Friday, July 29, 2011


I was out in the garden this morning adding some kitchen garbage to the compost pile under the cherry tree when the warbler began his dawn concert, to which I always delight in whistle-responding as best I can; I suspect we featherless bipeds all have a bit of warbler in us somewhere.

Although I am a good whistler (frugal traveler entertainment) and love to take part in warbler performances - in a kind of duet, extended roundels, syncopation or whatever strikes my fancy - on occasion I have the feeling that the warbler involved finds it irritating. He often seems to sing more insistently, like a parent might talk louder over a noisy child. Or he tries something more complicated. Which is understandable; the warbler is the pro here, no question about that-- but still...

Sometimes with just a simple basic warbler riff I can fool the wee bird into thinking there's another male about, at least for a while, which can be fun with a warbler new to the neighborhood, as he bounces here and there singing irritably while looking for the upstart intruder, only to find that there's nothing around but one of those wingless, songless humans...

This time though, as soon as I repeated the warbler’s standard initial riff, he departed from the old songlist and performed a completely new number, a flashy and soaring glissando composition that had just arrived in warbler world, and it was a doozy. No way I could imitate that one, that was way beyond my ballpark, that was out among the stars somewhere. What a solo performance-- it just went on and on! I've never heard anything like it; I was struck dumb, whistlewise. If I could have seen that maestro, I suspect there might have been the hint of a smile on his beak at shutting me up so effectively, but it was worth every note to be so wonderfully humbled.

Warblers are evolving fast up here; got to get to work on my repertoire.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SPECIAL REPORT-Fukushima long ranked Japan's
most hazardous nuclear plant

"Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant ranked as one of the most dangerous in the world
for radiation exposure years before it was destroyed by the meltdowns and explosions...

After the earthquake, contract workers at Fukushima were sent in without radiation meters
or basic gear such as rubber boots. Screening for radiation from dust and vapor inhaled by workers
was delayed for weeks...

But that kind of stepped-up review never happened in Tokyo, where the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency remains an adjunct of the trade ministry charged with promoting nuclear power...

Because of Fukushima's high radiation, Tokyo Electric brought in thousands of workers each year,
often to work just a few days on the most hazardous jobs..."

Monday, July 25, 2011


All my life I've been nice to various species, Ever since I got past the frog-snake-salamander-catching age, it's been live and let live. Even in gardening, a worldwide battlefield, I say let's go organic, no insecticides etc. But when I walk out to my quietly growing garden and observe that many of my tomato leaves look like antique lace, gnawing at the edge of which lace is not a cute little aphid-devouring ladybug, but a Bob’s-tomato-leaf-devouring bug, to whom I say "Hey, that's my leaf!" but I'm talking to myself, they never listen, so

I amble back to the house to get some liquid detergent, pour a little into a cutoff PET bottle, then add hose water to 2/3 level to get a good head on it, after which I make my rounds from laceleaf to laceleaf, tipping and flicking the not so lucky notladybugs into the frothy mixture, where they can enjoy a warm bubble bath and come out all clean and dead. While I'm at it, I do the same for the weasely weevils on my peppers, who also love a bath, and dive right in with a little prodding. I do two rounds to be sure. A couple days later the tomatoes and peppers are taller and healthier; the bugs are clean and together with their gods.

It is a service I perform for the vegetable world, which rewards me with its delicious and nourishing fruits, some of whose seeds I save for the following year; it's a deal we got going. As a vegetable vassal I help the scarlet, emerald and golden nobles grow, and they help me get from year to year.

Now if I could get a bubble bath that would hold a dozen monkeys at a time, we could move on into the Renaissance...

Thursday, July 21, 2011


On my routine way out the routine doorway to routine work this routine morning, as I closed the heavy dark-brown paneled routine door in that part of the routine, the corner of my eye noticed something non-routine, something that was - how shall I say it - different, something that broke the obsessive continuity of the quotidian.

Nature loves to do that. Some kind of reality insistence was being foisted upon me, something that was on the door and that resembled the door, but that could not be of the door, as my eye corner - which gazes always outside the routine - had insisted. This kind of thing is meant to grab your attention and save you from a conventional bout of zombosis, if you have any attention left.

It will snap your head and focus your eyes, make you lean in closer, make you say What the fenk? To a door, for godsake, all of which I did, excepting a letter or two in the last part. There was a lump on the door. A brown lump. A granular, mottled lump, doorlike in color and texture but not conforming to the panel molding. It shattered my zombie mode into a random number of little pieces that lay scattered invisibly on the ground. I stood there for a take, then hunkered to look more closely at this door tumor. As I got closer and put on my glasses I realized it was staring at me.

