Sunday, February 29, 2004


ladybug, ladybug
don't sleep on the firewood
it's still winter


There is Goodle News.


Excellent take at Orcinus on Mel's repulsive creation.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

SUGAWARA II: Hot Prayers

You know how it is when at last you find the grail, holy or otherwise: you get giddy. Like us, most of the folks who had managed to find the Famous Firewalking Ritual were pretty giddy, in their case perhaps moreso at the prospect of walking barefoot through fire than anything else. But when we finally stumbled upon the Renowned Shrine right where I presume it has always been, things hadn't gotten too far under way; we slowly worked our way through the crowd toward the front where the chanting was going on in front of a not-all-that-imposing shrine (you don't have to be all that imposing, if you have the gravity of age going for you, and 1300 years is doing pretty good in this Mcera), before a sort of fire altar made of cedar branches arranged over cedar logs with a bamboo rail on top, tall bamboo stalks and a gohei (in the photo at left, the cut white paper wand on the altar; sort of a two-dimensional helix, it represents the structure of kami), all ringed by shimenawa, several priests chanting the long prayer invocation leading up to the sacred conflagration.

Then a priestess in red and white began dancing an ancient ritual dance with sacred golden bells in her hand before the green altar and then around the front of the crowd, blessing us all with the uplifting sound; when the dance was concluded, the guji, the head priest of the shrine, stepped out from the crowd in vivid scarlet robes and high-ranking lacquered cap, strode to stand before the green altar and began the more to-the-immediate-point invocation, during which the many assistant priests handed him one by one the thin cedar boards of varying lengths upon which supplicants' names and hopes had been written, they gave him the largest boards first (the biggest donations), whose inscriptions the guji read out before standing each one on the altar, starting at the center, the boards getting smaller and the invocations shorter till all the boards were on the altar, then he stepped back, received the long flame-tipped bamboo pole from an assistant, lit the green altar and stood back to watch the hot prayer grow. In reality, this segued smoothly into the next part.


As any Homo sapiens who lives in proximity to animals in the wild is well aware, sapience isn't nearly all it's cracked up to be. Which brings me to cracking up. In both senses of the phrase.

As such individuals also know, there is an edge to intelligence that is never passed in the doldrums of city life; one merely has to outwit outlaws there, i.e., other and similarly sapiently constrained individuals; but out here where the wild actually lives, the laws are much higher, they touch upon what city folk might call mad cunning, as best embodied in the supernemeses of pop lit, such as Moriarty, Rex Luthor, The Joker and such like creations, beings most city folk would call fictional, not knowing of course that they stem from us ourselves but are never actually invoked in the city (which is why the pulp nemeses always operate in the city), and that we carry that dark cunning within us each at all times.

Thus it was that HE stood there--picture a full page, full-color Marvel comic panel, maybe even a cover, viewed from below with the towering figure of a man, the as yet nameless nemesis-- in rising silhouette atop a dozen or so shiitake logs strewn crazily at his feet.

As we shall see when we get further into this fascinating comic, He is laughing madly at this clear evidence of multimonkey frustration at not finding any shiitake when they visited His garden en masse, en BIG masse, while their as yet unnamed supernemesis was at the office, when their hordes covered the land like a big brown furry blanket and found nothing: no spinach (the deer got it; see post Feb 10), no onions (didn't plant any this year, mwa-ha-ha-ha), and no shiitake, because the madly laughing entity has become more than sapient (see post Feb 21), even now ripping open his gardening shirt to reveal that he has become: Supermonkey!


Classic poetry for our time at AnitaRust. I'm a fan.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

SUGAWARA I: The Famous Firewalking Ritual

So much life, so little time! Yesterday Echo and I just had to go to Sugawara Jinja (shrine) in Yasu across the Lake to see the famous Hiwatari Shinji (Firewalking Ritual) and it was indeed most impressive and multifaceted, so will take a few posts to do justice but I haven't yet sussed the photos I took so I'll just start right about here in plain old black and white by relating the most intriguing aspect of our sunny morning's journey to the renowned Shrine: the startling realization that no one in its vicinity had any idea where it was, or had ever heard of the Famous Fire Ritual being held there as it has for very possibly over 1000 years, since the Shrine is said to have been at that place for over 1300 years, apparently unfound for much of that time.

Because of the Firewalking Ritual's Fame we had assumed, and I still think quite rationally, despite the general history of such assumptions, that a precise map would be unnecessary. Thus it was that we drove, in the fog of that very assurance, straight through the clear morning to the general area, thence to traverse the narrow madding roads for some time-- through picturesque little villages and freshly watered rice paddies, all quite charming beneath the beautiful pre-Spring sky, but secondary at the moment-- looking for perhaps some pro tem signs to the Famous Fire Ritual, or there must be streams of people heading eagerly in one direction, mayhaps a column of sacred smoke in the distance: anything? Hello?

