are spells within time and language by which words are transformed and no longer hold precisely the old meaning because of their new shape, which causes them also to be pronounced differently in the language of the current tongue, and then some generations down the etymological expressway there is an exclamation of surprise at the discovery that a given word, so native to the tip of this very own tongue, stems from a tongue that spoke the word differently a long time ago, a word that in its turning came from an even longer-ago tongue that spoke another of the same language altogether, passing the word along the length of breath from the hum of beginning, just as all things and people and tongues have been passed along without cessation if they exist today, and transcending the surprise is the enlightenment that 'your' language is not yours at all, but a borderless portion of a vast, living, autonomically shifting mindlight aurora that illumines the earth and outlives us each and can never be pinned down as so many have so humanly vaingloriously tried to do, and that this one endless breath that is language, as it breathes through you is breathing you too, breathing you into meaning, for you think along the lines and seams it allows you, as dictators (from the Latin root dicere, "to speak"), for example, have always known, and that the freedom and flexibility in your language correlate with the freedom and flexibility in your life; you are as free as your language, and as confined, unless you go beyond its edges into the wilds...

[Adapted from the version originally published in Kyoto Journal "Word" issue, #29, 1995]

Thursday, January 01, 2004



woodcut by David Lance Goines