I found myself staring into the two onyx eyes of a large, dark toad, in whose mind I was of no importance whatever. He was precisely where he had decided to be. He had climbed up onto what he didn't care was a door, conformed his color to that of the wood (in the night!) and there he was, Jabba the Toad, fully in charge, focused and ready for the day when I zombied out in the grip of routine and found a chance to step out of mode, for which moments we should all be thankful, that's why we love nature so-- not just because of her beauty or wisdom, vast as they are, or because a few of her countless secrets led to the miracle of tv and suchlike artificial distractions, but because she rescues us even from ourselves, breaks the zombie spell, brings us back again and again to where we actually are, if any of us is still paying attention.

As Jabba indicated by his austere presence, there ARE other ways of living and being, and we should be aware of them just in case, the zomboid way being nowhere near the only way; the ways are countless; but then again, he who speaks of the way etc. In any case, you never know when we might need a big cosmic door of a kind to hang out on throughout a long night of another kind; besides, the cool shall inherit the earth.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Often, in moments of doubt, as he scours country back roads and rarely trodden trails, he takes out the photographs of his 29-year-old wife, Emi, and 15-month-old Atsuki and he talks to them.

"I'm sorry," he says softly. "I'm sorry."

w/thanks to Chris

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I remembered that, of course. I would have remembered to wake up as well, but all short-term remembrance is in the waking state, and I was asleep.

On Sunday we had the usual bi-annual community roadside manicure in which all able-bodied humans take part from 8 ~ 10 am, the physically capable men with their weedwhackers, the others - from kids to grandfolks - with their clippers, hand scythes, rakes and brooms, and since I would be doing the section up near my house, which involved whacking multimeters of mountain bamboo, I would have to change the whackerhead from the strings to the sharp-toothed blade. I knew all this in advance. Unlike last year, however, when for some reason I overslept, and in my unbreakfasted haste, among a series of lapses forgot that the whackerhead bolt loosened clockwise, as did the universe of that morning, this year I vowed to be breakfasted and ready at 8 with my whacker new-bladed and gassed up, ready to go.

But for some reason I overslept (something I seem to do each year on this day) and was awakened by the growing sound of weedwhackers along the road toward me when fresh from dreams I realized I had to change from strings to blade -- and the whacker was ungassed! But this time, thanks to the mind-branding nature of last year's experience - plus I happened to have an espresso in the fridge - I jumped out of bed right into my workpants, snatched the espresso, opened it with my teeth as I grabbed my workgloves and headed for the toolshed, the sound of whirling blades drawing nearer as I gassed up the whacker, changed the strings to the blade (THE BOLT LOOSENS CLOCKWISE) and was out there already wailing away at that road-leaning bamboo and other over/undergrowth when the village whackers arrived from below.

By ten o'clock I was drenched with sweat as one of the grandpas handed me a bottle of cold green tea as we all stood around there in a morning sunlit crowd overlooking the sparkling blue lake below and enjoying the chance to socialize while dripping sweat.

Also I got to see and greet almost all the village grandmas in one place! It is an ancient joy one feels at the sight of so many grandmas, something way deeper than knowledge that science will never get at. Mostly the local grandmas and I meet and greet occasionally, me biking down the road to the train, they biking up to or down from their fields, just a good morning/afternoon/evening or so in passing, but here we were all out together in the summer morning sipping green tea amidst all those bright smiles of grandmas in their monpe, tenugui draped over their heads, we actually got some conversations going, beyond good morning and how are you, thank you and it's so hot, and well done with smiles as I say everywhere. Later one of the grandmas came to our our house with a big box of fresh onions.

Next year I'll get the whacker fueled, bladed and ready to go the day before and set the alarm clock just in case. The work is hard enough; why pile all that stress on top of it?

Though it's nothing a grandma smile can't fix.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


As addendum tangential to the aforegoing, I figure I must also have the largest collection of late 20th century western music on the mountainside, if not in the Prefecture, to say nothing of formats. I have actual vinyl, though I no longer have my turntable; the LP (for the museum-quality term: "long-playing," back from when things had duration worthy of mention) albums are part of my art collection. I have some remnant tapes, but also no player. I have instruments. I am the player. 

I am the only one on the mountain who has ever played Frank Zappa to this air, I am sure. RL Burnside too, and the Pixies, Chet Baker, the Feelies, Van Morrison, Radiohead, Concrete Blonde, thousands of songs... And when I play them, I play them loud, as befits the passion thrust into the notes in the first place, and in the summer with the windows open, the birds love it, especially the warblers.