But no luck; finally we stopped and asked a lady tending a garden at a plant nursery. We showed her the crude map we'd brought, with a plant nursery marked here and another landmark marked there, and right between them: renowned Sugawara Shrine, site of the Famous Firewalking Ritual. The lady said "This right here is the very nursery you have marked on the map, but... Sugawara? Sugawara? Firewalking?" As she looked to the sky for an answer to our query, we figured she must be new here or something, but the Famous Firewalking Ritual would be starting any minute now, so...

We thanked the kind lady and pulled away, surely drawing ever closer to our renowned objective, but then maps are just pieces of paper of varying sizes and scales, aren't they, whereas the world and its contents stream by in their own way, shape and form, on a scale of strictly 1:1; you need some local, life-sized input, so we stopped a very old, guaranteed long-term local farmwoman walking along the roadside with her bicycle, a sure thing, she would definitely know the renowned Shrine, which anyway couldn't be more than a kilometer or two from where we were at the moment, with its Famous Firewalking Ritual now a millennium old, she must have seen it, certainly heard of it at least a dozen or more times in her 80 years or so of life, we asked and she said "Sugawara? Sugawara? Firewalking? What's that you say? Where?"

She too had never heard of the renowned Shrine or its Famous Firewalking Ritual (fame is funny that way), rambled on a bit oddly about other subjects, we thought maybe she was slightly over the edge into the greater truth, so we thanked her too and drove on till it began to get foresty, so we pulled over to turn around, must be going the wrong way since this clearly wasn't the right way, any more than all the other ways we'd tried thus far, and by chance there was an intelligent-looking elderly man there, getting his chainsaw ready for some forest work, so Echo got out and went over to ask him; they talked for a moment and then she ran into the forest.

By now, such odd behavior did not puzzle me in the least, for I knew from experience with such goings on, and from extended first-hand knowledge of the cosmic sense of humor, that we were onto something, there was some big entertaining going on here, whatever it was. Transcendant fun. A few moments later, Echo emerged from the forest and came back to the van. All the same, I had to ask. She said the old man had never heard of thousand-year-old Sugawara Shrine or its Famous Firewalking Ritual, but he said there were a bunch of guys in the forest taking a break, maybe one of them might know something about it; however, like so many of their neighbors, none among them had ever heard of the renowned Shrine, or its Famous Firewalking Ritual.

So, as everyone must now and then do in life, some metaphorically, others literally, we blundered on randomly this way and that, adviceless along the tiny alleys through villages and across the rice paddies in quest of the mysterious Shrine that is renowned yet unknown, until at last probability paid off and the laws of chance finally came down in our favor, in the form of a tiny sign on a telephone pole that said: "Sugawara Shrine," with an arrow pointing down a very narrow alley. So we went and the Shrine was in fact there, filled with quite a crowd for a place and an event that probably couldn't be found by so many others who wanted to be there, and then the interesting part began.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004




You might want to get it out of there into something safe. Two important articles:

Cooking the Books: U.S. Banks are Giant Casinos

The sliding dollar is already costing you

Tuesday, February 24, 2004



"When is a vegetable not a vegetable? Most of the time, actually."

Thus begins You Are What You Eat, a superb potpourri of everything you always wanted to know about a major part of your life. Especially if you're a gardener, but even more especially if you're not. And under Vegetable Empire, keep reading. Great stuff. Makes you forget all about mad cows and insane chickens.


Speaking of climate change (which if it occurs will turn my lake mountainside home into oceanside property), there I was mentally tomorrow morning, heading for the deck with my thong in one hand and my coconut butter in the other (no need for you to visualize this in any detail), there to lie on a straw mat and bathe in the first warming golden sun of Spring, catch some of the rays of Ra, assuage my pallidity, throw off the icy shackles of winter, corporeally high-five with the great outdoors etc. etc., but why go on in this mad vein: when I got up in the morning the sky was gray and the world was a Frost Museum. "Fascinating cascade of sparkling white crystals all over his goosebumps, don't you agree? And at the upper extreme, we have an excellent example of the Mount Rushmore phenomenon, believed to have occurred when..." And so on. And they call it global warming. But then they've never been here, have they, whoever they are, with or without their thongs.

Monday, February 23, 2004



"'You've got a President who says global warming is a hoax, and across the Potomac river you've got a Pentagon preparing for climate wars. It's pretty scary when Bush starts to ignore his own government on this issue,' said Rob Gueterbock of Greenpeace."


While in the farmstore yesterday I checked out the pest department for some monkey fence or deer fence, or respective repellents, but it seems there is no market for such things here, since everyone else appears only to be bothered, if you can call it that, by dogs and foxes, who you can safely bet big bucks do not eat spinach or onions. The deer-monkey combo seems only to be a problem on the odd planet where I live.

Anyway, optimist that I am, I expect deer here are a seasonal problem, seems they move higher up the mountain as it gets warmer; the only one I've seen come down to this level after Spring was being chased by dogs. So maybe just some antler-high netting in early Spring will work, until it's blown all the way to Kyoto on the seasonal winds. If I just do nothing, though, the spinach-fattened buck will be bringing his extended family back here year after year for early Spring treats.

