Sunday, November 30, 2008


This morning we had the co-op work event, so everyone who lives in this section - and a few who don't but have vacation homes here - went up to the gathering place on an upmountain forest road with a thick overhead canopy of trees and there set about our collective task, which was to clear the debris from one of the roadside culverts for the waterpipe soon to be laid along within it.

We all set about clearing the culvert and raking the leaves from the road, of the kind less traveled and so heavily leaf-strewn. I was using a big traditional Japanese bamboo rake and soon worked out a system, got into the rhythm of it-- down one side of the road for a while, then back up the other side, gathering the leaves in a long pile in the middle, thence to be scooped up and thrown into the roadside woods (I'm gonna go back and get some for my compost pile) and as I got into the hypnosis that attends all extended and worthy tasks, I reached a part of the road that, due to the shade of canopy, had wide beds of moss on both sides near the culverts: a rich, green, thick forest moss, growing on the dirt that tends to gather there in the light rain runoff, and soon I hit a patch of sunlight where the low wintering sun shone in from the open end.

When I began to rake those leaves away, the moss there, abruptly freed from that long beneath, all at once gleamed with a happy sunlit green that was almost startling, it glowed like a jewel brought suddenly from darkness into light, and across that emerald velvet were strewn bright golden ginkgo leaves, tiny ruby and topaz momiji leaves, amber beech leaves, imperial jade oak leaves edged with gold, leaves of every kind, color and size that grew around there, it was a galaxy of leaves strewn there across a vivid green sky lit by a sun of its own, it was like staring out among the stars at night, but here I was in the morning sunlight working, yet learning in a new way that the difference between night and day is purely local, as after all is the difference between leaves and stars, between moss and sky—

Locally, when the road was done, on the way home I walked with rake over shoulder past all the trees that still wore leaves along the roadside way-- the dayglow momiji, some die-hard oaks, bright orange wild persimmons here and there where leaves used to be, all wrapped in an eye-watering blue autumn sky with a few high clouds towering far off, from which was falling and blowing toward me on the brisk wind the barest vapor of a rain-- I’d felt it then looked for and saw it, whirling like diamond dust across the blue between, and then ahead of me on my way lay a glass-clear view of the sapphire slab of the Lake stretching out down below, and I thought to myself what a privilege to live such vistas in the morning...

Friday, November 28, 2008


Our good friend Sogyu came by the other day to talk about our driveway, we want to have a new driveway, nothing fancy mind you, just one that doesn't develop potholes every year and that can be shoveled in winter - given that we live on such a slope - and so that Echo can drive right up close to the house in the winter and fully open the car door, yet not slide down the mountain.

Sogyu built the stone wall in front of our house several years ago and did a great job, so there he was on a chilly evening ready to talk driveway, and in one of my usual seeming non-sequiturs I asked him about his monkey problems way out where he lives in the countryside over on the other beyond of these mountains, where all those monkeys must be ogling his garden day and night, and he said he didn't have a monkey problem, a statement that rendered me speechless as he went on to say that he did have a deer problem though, they had put up high nets around the 2 or 3 thousand soybean plants they'd planted last year, but then while they were away for a time the deer had chewed through the netting (large opening!) and then through all the soy plants, a total loss.

I was still speechless though so I didn't think to ask what kind of netting they had used. Reason I asked about monkeys - as if you don't know by now - I've put some netting on hoops over my rows in the garden, as a prototype test against monkeys mainly-- the wild pigs haven't bothered me much yet, but now that I have potatoes (cue theremin riff)...

I know that the deer come through every night and would gladly eat just about everything I have planted, as they have in my prenet past, but I can tell they seem especially to desire the tender leaves of delicious boston lettuce, the delicate fronds of luscious rainbow chard and the toothsome bunches of savory spinach, because every morning when I come out to check and harvest for lunch I see where the deer have fervently tried to push their hooves through the net, or maybe it's their noses, deer fervency can be pretty intense.

I picture them straining for all those illicitly free green preciouses-- just inches-- mere inches-- away from yearning teeth-- and falling short. The vision warms my heart with delight as I tighten the nets once more. These are tough, multifiber plastic nets, with no sign (so far) of deer teeth attempting to chew through them. Sogyu, being a nice guy, must be using tasty cotton nets... Though I still don’t know if these nets of mine will withstand the wiles of monkeys, who have oodles of godgiven time and hunger to outsmart me...