As the local farmers ride their mopeds up to their greening paddies or come walking up the road with their paddy tools they pass through my broad airy wash of Zappa Pixies Concrete Blonde and although they never actually knock on my door to ask me What IS that album, where can I get it? Who is playing Plastic People or Snake Drive or It's Only Life or Where is My Mind or Still in Hollywood? That sonic baptism is a deeply cultural event for them, one to be found nowhere else in the Prefecture, so it is no surprise that they are muted by the experience. It is a big one.

When they walk into one side of that sonic flux and let it wash over them they do not run for their lives; rather, they walk toward their lives, as though all is now well with the world, if not in fact even better, and when they emerge from the other side of that torrent, richer than when they entered, they are transformed in some way, if only at the molecular level (which includes DNA). One of their progeny may some century hence thrill the world with his or her deeply inspired and unpinpointably original music without ever knowing why.

Like those farmers and their descendants, you heard it here first.

Friday, July 08, 2011


Talking to a book-loving friend this morning about the gradual disappearance of physical books, and how infants today, growing up into an increasingly bookless world, may learn to read from a kindle or a nook, dook, fook, hook, kook, mook, zook or whatever comes after, and for their children it may be implants.

They'll never learn to love the promise in the heft of a book, portending the words, thoughts and adventures within; they'll never learn to love the scent of pages or the thrill of an entire library-- no exploring the stacks, no class visit to learn about books and how to use the card catalog-- the Dewey Decimal system will go the way of the pen, and cursive writing's ancient grace will have no place in their minds, as is happening already. It may all be MacWisdom by then, with one day the entire politically and academically corrected canon implanted at birth, science fictionally speaking. [There may come trolls who say that life is grate witout reeding or riting we got lots of time for other stuf an joystiks to]

And judging from what is considered worthy reading matter these days, comes the correction of Huck Finn, the dumbdowning of Gatsby, the dispassionate writing-class flavor of modern LitFic and all that will follow as the word bends over backward to accommodate the loss of education that schooling is becoming, I realized that I may well have the largest genuine library on the mountainside... I certainly have the largest English library on the mountainside, maybe in all of Shiga Prefecture...

Until recently it has been a problem for me, what to do with all these books, but now that there are Nooks and the like, which I will not use for hefty mindstuff; maybe a mystery for the train, but I will never read Fyodor Dostoevsky on a Pook or Mark Twain on a Zook, are you kidding me? Some literary efforts and their life-passions require the heft of deep respect; there is something karmic going on here, after all, there is more to books than pixels...

So rather than continue to be burdened as before by the mass of my own tomes, I now realize that my home has become a cultural repository against the looming loss of calligraphy-driven writing, much like the stone cloisters of the Dark Ages, when books were known, scribed and saved from the dark by a passionate few as treasures for the future, when they would be needed. So for you folks centuries hence who can still read and have somehow found this blog, up in that ruin on the mountain you can find Mark in the original.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Woke up this morning and as my head came out of my sweatshirt neck I saw out in the garden something that looked as though a large crowd of monkeys had raided my potato patch yesterday, but this wasn't possible, had to be a trick of the morning light, I hadn't seen a monkey for months and months! I rubbed my eyes, but still...

So I got dressed, went downstairs and out there, saw that yes, it must have been at least a dozen monkeys, going along the rows carefully pulling up the plants and scarfing the dirt-encrusted tubers right there on the spot, laying the stems neatly aside and moving along from Brady possession to Brady possession, no doubt noting the greening tomatoes nearby, the baby cucumbers just over there and duly entering the relevant data into their Mpads for about the 12th of the month.

I of course will harvest whatever's even remotely ready before it can ever fall into their thieving paws! But the monkeys already know I'll do that don't they, and have factored that in, you see? Which means that I'll have to act even sooner than soon, and eat my produce way before it's ready, or else! You see what is happening, don't you, as we humans go blithely about our daily lives while... Parallels can be drawn here, you know, but I won't draw them, I have to live here.

[This paragraph is whispered, over in a corner] Yes, there are obvious parallels between this agroeconomic microevent and the global activities of Wall Street, the privately owned US Fed and the US Treasury Department, in re the inside-out pockets of the held-upside-down-and-shaken US taxpayer/pensioner, not to mention the shenanigans of the unnamed country of my current residence, and like the monkeys those entities know where I live, plus now and then I am at the tender mercies of picky-picky immigration and the intimate gropings of the TSA, so I won't go there, you can if you want.

In any case, like the US taxpayer I had once again been suckered by foxy simians who somehow knew I was going to be harvesting some of my hard-earned bounty this weekend - they have spies everywhere, of course, especially in offices, where among many other roles they play pointy-haired bosses and feral officials, you'd swear they were human. I told no one I was growing potatoes, but despite my precautions the ferals found out and got to the tubers yesterday, had me penciled in for the brief window while I was at the office in the big city and Echo was out shopping in the afternoon. They were so efficient as to afford a note of sarcasm, in all the big ravage-patch leaving me one golfball-sized potato, as a kind of fillip.