The big problem is the monkeys, who love challenges like fences. Monkeys can jump over or pull down or make a hole through any crude fence, or simply drop from one of my gracefully spreading cherry trees into any strongly fenced enclosure of the type I will never put in my garden in a million years. Thus, by careful process of elimination I draw closer and closer to the perfect solution. How much is a prime parcel of Arctic land with a water view?

Sunday, February 22, 2004


Well, I took the broken new cheap power saw of the previous post back to the big farmer-tool store where I'd bought it a couple months ago, of course taking the receipt along (I would never in a million years be so efficient as to save a receipt, let alone find it some months later, but the miraculous Echo is; always amazes me). In that still some-decades-ago-US part of my mind where my American resides, I was expecting that basically suspicious response from an incipiently surly clerk, "you got the receipt," (from under hooded eyes) "you sure you didn't remove those screws yourself, you know what the warrantee says," etc. with all those tacitly intimidating implications, then maybe "Ok we'll send it back to the manufacturer see what happens, be a few weeks, we'll let you know, just fill out these forms completely with this smeary ballpoint pen attached to the desktop with this powerful spring coil," and so on in my American's head. (I'm sure it isn't really like that in the US any more, I'm sure customer relations have become much more loving and personal, arm-around-the-shoulder caring and we're-all-in-this-together-y, with much better and unfettered pens, since my American's time there.)

Went in to the store, found the hardware clerk busy pricing some stuff; showed him the saw, where the screws had come out and probably shot down the mountain and the blade had come off but fortunately lockstopped; he said "please wait here," took the saw into the back of the store. A couple minutes later the manager found us, bowed deeply, said "we are very sorry for the extreme shock you must have suffered at this mishap" or words to that effect. And still to that effect, bowing as to very important persons, "please accept our profound apologies and be so good as to select one of these more expensive brand-name power saws as a token of our deep regret and respect for your patronage of our humble store." I picked out a very nice Ryobi: more power, lighter etc. The manager threw in an extra new blade as well, never even asked for the receipt. Despite many similar experiences here, my American was dumbfounded yet again.

Saturday, February 21, 2004



When I went out this morning to look in vain for a tiny bolt I hadn't even known existed, that had fallen off and thereby totally disabled the power saw I'd snapped up at a bargain price only a couple of months ago, which is what I get for going anywhere near cheap power tools but when will I ever learn, I noticed on my way back from pointlessly scanning the minutiae among the grass and weeds and sawdust in search of a tiny piece of metal that the sawblade had no doubt propelled halfway down the mountain (and that also no doubt is unique and cannot be replaced from any source in this otherwise satisfactory country), that the shiitake had quietly emerged during the night.

But only partly emerged: were they resting, or had they simply been sussing the overall scenario like a tribe of groundhogs, and gone back into hibernation for who knows how long? This is the kind of sucker question I would have asked back in my days of naivete, when I was the mark who looked forward, I was the sucker who dreamed of bigger mushrooms, I was the optimist who suffered from chronic osteocraniosis brought on by the ability to think at length.

Now, however, without hesitation I began to harvest the tiny buds and still small (10-15cm) fruitings. Note how the phrase "without hesitation" goes almost unnoticed, yet transcends the entire sentence and all that follows, just as it dominated my shiitake considerations at that decisive moment, that turning point in my gardening cognition. In my pilot consciousness I realized (with a very tiny and pointless pang of homo sapiens-ish regret) that evolution is more than just a two-way street, that in fact it's an omnilane expressway traveling in all directions at all times, that I was beginning to think like a monkey, and that it was unsettlingly familiar.

Somewhere in my wilds I had returned like the prodigal ape to the font of ancient knowledge that to get the fruits of my agrarian labors I must have the morals of a simian. Take it NOW. Wait sapiensically for it to grow a bit and the monkeys won't wait, not even a second thought, they'll take it before any other monkey can get it, and that includes me. I'm relearning fast; soon I'll have the makings of an entire corporate mindset.

Friday, February 20, 2004


no matter where I sit
unsplit firewood


Intriguing fleeting closeups of the evening "star," whose surface can only otherwise be "seen" by radar through sulfuric acid clouds. These remote eyes survived for less than an hour on the solar system's hottest planet, the only one that rotates in a direction opposite to that in which it orbits the sun, which is of course a lady's prerogative.

Thursday, February 19, 2004



The semicolon: it's not a period, it's not a comma, it's an essential blend of the two, belongs in every grammar.

[TKS to Save the Semicolon for the image.]