As to what's happening with the driveway, I have no idea. When Sogyu comes again this weekend, I'll be sure to ask him why in the world he has no monkey problems.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Great moves coming up in the big skydance...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Yesterday afternoon I was up in the loft editing my brains out when Echo yelled Look out into the garden! I was up like a shot ready to make some big noise, thinking it was a horde of monkeys after my new onions or the last of my shiitake, but to my pleasant surprise it was The Baron himself, in full regalia, after a long night of heavy cruising and courtship, of lovey-dovey deer-yelling all over the place, a lot of of it right in our garden, a popular wild bordello at this time of year.

But here he was in broad daylight! He never leaves his palace during the day, let alone wander among his subjects out in the open like that, browsing lazily on the various herbs of ours (actually his, under deer jurisprudence) that he likes to indulge in when passing through as though it were night and we asleep.

I ran to get my camera and snapped a shot through the loft window just before his lordship suspected the presence of paparazzi and glided off into the neighboring woods. Turned out I'd had had the camera set for indoor lighting (having last night taken a pic of the holiday lights we put up, to send to the really grandkids), so the only known photo of The Baron is in blue. Seems fitting somehow, for that stately mien-- like a picture on a wall in a big room of a noble house, The Baron in his blue phase, looking good even after a long night of rampant passion... (Note background of monkey-tossed shiitake logs...)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Flashback > from PLM November 2003


After Kaya left a few evenings ago, as I was emptying my pockets before going to bed I found a leaf that she had picked up on our afternoon walk that day, from among all the other leaves lying on the ground. I suppose she had picked it out because of its unusualness in being half crimson and half bright yellow, the colors divided right down the middle of the leaf, had picked it up and given it to me, I had looked at it, and remarked upon it, and thought and I suppose said, in the brief instant of attention young children allow for such things, how special it was that she had seen the very beauty in that particular leaf among all the others. Then I had put the leaf in my pocket and forgotten about it as we continued on our walk. When I found it in my pocket that night, I put it on the table beside my bed. Now for the days since, each time I go to bed at night and each time I rise in the morning the beauty of that leaf, at first so bright and attention-grabbing, has begun to fade a little bit as the red weakens toward brown and the yellow does too. Soon it will be the one color all the other leaves have become, so is grabbing my attention in a different way. It is a little record, there, of the life of all things, once in their greenness, thence to their fullest beauty, that falls in time to the beginning children give to us.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


How like our own rooted life, the slow life of the land. The paddies are all shorn now, the gifts of sun, rain and earth have been taken home. The fields lie golden in the slanting light of the last of day, the cut stalks yet sending up new shoots in timeless green hope, vested in the same faith we accord tomorrow.

Their shearing marked the end of summer, now their turning marks the end of fall. All the more beauteous for their loss of glory, the paddies gild the mountainside.

They are done now, these fields, unattended but by the wood doves, who come in pairs to search for overlooked grains, until soon the long white sleep of winter begins again to ready the land for spring, as it readies ourselves.

Friday, November 21, 2008


I had never seen a funnier waiting room in my life.

The expression on the walls, the look on the door combined to drive me into shrieks of laughter.

I was rolling on the floor, my sides aching, tears streaming from my eyes when the secretary called my name, announcing my turn for the job interview.

I straightened myself as best I could and brushed the floor dust off my suit, still chuckling at the color of the carpet and stifling guffaws at the lamps on the hilarious stands at the ends of the outrageous couch, as I gathered my papers together and wiped my eyes with my tie.

By the time I opened the door to the inner office, overcoming a new surge of laughter at the sight of the ludicrous doorknob, I had gained sufficient control over myself to present a reasonably staid appearance, suited to the position for which I was applying, that of bank manager.

The board of interviewers, however, was seated around such a side-splitting table that I lost control at once and doubled over roaring, dropping my briefcase onto a carpet even funnier than the one I'd just left, and going into absolute convulsions at each boffo question the comical crew asked me.

It was too much; I nearly crack up even now, just thinking about it.