As I said, I hadn't seen a monkey for months, until a couple days ago I saw from the kitchen window a large male monkey hotfooting it away from my property across the open field on the other side of the road. I figured maybe I had finally put the fear of Bob into those redfaced brigands, until just proximity to my garden was enough to send them packing.. I admit, I relaxed my guard a little at the sight. But that's all part of their plan, don't you see? That's the way they work! They keep you in the dark until one day, just before harvest, all your potatoes are gone.

Globally, quite a few pensioners are about to understand this.

Monday, July 04, 2011


The tiny green tree frogs are out in growing numbers now that the air itself is wet in the rainy season, there are so many of them but they’re all solitary individuals, prefer to be left alone in some corner of nature with their dark pasts, their jade thoughts. I go and get the ladder to fix something high and there’s a whole disparate committee of the little greenies, steeping in their solitude, each sequestered in a nook on his own ladderstep, just staring at you whatever happens like they know you very well and they probably do; their gaze says they’ve seen it all in their duration on this earth. They probably saw the human race when it was just a baby, so they know more about us than we do and have been keeping a dark eye on us ever since, especially since my own frog-catching childhood. Even now as I go about my gardening one of them is sitting on a tomato leaf watching me with that look of long times.

Elsewhere they jump from my hat, ride on my shirt, doze for hours on my pepper leaves, hide in every little secret place. They know all the little secret places, since that’s their job, but that makes them just the thing for treasure-hunting, doesn’t it, so when the KMM trio came to visit Saturday afternoon Mitsuki right away spotted the bright dot of froggy jade tucked away in the corner of one of the deck railings. After she caught that one, Kaya and Miasa right away set out to catch the microfrogs of their own, and I knew a lot of the best hiding places, one of the keys to grandfather popularity.

So the girls right away had to get containers for their growing collections of tiny new pets, which they gave individual names. Soon the competition turned from mere quantity to who can catch the smallest frog, and the winner for the evening was about 1cm long. He just hung there on the inside of his container unaware of his froggy Oscar and tried to comprehend outside/inside while among more frogs than he’d ever been among in his life, or maybe her life, I didn’t have time, I was helping with dinner and each KMM table place was marked by the respective container of frogs.

During dinner the girls were informed they’d have to say goodbye to their tiny living treasures, they’d have to let them go, which news they accepted without too much grumbling when told that they’d have to start right away to every day catch a nightful of bugs for frogfood. As it turned out they couldn’t bring themselves to set their little friends free, though - I wonder if they’ve seen The Yearling - because before going to bed I noticed by the door to the deck three jars of frogs embodying all those eons of experience, yearning for solitary but still doing time in the crowded slammers, and every one of them innocent. I took the jars outside, one by one removed the tops, and you never saw so much frogcitement in your life: leap, leap, leap, leap, far bigger and faster leaps than normal for such generally unmoving creatures, splat, splat, splat, splat, in every direction, they’d been waiting all dusk and evening for this moment-- they are night people, after all. Lotta green karma there.

By then the girls were probably fast asleep, dreaming of frog happiness, confident that Bob would see to it. Each life must attend to certain tasks, and mine is no exception.

Friday, July 01, 2011


I spend great stretches of time alone up on the mountain with the sky on my hands, tending soil, seeds and plants, rearranging rocks the better to suit their natures vis-a-vis my need for stone walls, gazing out at the Lake and its majesty, getting as involved as I humanly can in thunderstorms and hurricanes, learning from them the many small things about myself, my past, my path, and the vortex of truth and illusion.

There is no greater teacher than solitude, as anyone who makes it back from the desert knows. Not solitude in the negative standard 'loneliness' sense, but in the aboriginal magnificent spirit-quest uplift sense. In the city, when you are alone it is a societal matter; when you are alone in the country you are alone, you realize, with everything. In persisting, you learn to listen at last to the symphony of all. You learn the geography of silence, find your way at last to the gate at its heart, and pass beyond into the secret garden. You learn there are places where the soul does not grow.

The need for such knowledge is the reason children leave home and go hungrily into the solitude of their own lives, to learn what is to be learned there. Too often, though, this quest is stifled at the start, even before the start, by societal and parental agendas, derivative teachings diluted to local purpose and contemporary assumptions of morality.

And so in the same nature of things are parents given a second chance when the children leave home, leaving the parents alone at last to learn (or not) what is now there for them to learn. Too often, though, because they have always followed a prescribed path, they do not know what to do with newness, and now is as opaque to them as tomorrow. It will take time, and changes, for them to truly grow from here. But to those who have never stopped growing, there is no change involved; one simply continues becoming.