This morning in the narrow reaches of the city on my way to the office I saw the kind of thing you might only see in a Japanese urb, it was on a narrow sidewalk on a narrow sidestreet, building wall on one side and street guardrail on the other, a slightly time-bent elderly sarariman (salary man) in standard beige trenchcoat with worn briefcase doddering along just ahead of me (actually he was probably my age or only slightly senior, but I'm not as old as I am in many ways), maundering as elder folks tend to do when they walk, and along past me dashes this big young bouncily energetic young guy in make-you-squint street duds and dayglo sneakers in a major sneaker hurry, obviously not on his way to an office but to some place fun and important (a morning date, a love hotel?).

The elder guy having drifted to the right, the young guy made to pass him in the narrow straits on the left, when the elder guy (apparently hard of hearing too) immediately began to drift implacably left, as the cosmos will always have it (the cosmos definitely has a sense of humor), causing the young guy to have to bounce in place then head toward the right, but by the time he'd reined in his stallions and was headed toward the right the elder guy had for some time been meandering toward the right also, and so it went on down the street in front of me, in what a humorless scientist would say was merely the random intersection of transit vectors, the two of them doing this dance of the young and old for about 30 meters as I tried to keep from laughing out loud at watching them waltz thus together, it was quite charming, and the young guy's respectful restraint superadmirable, until last he gave up, vaulted the rail and ran off down the street top speed to his urgent rendezvous, the elder fellow continuing slowly along in the blissful dodder that now seems to suit him so well; he's earned it, after all.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004



Despite the increasing problem of obesity in Japan, the Japanese are not getting fat on whale. The amount of whale meat the Japanese consume has become infinitessimal compared to the amount of pork, chicken and beef whose provenance and purity I won't even go into that they eat therefore they are, so the whole Japan whaling tradition argument should be in a wax museum somewhere. Bottom line is, the whalers used to whale for profit, and they want to keep doing so. And when profit is the motive, as any gold vein, rain forest or buffalo knows, profiteers will seek profit until it's all been dug up, cut down or killed. Genuine spirit-based traditions would never brought us to the brink we're at today. But then we don't have any of those left, do we. Can't take them to the bank. Eco-integrity vs. profit? No contest. Want another whale cutlet? Maybe you haven't seen this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004



From a Guardian interview with Ursula LeGuin:

Q: Perhaps you feel a bit out of step with your contemporaries?

UKL: Why should a woman of 74 want to be "in step with" anybody? Am I in an army, or something?

Monday, February 16, 2004


Yesterday afternoon after stacking some firewood, while eating lunch in which I had some yuzu kosho (lit. yuzu black pepper) on my rice I was going through my usual yuzu kosho-eating "boyoboyisthisgood" routine when I was reminded by the hot spiciness and psyche-permeating flavor that I had earlier resolved to mention yuzu kosho in these ethereal ramblings, which I am herewith doing.

If I were a betting man, which I haven't been since I finally edged into the winning column with a big night of poker some years ago, I'd be willing to wager a considerable sum that if you were to sit down for, say, a hundred years and try to imagine the flavor that would result from mashing together red pepper and yuzu, you couldn't do it. Not that I'd instigate such a long-term undertaking mind you, there are more productive things to do with your time I'm sure, like stack my firewood, but in any case, there's a simpler way to find out: just get a jar of yuzu kosho at the store of great tastes nearest you.

Concocted of red pepper and yuzu grated together into a succulent green paste that somewhat resembles genuine wasabi (Japanese horseradish), yuzu kosho has a puzzling deliciousness that, while spicy hot, is so tastebudding that at first you don't care at all about the puzzle. Nevertheless the puzzle is there in all its green transcendance, and sooner or later works its way into the deliciousness you try to figure it out as you chew and savor, but you can't even really identify the yuzu in the mix, though somehow it's definitely there, and even though the red pepper seems to contribute only its zingy heat.

In some magical fashion, red pepper and yuzu thus commingle to create a tasty gateway to another cuisinal dimension. In time, pondering that new dimension becomes integral to the deliciousness of yuzu kosho, which thus healthfully directs you savor and concentrate on what you're eating. On rice, in sauces, soups, chile, mixed in miso or mayonnaise (bet it would be good in a Bloody Mary, too), yuzu kosho is cuisinally exponential.



Association for Progressive Communications

AlterNet News

Saturday, February 14, 2004


on the Spring wind
each year it returns,
long ago


I don't know what happened exactly, as with most evolutions it's not the kind of thing you can put your finger on but this morning was as springy and blue as a newborn blue-eyed baby until somewhere in the tropics a butterfly beat its wings at around two o'clock (how antique and tick-tocky sprightly is that o'word) and big changes began small, slowly at first, little puffs of warm muscle-y wind pushing here and there like goblins; then the sky turned earnestly doom gray and a great granddaddy wind came up from the south and blew crows around all floppy in the air like black asterisks among pine cones and tree branches and whatever else wasn't tied down, I had stones on my tarps, and then a mountain-range-sized sky Niagara began its march down from the mountaintop bringing silver rain, a warm rain with seemed to be no space between the drops, in what must be the first significant upheaval of Spring and party time for my shiitake and tilled garden beds so the monkeys and deer can know the meaning of gastronomy. Earlier, I'd been thinking to go for an evening hike up in the forest, but now I'm definitely going. No way I'll stay home with a party like this going on.