Anyway, I howled all the way through the interview-- you should have seen their ties! I simply couldn't contain myself!

At the end of it, they had the secretary help me out of there - I was absolute jelly by then - and later I was informed that I had gotten the job.

As you can see, I don't laugh at all any more. Now that I actually manage money, it isn't the least bit funny.

Used to read this at the Kyoto Connection, over 20 years ago,
perhaps anticipating our current surreal global financial comedy;
a slightly different version was published later, in Kyoto Journal #19...
w/thanks to Ken Rodgers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Monday, November 17, 2008


I was out there this fine early evening finishing up with splitting firewood (what else? actually, I also earlier transplanted about 500 onion sandwiches worth of red and white onions) when I heard Dr. Crow up there atop his pole, where he likes to make random stops during the day to gather key information on general Brady activities (such as onion planting) and where at evening he always makes his final stop to survey his vast realms, make sure everything is buttoned down for the night just the way he likes it, before winging off to his forest penthouse.

But the sound I was hearing from the good doctor was not his usual raucous yet commanding note; it was more like a caHOINK, caHOINK, caHOINK, caHOINK, ongoing at regular deep-breath intervals. Finally I looked up and shouted to the dark silhouette up there: “Whadda you, been hangin’ around with pigs or sumthin?” (We’re completely informal amongst ourselves up here on the mountain.) But then my eyes focused and it wasn’t Crow I was talking to, it was a much bigger silhouette, in fact it was a huge pinecone of feathers up there like I’d never seen, going caHOINK, caHOINK, caHOINK, then my eyes focused more and I saw the scimitar beak: it was Master Hawk, standing austerely silent in his humungifying pineconeness. So where were all the caHOINKs coming from?

Then I saw Hawk turn and look down like a king at a peasant, and out from behind the pole, hopping mad on the wires below Hawk, came Crow, caHOINKing up at the usurper of his rightful place, trying to be annoying enough to get Hawk to take wing, because then Crow would have the advantage and could chase him away. Hard to believe, but in airborne tangles, floppy-flying Crow is more agile; but when sitting there like that in Crow’s fave spot (and right at Realm surveying time, no less!) Hawk had the upper wing-- all he had to do was put on his impressive featherbristle show to double his size, and it was working.

Crow would be just about to attack but then think better of it, honing his razor beak overandover on the wire and mumbling Ok, Ok, this time I really mean it, you better watch out, and then a little bit of a Crow feint and those huge bristly wings up there would instantly spread their WHOA! shadow and Crow would have second thoughts a fourth time and then a tenth (birds have lots of time for this kind of stuff). Finally Crow cawed The Hell with This and flew away with a huffy wingbeat yelling an angry hacking sound you could tell he was really pissed, he never flies that straight or with that intensity, grumbling all the way to his penthouse.

Hawk savored his victory, remaining proudly bristly as he surveyed HIS realm, which interestingly included one strange featherless biped, engaged in an odd activity involving what appeared to be segments of trees.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


They used to say it was 40, back when things were darker and less open, but 60 is where life begins now, life that's at last on the path of your own, as last it was when you were a child, before school and becoming, career and family filled it all up to the brim with hopefully happy and fulfilling goodness.

But now, if you've been paying attention and truly living, you've done it right: that part is complete, the perforce part is finished and it's all receiving now, when life reaches its most personal culmination and things get so much better in so many ways than they ever did at any age transition gone before. The dread is past, like the fear of a first date. Because now, if you've been living, you've earned what's ahead.

Even if you retire early (I "retired" (I despise that dismissive word, use it only when I must refer to the artificial concept) at the age of 30, stayed retired for 10 years of wanderment, then started a family and unretired, taking up a job that during my travels I'd learned that I like. It was all on my terms. Still is. The only terms there should be for a true life. Fact is, I guess I've stayed "retired.")... Like an unlived life, where did the rest of that sentence go?

For me 60 was an easy transition, no different in essence from 0 to 10, 20 to 30, 30 to 40 or 40 to 50. Only now is more focused, with less distraction, for the road ahead is at last my own.

