Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Bitter Crunch

I love goya (bitter melon; Momordica charantia) for its flavor and crunchiness; no matter how much it is cooked (or frozen!) it keeps that crunch. You can diminish the bitterness, if you wish, though I don't see the point, just eat a bland cucumber or something. But the goya, even at extremes of cooking, provides beautiful little bitter-crunchy emerald nuggets in everything you cuisinate; its range of astringency and special mouthfeely, delight-filled crunchiness has no cuisinal parallel that I know of. Did I mention the crunch?

 Another great thing about goya, as a tender viny plant, is the wall of feathery green leaves that grow on my high net fence (keeps out all deer, most wild pigs and no monkeys). By this time of year that emerald wall is dotted with the 1- inch banana-yellow goya blossoms about a foot or so from each other, that reach out at the end of long, slender, springy stems of pale green.

From my kitchen window on a sunny day I can see the yellow pretties nodding down to invisibility when even a small pollinator lands on them; then they spring back up, ready again immediately as the visitor moves on to another nodding blossom, the whole yellow-dotted green wall flashing yellow polka dots like a stage show, which in a wild way it is-- pleasant and relaxing to watch all those nods of acceptance, all those goya being generated.

It wasn't all roses, though. This year in late Spring I planted four goya plants along the northern side of my garden, but the season started out so cold and sunless and delugey that the goya languished in the cold and rain through July and even into August. They were the picture of rainy forlorn out there, all shivery and dripping under gloomy heavens. They half-heartedly put out a few token flowers just to keep their roots in the game, but as Spring tended toward Ark-building time (did Noah take plants?) it seemed more and more just a matter of time before the goya cashed in (Goya chips, mmmm!).

But then for some reason it started to get sunny, of all things, and when those goya hit they really hit. Within days there were a dozen ready-sized goya dangling, ready to go, with a couple dozen more little ones hanging around looking to generate some joy. Another truly great (but globally unappreciated) quality of goya is that monkeys hate them. Which moves them ever closer to my heart. Their vines now cover my 20m2 north garden wall with leaves and fruit that few bugs and no critters like. A healthy, productive, versatile and delicious plant is the goya. Can't get better than that. Plant some!

 Plus, they're crunchy.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Cure You Can't Refuse

As you get ever elder and a bit more solitary, ever more fixed on the path toward perfection of your fine-tuned ways, grandkids are an excellent cure. 

With no effort at all they get you out of what you didn't even know was becoming a rut, lift you back to the surface of the Big Road you've always been on - the road you now and then dare to call your own - and when you're back up at your natural perspective, with all those natural wide-ranging prospects arrayed before you and those naturally broad horizons beckoning, your eyes return to seeing what they have grown to see, your ears to hearing full scale; your nose sampling the air for even more reality, your feet stirring with the old stride, where did I put my highway shoes, and before you know it you're on the road again, at least in your head; but plans are simmerin' in there, are they not, had a fire goin' all along, you sly dog... 

But for now you just stand there, new in a new way, savoring the true surface, source of all directions...

Grandkids are great.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Never Forgotten

The Days of the Dead (Obon) are with us again, as are the dead themselves, the beloved dead, and its good to have them around in spirit, visit their graves, pour water over the stones to cleanse the weathering of the past year, then give the beloved some of their favorite life snacks, leave a sip or two of sake, everyone so busy at these nationwide spiritual tasks during this time of year that once all have returned to their own home towns and their own home graves, the trains are empty. 

I get on in the morning and there are only 3 of us in the car; the streets are 'empty,' the offices too. Nothing much gets done there except the dead-end stuff, finalizing all the done-deals. Apart from the many renowned and WOWy firework shows and the lively nighttime Obon dance, it's quiet everywhere, as though we're getting a taste of death itself, which is a good thing for the living to experience every year, a few-day span of focusing beyond what we know; that's part of life too, after all, that soft wall. 

Living is dying and vice-versa, we can't really draw a precise line between them; sure, we pretend to, we have various stages and levels, phases and definitions - legal, medical, common sense - but we don't really know of a true beginning or end to any of it, the reason for our ignorance in this regard being simply that we haven't sufficient perspective in our merely living lives; we can only weigh what we can prove. 

This what we living conjure up, returning once more to the Days of the Dead: not just the memories of the beloved-- how they lived, what they looked like, their personalities, good and bad points, how they talked, what they spoke of, what they valued, their strengths and weaknesses... We do all that as in a mirror of memories, seeking a glimpse beyond into what must be the truth of it, but that is not vouchsafed to us in the special narrowness of being alive; we must wait to learn what is not forgotten...     

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

While there Was Light

The Trio of Brio - Kaya (12), Mitsuki (10), Miasa (10) - came over for a visit on Sunday, and when in the afternoon I came downstairs from my editing work in the loft for a break to investigate the unusual silence I noted that while Miasa was doing the intimidating mound of dirty dishes generated by the youthful hunger crew, her sisters were nowhere around. I asked her about that, and she said - with no sign of solo-dishwashing rancor - that they were outside somewhere, playing.

In the continuing oddness, despite all the open doors and windows I couldn't hear a single kidsound from outside, a rare situation with the Trio around, so I went outside barefoot - just gonna be out there a minute - and found Kaya hunkered down on the suntoasted evening road with the big binoculars at her eyes, trying to focus on Mitsuki who 100 yards or so down the mountain was jumping up and down and side to side, I guess trying to make herself more interesting or harder to see.

While the two went on with their optical gravity visualization experiment (I didn't ask, knowing I wouldn't understand the response; anyway you don't bother focused experimenters) I just stood there and looked around-- the whole blue sky up there like a big robin egg shell lit up from the outside, the mountain arms around reaching out, shadowed and unshadowed, in the rays of the sun now behind the peaks; the darkening blue lake smooth as the sky, sparkling with boats; the big island beginning to glimmer with fisherman house lights and the same beyond, disappearing into the mainland; behind me the sheets of last clouds turning from pale gold to mango before the dark and the stars; about then the girls gave up on the binocs and grabbed the garden hose, began watering themselves and the locality...

I just stood there turning and turning, bare feet cooling in the flowing water, while there was light.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Light and Dark and Light

Here and there in the grains of the photos that remain from that time you can see the blurred outline of a person, sometimes with a child or even two, walking where the way was once familiar, but that now was the floor of an incinerator the size of their city, that still burned through them even as they walked, perhaps to escape the heat of all the nothing that remained...

At other places in the mass of the ashes of a hundred thousand lives turned into wind and rain you can make out the speck of another one still living, bent over searching, sifting through blackened flakes of what once was life, once a place of daily living, where now nothing stood intact, where all was flat and dark, death in dust and fragments...

After the fires died, first the living came seeking their loved ones, one mother searching for her daughter who that morning had gone into town early so she could pay the rent on her way to work, but the mother never found her daughter...

That mother and all the others - fathers, sisters, sons, daughters and brothers, wandered for days, weeks, the rest of their lives, searching in those ashes of families, passing by those trolley riders who were charcoal statues in their seats, or those still just alive who wandered also, in search of death that waited just days away, unlike the lucky ones who had left those instant pale shadows on the darkened stone of the bridge or building where they'd joined the unseeable light...

All of it on that August morning-- every ash of bone, every unheard scream, every sear of pain or cry for love, every tear of life, every atom of vapor that had been a person, is in our voices now...

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Big grandfather
little granddaughter
seesaw anyway