Well there I was, all deja-vuey without even knowing it yet, heading out basket-in-hand to get some of Bambi's uncle's leftovers-- the greens the gluttonous stag hadn't eaten for breakfast the other morning (see Feb 10 post), specifically the komatsuna and the vitamina, which apparently were not to the picky beast's taste since he'd eaten only the spinach right to the stubs-- and finding in a complex deja-vuey melange the beds of aforesaid greens to be as sparklingly emerald flat as said spinach bed, the deer apparently after a night or two of wild consideration (they are ruminants, after all) having decided to accept second best and then what the hell, third, you only live once, and when will an opportunity like this again present itself. I think today I'll go shopping for some kind of force field that excludes everything but me and vegetables.

Friday, February 13, 2004



"Halliburton, meanwhile, is contending with two new scandals. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company had overcharged the government by sixteen million dollars on a bill for the cost of feeding troops at a military base in Kuwait. And last month the company made an astonishing confession: two of its employees, it said, had taken kickbacks resulting in overcharges of $6.3 million, in return for hiring a different Kuwaiti subcontractor in Iraq. Halliburton said that the employees, whose names it declined to reveal, had been fired and the funds returned. The day after this disclosure, the Pentagon awarded yet another contract to Halliburton, worth $1.2 billion, to rebuild the oil industry in southern Iraq."

--The New Yorker



Interesting satellite images of Japan (eg. land mass, surface temperature, currents, phytoplankton, oil slicks, before and after the Great Hanshin Earthquak etc.) and the rest of the world, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

[w/thanks to Ken's eagle eye.]

Thursday, February 12, 2004


When you go for a walk with a child, as I do so often with Kaya when she comes to visit (it's a crime to keep new legs indoors all day in a house in the country, to say nothing of legs that have some mileage), you are reminded - in case you had forgotten - of all the yearning and learning and true adventure there is in every single minute of life.

Seeds, weeds, roads, where did the berries go, holding pods, who made this path, what is the frost, where are the deer, if there are rabbits why can't we see them and what kind of trees are those, when do the acorns fall and what is that, sensing wild beasts large and small out there unseen but living and moving - how stirring and inspiriting it all is in truth, with a nice little bit of trepidation - and if you are paying attention in any real way, and not merely serving as an accompanying corporeal presence (perhaps, heaven forbid, an authoritarian representative of some kind) you must drop everything you've got going on way up there in the heady heights and come down to where the adventure is, return for a time to the child you once were (perhaps sadly orphaned all these decades).

When you go for a walk with a child you'd best not be all tenterhooked with expectation and directed with direction, because with a child in the lead, or even in tow, you never know the turnings you'll take (children can turn on an atom at any level) or where your twofold path will lead. That's another gift children give, in recalling to you the true grace of realworld paths: that they can lead anywhere, a grace so easy to forget after years of advance on cut-to-the-chasedly optimized career etc. paths, with their cradle-to-grave governmental perspective.

That is the very same amnesia by which you may have forgotten that you too were once able to go wherever you pleased, a privilege you now realize, with a pang of some proportion, was a valuable privilege indeed: however could you have given that up, you might ask yourself, among the many other questions you haven't asked in a long while, perhaps even never before. And maybe as a result you'll hear the answers you've always carried inside, until before too long wherever you go it is as though you are walking with a child.

The way I try to walk when Kaya isn't here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Early this morning Kaya (who is staying with us for a few days) and I went out looking for winter berries (I'd seen a lot of them up there in a very special patch not long ago) and found that they were all gone, had been eaten by birds and other berry-hungry littlings. But as is common in natural relations, our grief was brief. To Kaya's great delight, we found large, still sun-hidden patches of bamboo and vines festooned with hoarfrost, as though everything in those places was in black and white, the frost icicling off the limbs, the curling vines and remnant leaves like tiny crystal sawteeth. Kaya delighted in running her finger along those icy strings, laughing aloud as the minicrystals piled up on her finger, then before her eyes those little heaps melted from her very own fingerheat into what turned out to be water, over and over again. We stopped at every patch of frost along our walk, so that Kaya could do much of the sun's work, laughing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004


No, I'm not going back to consuming the flesh of other creatures in rare chunks and gobbets, I just instantly happened to recollect the hearty flavor of the venison my uncle used to bring us every deer season when I went out into the garden yesterday morning to get some spinach for lunch and found the entire bed looking like the rich green exclusive carpet in the lobby of that classic hotel in Hollywood, whose name understandably eluded me.

I shook my head to clear my eyes, but no matter how long I shook it, the large and only yesterday vigorously growing spinach bed remained as flat and smooth as if a herd of sheep had just come through. There was only one set of tracks, though: the hoofprints of a deer bouncing around with the sheer joy to be found in a pre-dawn feast of green lusciousness. (Imagine the savor and mouthfeel of several square meters of fresh baby spinach, after an entire winter of dried bamboo leaves.) No doubt it was the buck who's been at the biwa tree: I went over to check that and sure enough, he'd had the biwa tree for dessert and used no napkin, just left the bedraggled branches hanging where he'd broken them off to get at the best parts.