I remember reading some reporters saying that boomers were carrying into their old age some risky behaviors from when they were young - don't Bogart that joint, my friend - and that many of the boomers now have problems that earlier generations didn't bring to old age. Hogwash, as my Gramps used to say, back when it was common to wash hogs. Anybody seen my bong?

I'd say that a greater percentage of boomers are reaching the high promontory of age with a better view of the big pixels than has ever happened before in human history. If anything, that means changes for the good, in my book. A few didn't make it because for them aging didn't bring wisdom. But that's not unique to the boomers. Let's get real here, as most boomers have been doing all along.

And as I said, anybody seen my bong? Metaphorically speaking.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Can't help thinking Basho would have loved this.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Yesterday morning I was over on the other land clearing up the last of the new firewood, my eyes looking at the maul and wedge, the grain of the oak sections I was manhandling or among the downed branches for limbs of worthwhile size, hunched over and gazing downward all the time, without thought, rapt in the mu of continuous and autofocused labor, when for a break while edging my way through downed branches I stretched, looked up and there beheld, rising into the blue, all the gold of the tall old ginkgo tree that stands beside the pond, arms spread wide as though reaching to embrace the sky, reveling in existence like an exulting dancer covered in golden feathers tingling in the air--

All that bright and sudden yellow alone amid the evergreens-- it stopped me in my tracks, snatched my emptied mind from mundane tasks and filled it to the brim with things that made me reach for understanding, comprehensions beyond the brackets of my life and its reaches, it was splendid to stand there, as if new, before such living beauty, beauty offered without reward. This was a wild ginkgo, in its native autumnal costume.

Perhaps the most anciently originating tree species surviving today - a living fossil in fact - ginkgo [from the Japanese gin (silver) + kyo (apricot)] must have been showing their gold to empty air, in the eons before we humans came along with our burgeoning capacity to enjoy-- and that's where it hit me, right in that capacity. It wasn't art, it wasn't scenery, it was just a tree but more, arms reaching for heaven just as ours still do in the reflex of high emotion, an ancient stance for both tree and man-- I just stood there and looked at it long where it stood, a single yellow tree against the dark green mountains, but what a gift to a tired man, a break from labor, an opening of mind, an exchange of languages ancient before my time...

It was almost as though the ginkgo had been standing there quietly all along, holding its pose, waiting-- somebody's gonna look up any minute-- wait-- wait--- now: there, he's turning: ta-DA!! It was like that, it was a communication that happened, I don't know why or how, and likely never will, but the ginkgo was telling me in unmistakable terms about humans, color, dance, trees, art, time, knowledge, thought, communication, history, life, patience, it's a long list, and just days from now that golden gift of leaves will all be fallen. I have to go back again. Why does this tree want to tell me so much?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


But then they'd never give their money away without a trace like this...

"The Federal Reserve [a corporation privately owned by unidentified parties; questionably founded in the same year as the federal income tax] is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans from American taxpayers or the troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in September they would comply with congressional demands for transparency in a $700 billion bailout of the banking system. Two months later, as the Fed lends far more than that in separate rescue programs that didn't require approval by Congress, Americans have no idea where their money is going or what securities the banks are pledging in return." Bloomberg

There's a big reason the Fed and economics are not part of the basic public education curriculum, as is now becoming clear... Public Servants these guys are not.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Late this afternoon, just after I'd dumped some kitchen garbage on the compost pile and was soon going to get the shovel to cover it up, I was out on the deck moving firewood over to the firewood holder by the big glass doors when the crow scout who's assigned to the top of the pole beside the inner road along the back of our property, and who's in charge of monitoring the general status of the Brady area, began to call loudly and repeatedly in Crow (extended translation for reader convenience; the actual Crow version is loud, brusque and devoid of grammatical niceties, sounds like nothing more than repeats of the syllable CAW! to a non-speaker): "Hey you guys Brady just dumped some what looks like good stuff over here we should go through: garbage alert garbage alert now hear this, gather round," and one by one his relatives, schoolmates, office colleagues, guys he's met in the air and who not began to gather, but since I was right out there on the deck all they could do was scan the beak-tempting delicacies from a safe treetop distance-- Is that fishbones I see? Dibs on that fishhead! Those corncobs are MINE and such like beaky droolings from up in the trees around, a prefestive confab, but soon they got impatient and started mumbling to each other about how the hell long is he going to stay out here fiddling with those dumb pieces of wood, then they began to try to softly encawrage me to go into the house, that would be best, their tone reminding me of those financial guys who a while back tried to talk me into investing in a recession-proof hedge fund, same kind of guys that just ruined the world economy, except in the present case the matter at hand was clearly garbage to begin with...