So in a sort of deeply reflexive, not to say Pavlovian way, I began to recall the increasingly appealing taste of venison. Nothing really omnivorous mind you, just a brief hallucination brought on by a sudden deficiency of spinach, aggravated by biwa trouble. I love deer; they go great with mashed potatoes and gravy, nice spinach salad on the side.

Monday, February 09, 2004





Yesterday while tilling the ginger beds, for immediate use I harvested some of the Oshoga and Koshoga (large and small ginger) that was protruding a bit from the ground, since I could still see where it was before it was covered up by tillage. The stems of course die down in Fall, and new stems will emerge with Spring, but for the duration there is no knowing where the roots are except by digging, possibly damaging them.

When later I got the roots into the house and cleaned them, I learned something important: the portion that had been aboveground was dried out and spongy, hence no longer ginger. The actual firm spicy racy ginger commenced at what had been ground level.

Therefore, keep your ginger roots completely covered with soil at all times, even when through swelling due to growth they push up out of the ground. If you don't, the portion above ground will be unusable at harvest. I speak of course only of actual ginger; metaphorically you got ginger, let it show.

Sunday, February 08, 2004



In my random mountainside wanderings today I made the surprising discovery that, on the other side of the very big clearing that comprises all the rice paddies between here and where the forest resumes its work, a whole new little community is burgeoning right there among the trees on the upper slope. I often look in that direction when I enjoy the panorama at dawn, or in pauses in my work throughout the day, and at sunset (of course as well as on starry or moony nights), but I never noticed any building activity or woodstove smoke coming from over there, or even signs of traffic; this afternoon, though, I found that there are several very nice, new and large houses of nature-friendly design over there now, right in among the trees, the owners clearly caring for the surroundings.
Since they're not members of the water co-op as we are on this side (our water co-op, sourced by the mountain streams, was founded about 30 years ago; we joined upon buying land here), as far as I can tell our new neighbors have done the next best thing and are getting their water from rainfall, via their roofs into large holding tanks, as we used to do in Spain using cisternas. It must be quite enough water, given the amount of rainfall here. Most heartening to see and know that some folks are leaving the cities, taking up caring residence on the land and ready to accept the many new natural labors and responsibilities involved in such husbandry. It is proof of their care and effectiveness at doing this that until today I didn't even know they were there.


Last night at just about the first twinkling of full-moonrise, Echo and I set out into the cold night on a long full-moon walk across the flank of the mountain, following farmer roads lit barely perceptibly by starlight. The first red of the moon gave little illumination, and but a hint of color to the shivered mirror of the Lake; then as it rose our shadows strengthened and the Lake lit up, as did the nuances of the road, the countryside and the snow capping the mountains above us, with Venus hovering over all like a crowning diamond.

From then on we walked in a rainbow of light as the moon went through its changes, from ruby through topaz to pearl and then silver, doing cosmic dramatics with the various low-riding clouds that drifted slowly along in the shape of swords and horses and other things that clouds can be.
At last though the moon was alone in the higher sky, approaching its noon. Orion was bright in the South, and I recalled how in Spain where we lived without electricity and had no clock I used to tell time at night by the location of Orion. With that a door opened, and I began to travel in other times as I walked. At the heart of bright silence on a windless night in winter the mind floats through its own cosmos, much as the moon does.

Saturday, February 07, 2004


When returning home last night, while motorcycling up the mountain beneath the full moon I looked forward as always to arriving at the house and, once afoot again walking out into the road in the sudden dark to look at the moon, at that time about an arm's-length handlength above the Lake, because it is always an inspiring light show.

Usually when the moon is full and the sky clear and still, the Lake is calmish, the moonlight stretching in a broad but clearly defined silver band from this shore to the island off the other coast, but last night, even though there was no wind up on the mountain, the Lake was stippled all over with brightness as by a Matisse brush, the moonlight a tarnished silver vibration everywhere on the water: stronger beneath the moon itself, yet widening and so waning as it approached the far shore. Somehow it reminded me of the way memories are...



"Perhaps immediately most dramatic is that it yields a resolution to what has long been considered the single greatest mystery of the natural world: what secret it is that allows nature seemingly so effortlessly to produce so much that appears to us so complex.
It could have been, after all, that in the natural world we would mostly see forms like squares and circles that we consider simple. But in fact one of the most striking features of the natural world is that across a vast range of physical, biological and other systems we are continually confronted with what seems to be immense complexity. And indeed throughout most of history it has been taken almost for granted that such complexity--being so vastly greater than in the works of humans--could only be the work of a supernatural being.
But my discovery that many very simple programs produce great complexity immediately suggests a rather different explanation. For all it takes is that systems in nature operate like typical programs and then it follows that their behavior will often be complex. And the reason that such complexity is not usually seen in human artifacts is just that in building these we tend in effect to use programs that are specially chosen to give only behavior simple enough for us to be able to see that it will achieve the purposes we want."

"In the existing sciences whenever a phenomenon is encountered that seems complex it is taken almost for granted that the phenomenon must be the result of some underlying mechanism that is itself complex. But my discovery that simple programs can produce great complexity makes it clear that this is not in fact correct. And indeed in the later parts of this book I will show that even remarkably simple programs seem to capture the essential mechanisms responsible for all sorts of important phenomena that in the past have always seemed far too complex to allow any simple explanation."

Excerpted from Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science, offered FREE online. [Simple registration required for deep access.]

Friday, February 06, 2004



"The result is an amazing universe of structure, spirituality, and mathematical intrigue."

Amazing is the word. Even the ki vectors, the arms angled in meditation cradling the radiant hara, the properly spaced knees, the Boddisatvas emanating from the Buddha, the snails covering his hair; all this there, implicit in the very formula of form...


Past Springs I've always trustingly bought my potting soil from local gardening supply places where each year they put out dozens of pallets of mind-bogglingly different brands, and each year, out of disappointment with the previous year's potting results, in the fresh new faith that comes with Spring I've tried a new brand so I've tried them all, and every one has been terrible, I can't readily imagine why anyone would keep selling potting soil that didn't pot worth a damn, but by the time you find discover that the potting soil is lousy it's too late, so you won't buy that brand again, you'll try another and in that way it keeps on going I guess, and someone gets rich. Then there's the "it must be the rain" or the sun, or I'm doing something wrong, which attitude tends to keep one entombed in the boneheaded realms.

Finally, though, I asked an upmountain neighbor who runs a couple of top quality nurseries in the region, and from whom I get my superb mulch, about this problem and he smiled knowingly, said all that mass production stuff was the pits; he had just what I needed, one type for planter flowers and one type for potting herbs and starting vegetables.

He delivered it all last night, at a neighborly price, and there they were all stacked up in the bright blue crisp and sunny morning, my fresh new bags of special garden mulch and fresh new bags of the best quality potting soil, and there I was all ready to dive into dirt and get my knees and fingernails grungy and drip sweat into earth but I had to go into the big city and meet people and sit at a desk and not think about dirt or compost for amazingly long stretches of time that are still stretching on even now, amid talk of clients and copy without looking too much at the sky out the tinted windows, no thoughts of seeds or buds, blank the mind to earthworms, moles, ladybugs; forget about birdsong and focus only on files and folders and sheafs of paper and jottings and doodles and keyboards and content production when all the while I can feel the trowel, I'm not doing too well at this not-thinking-of-dirt thing with all that blue sky out there and that warbler this morning

Thursday, February 05, 2004



Bukowski link under Words in the sidebar.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004



Not long after we first moved here, one of the older farmers in the village told me that farming on this mountainside has been going on since way before history, that this was in fact one of the earliest rice-growing regions in Japan.

My own mountainside land, in contrast, being on one of the ridges and therefore unfarmed during those same millennia of which we speak, sets me back about three or four thousand years in terms of soil preparation. So the farmers here have a good head start over me, and can get directly to farming every year, which they do, in fact they are beginning to till their rich, pure, utterly stoneless and disgustingly equitably nourished soil right now, whereas I must once again spend the first few days doing the task that the farmers' ancient ancestors wisely spread out over a couple thousand years, i.e., removing stones. In the first years, the stones I dug up were as big as Neanderthal basketballs, and went into making the stone walls that hold up my terraces, as briefly chronicled here.

Each year since then, as I minimize the millennia by usually tilling only 50-80 tsubo (depending on monkey-related prognostications and travel plans), the stones I turn up have gotten steadily smaller, the initial larger ones now bordering my garden plots, the later apple-to-egg sized ones serving as ABMs (Antimonkey Ballistic Missiles); the yet smaller ones were merely tossed onto the garden pathways, by which means my plan was to create gravel walks, albeit in the slowest conceivable way.

Today as I was tilling the first plot of the year, about 10 tsubo whereon I will plant some early bush beans, I noticed that I was harvesting my gravel as though it were diamonds. The stones I was finding were getting alarmingly small, with yet a rather large gravel requirement pending. These were quail egg-sized stones I was unearthing, and I had to look for them, even dig a bit to stir them up, and they were few and far between.

Gravel walks are ravenous for stones, and if I want to finish mine I'll have to dig much deeper, but if I do that I'll be back to very big rocks again and will have to find something other to do with them than build stone walls, of which I have quite enough now. This is a dilemma I had not foreseen. Maybe a monkey maze, whence there is no return...


Just over the mountains in Kyoto, Nils (of Alive in Kyoto) and his wife are about to enter that transcendental, reality-changing life phase called parenthood, and, not wishing to know in advance whether the baby is a boy or girl, like all parents throughout history until ultrasound must come up with names for both. Not so surprisingly, they have the name already if it's a girl, but not if it's a boy, and are asking for advice and suggestions on the matter.