Finally the feathery salesmen gave up with the niceties and while I was hunched down gathering another armful of wood two honcho crows glided quietly down there to check it out. They were just beginning to poke about in the decadent buffet when I rose from my firewood hunch up there on the deck, arms spread wide, dropping a rumble of firewood, and went BOOYA! The duo freaked as only crows can, took off on wings outta hell, all the lesser crows following and what a ruckus, complaining something like those big firms on Wall Street that none of this was their fault, they'd done the best they could, they shouldn't be allowed to go hungry, a few hundred billion would do for starters...

I had to cease their impudence in my presence or they would have taken the place over. Crows and financiers have to be taught their place in the scheme of things, which is somewhere way below investors...

Friday, November 07, 2008


Damn, the leaves are falling...

It didn't used to be this way. I used to look forward to the rainbow of leaves cascading in whispers over the days as the air grew cool, back when autumn was a delightful time of year with just that touch of sadness at the steadfast passage of time, tinged with the beauty of all the bright colors of life on the move from light into dark, warm into cold, yet steeped in the comfort of knowing that they will be back, that there will be bright green tomorrows budding once more in the ancient cycle of things, but right now there's that overhanging threat of distaste, the ominous dread of imminent exposure to the dark side of human invention, because as soon as all the oak leaves fall I get satellite tv again.

It's a toxic cascade with a few bright spots, and it's free, so I can take it for a while, the price being unavoidable glimpses of toxic broadcasting trolls, troglodytes and zombies, strange half-creatures from the cave-dweller side of the mind, causing me to argue with the screen and then with myself. I'm usually on my side, so that's disturbing.

But then, as I say, there's always the comfort of knowing that things will grow once more, that summer will return, flowers will bloom and sweet fragrance fill the air, fruits will swell with actual life, that there will be natural tomorrows budding once more as the ancient cycle of things again obscures the 400 channels with living beauty...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Excerpts from the diary of Elizabeth Dixon Smith, a pioneer woman migrating with her family to Oregon, started April 21, 1847-- excerpts here [original spelling and absent punctuation (with sentence break-pauses I can't reproduce here)] are from the latter part of the journey, waiting to portage down the Columbia River:

Nov 18 my husband is sick it rains and snows we start this morning round the falls with our wagons we have 5 miles to go I carry my babe and lead or rather carry another through snow and mud and water al most to my knees it is the worst road that a team could possibly travel I went a head with my children and I was affraid to look behind me for fear of seeing the wagon turn over in to the mud and water with evry thing in them my children give out with cold and fatigue and could not travle and the boys had to unhitch the oxon and bring them and carry the children on to camp I was so cold and numb that I could not tell by feeling that I had any feet at all we started this morning at sunrise and did not get to camp untill after dark and there was not one dry thread on one of us not even my babe I had carryed my babe and I was so fatigued that I could scarcely speak or step when I got here I found my husband lying in Welches wagon very sick[...]

Nov 20 Rain all day it is allmost an imposibility to cook and quite so to keep warm or dry I froze or chilled my feet so that I cannot wear a shoe so I have to go round in the cold water bearfooted.

Nov 21 rain all day the whole care of evry thing now falls upon my shoulders I cannot write any more at present[...]

Feb 2 to day we buried my earthly companion, now I know what none but widows know that is how comfortless is that of a widows life espesily when left in a strange land without money or friends and the care of seven children -- cloudy

Feb 22, 23 [...] to day we left Portland at sunrise no one to assist us we had to leave one waggon and part of our things for the want of a teem we travled 4 or 5 miles all the way up hill and through the thickest woods I ever saw all furr from 2 to 4 ft through with now and then a scattering cedar and an intolerable bad road we all had to walk some times I had to sit down my babe and help to keep the wagon from turning over when we got to the top of the mountain we descended through mud up to wagon hubs and over logs 2 feet through and log bridges torn to pieces in the mud sometimes I would be behind out of the sight of the wagon carrying and tuging my little ones along sometimes the boys would stop the teams and come back after us made 9 miles encamped in thick woods found some grass unhitched the oxon let them feed 2 hours then chained them to trees these woods are infested with wild cats panthers bears and wolves ... we made us a fire and made a bed down on the wet ground and layed down as happy as circumstances would ad mit[...]