I say 'not so surprisingly' because it seems to be a common experience (at least in international marriages in Japan) that the girl's name just pops into the parents' heads, whereas the boy's name is a struggle. The same thing happened to Echo and I with both our children, and to a number of parents of our acquaintance. Our daughter Kasumi was named years before she was born-- fortunately as a girl, since, living in fate-tempting casualness on an island in the Mediterranean, we hadn't come up with a satisfactory boy's name just in case.

Three years later, therefore, when in Japan our second baby was nearing arrival we were more aware of the potential difficulties (eventual Japanese/US nicknames, Japanese permissible kanji/birth registry naming deadlines etc.), so gave the matter our full attention. Yet again, however, the girl's name came easily, but right up to the birth day the boy's name eluded us.

Then, when with that insistence so typical of our son the baby turned out to be a boy, we spent most of our waking hours mixing and matching and narrowing down, trying to come up with a name before the registration deadline. We wanted something unique, expressive, euphonic and with a nickname the child could bear in either parental country. Right at the deadline we came up with the name Kitaya (Joy-Abundant-Arrow). I was thinking that his comfy nickname would be Kit, but within a couple weeks after he was born his older sister was calling him Keechy-kun, so Keech became his nom-de-vivre. Some things are better left out of parental hands. I wish Nils and his wife the best of luck in the wondrously nameful times ahead. May they rest assured that, once the name is named, what follows will be pure delight.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004



Now is that node of year when out the night window are new constellations, when tomorrow promises more than today, when in the day the sun seems warmer and the trees stand straighter, when the knife-edge of cold has dulled and you're wearing one layer too many, when you'd rather walk and take deep breaths than ride, when the joy is bigger than the chore, in an air spiced with a new bit of savory moisture, when any snow that falls is only another whisper of winter's farewell, when you need less firewood, when new birds arrive to try out the old melodies and the farmers come kicking at their newly dark soil with summer on their faces, when certain musky fragrances begin to waft upon the air as from ancient eroticisms of earth and sky, when any day now the offspring will begin to emerge in the shyness that beautifies all new eternity, and there's a fresh sparkle in every eye at the brand-new sameness there is everywhere...


Welcome to the M-files. Those green cars are everywhere...


In other words, the long-term experiment with a billion heads is still ongoing.

Monday, February 02, 2004



"Scientists have known for years that tiny particles such as soot or metal powders can, when inhaled, cause lung disease, cancer and other ailments. But the laws of chemistry and physics work differently when particles get down to the nanoscale. As a result, even substances that are normally innocuous can trigger intense chemical reactions -- and biological damage -- as nanoscale specks.

"Last summer... under contract to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Utah-based Sequoia Pacific Research Co. sprayed a proprietary 'nanostructured solution' on 1,400 acres in New Mexico to try to stabilize the soil after forest fires destroyed the local vegetation. Company officials will not reveal the ingredients in their product, saying only that it does not contain engineered nanoparticles. It works, they said, by triggering cross-reactions among naturally occurring nanoparticles in the soil.

"But activists are upset that what appears to have been the world's largest environmental release of a product designed to operate on the nanoscale occurred without federal review or impact studies."

Just what we need: invisible technology.


Saturday night took the gondola upmountain through the downgliding mists to see the Goshinka Matsuri, held each year at this time atop Horai-san (Mountain of Heavenly Beauty is one translation), so named after the apocryphal peak whence Buddha ascended into the great hereafter. I'd seen the fireworks every year from the house, but had never gone up to see the event itself.

The Shinto festival (the Japanese mix religions with spiritual aplomb), held at one end of the ski area, involved a fire ceremony calling upon the gods to preserve nature, watch over the mountains and protect mountain lovers like the thousands of folks who were up there in the clouds taking part on skis or on foot (me), every one of them dressed for the occasion far better than yours truly, who wore merely mid-mountain clothes, as per my level of residence, and had worked up a good sweat by walking part of the way up, so arrived, in a manner of speaking, on the arctic scene in my bathing suit fresh from the beach.

I therefore spent a lot of time going from heat source to heat source in between watching thousands of skiers suddenly stop still to watch the goings-on here and there; then came the fireworks that filled the raggedly rolling mists with washes of all colors like a Whistler dream in the sky (BTW, Whistler always wanted to visit Japan; his famous Nocturne in Blue and Gold is said to have been inspired by a Hiroshige woodcut).

The entire shiveringly memorable event took but a flash-frozen hour or so, then back down through the slanting snow toward the distant lights that flickered around the edges of the dark emptiness that was the Lake in the clear night below, followed by a further walk down through warmer and warmer levels to the house in the relatively snowy tropics of the lower mountainside, nice warm woodfire waiting.

Sunday, February 01, 2004


looking up at night--
they fit in these eyes,
all those galaxies