When you realize the courage and risk, pain and effort, trust in one's own powers that went into building America, you can only hope that we of this day have inherited that courage, that that power is still in good hands...


By now, you kind and discerning visitors to these homely efforts of mine must be growing tired of my recurrent converse about firewood, splitting it, stacking it, all its charm and solid value etc., but when you heat using only a woodstove (catalytic combustor), firewood is a big topic; and because you can only store wood for about three years (especially in this climate) before it begins to lose its firewoodiness, and I've never had a three-year supply since I've lived here - we've been burning pretty much hand to stovemouth for the last 13 years - whereas this year, golden firewood is raining on me from all around and I must strike while the axe is hot, must I not, no time even to straighten out my metaphors, I'm doing pretty much nothing else these non-office days, apart from putting maybe a few spinach seeds in the ground on my way between trees, at odd intervals blowing neighborhood kids' minds with the magnificent menagerie of my humungous compost kabutomushi larvae collection (OK kids, now get ready, I'm gonna lift this used-up shiitake log... OHMIGOD!!) (scroll down to late September for humungolarval pics - they're even bigger now!)... And dealing with firewood, bucking logs, quartering, carrying, stacking, finalsplitting and finalstacking, at the end of the day, before toppling into bed like a felled log, who can keyboard with oaken fingers?

Sunday, November 02, 2008


"The swindle of American taxpayers is proceeding more or less in broad daylight, as the unwitting voters are preoccupied with the national election. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson agreed to invest $125 billion in the nine largest banks, including $10 billion for Goldman Sachs, his old firm. But, if you look more closely at Paulson's transaction, the taxpayers were taken for a ride--a very expensive ride. They paid $125 billion for bank stock that a private investor could purchase for $62.5 billion. That means half of the public's money was a straight-out gift to Wall Street, for which taxpayers got nothing in return."


"How else to make sense of the bizarre decisions that have governed the allocation of the bail-out money? When the Bush administration announced it would be injecting $250bn into US banks in exchange for equity, the plan was widely referred to as 'partial nationalisation' - a radical measure required to get banks lending again. Henry Paulson, the treasury secretary, had seen the light, we were told, and was following the lead of Gordon Brown.

In fact, there has been no nationalisation, partial or otherwise. American taxpayers have gained no meaningful control over the banks, which is why the banks are free to spend the new money as they wish. At Morgan Stanley, it looks as if much of the windfall will cover this year's bonuses. Citigroup has been hinting it will use its $25bn buying other banks, while John Thain, the chief executive of Merrill Lynch, told analysts: 'At least for the next quarter, it's just going to be a cushion.'"


"Goldman Sachs is on course to pay its top City bankers multimillion-pound bonuses - despite asking the U.S. government for an emergency bail-out.

The struggling Wall Street bank has set aside £7billion for salaries and 2008 year-end bonuses, it emerged yesterday.

Each of the firm's 443 partners is on course to pocket an average Christmas bonus of more than £3million.

The size of the pay pool comfortably dwarfs the £6.1billion lifeline which the U.S. government is throwing to Goldman as part of its £430billion bail-out.

As Washington pours money into the bank, the cash will immediately be channelled to Goldman's already well-heeled employees."


In the old days, crowds would be heading for Wall Street with pitchforks, tar and feathers!

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Since early times, English-speaking travelers (yours truly included) have made fun of the "English" signs etc. they find around the world, as though they never did the same thing themselves...

Someone spotted this English road sign in Swansea, with helpful Welsh translation for frequent travelers from Wales...

Looks great to the natives, but Welsh folks driving through laugh their heads off at these linguistically inept Brits when they read the Welsh part that says"I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated." A colonial history catches up with you sooner or later...