Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Resolutions Test List

- Win more lotteries
- Move all holidays to workdays
- Catch all missed trains, planes etc.
- Maximize paid vacation
- Find all lost things
- Remain in love
- Abandon possessiveness
- Practice free will
- Honor habits
- Maximize portions

Saturday, December 26, 2015

                                                                              (fm journal archives)

I shot an arrow into the air, it would be falling to earth sometime later I didn’t have a clue where, since it was a 60-pound-pull recurved bow and I (like the several friends who were there that day) was an invincible 16 years of age, so launched the arrow with all my strength straight up into the gusty autumn day, where the dot disappeared at about 250 feet over a cow-empty pasture-- and who at that age could have foreseen the fact, let alone cared, that an arrow can suddenly be gone up there like that, somewhere high over several heads? WOW!
     Now this was life, this was adventure-- until the realization that the pointed killmissile would in a few seconds be coming down somewhere of which we were all integral parts. I had been tested by the world before and I had survived, but this was different: I had no decisive role to play here, as I’d had with the sudden effortless grab of a high tree limb, the lightning flick of a steering wheel or a quick reflexive grip on a bridge girder. Those of us out there under that lethal umbrella of arrow that would be landing any second were now all in the same pasture, over which we were running like mad in every direction, because where the hell to?
     The wisdom of foresight belongs to those who survive, as teenagers often do for one reason or another; at the time, on the scene, none of us had any spatial or directional preference, really, because by this late moment before imminent death from above, “where” had no more meaning than “when”; even an Olympian couldn’t run far and fast enough (300+ meters in 15 seconds, at a retroguess) through deep grass dotted with slickery cowpats.
    What’s more, we had no idea where the overhead streaking microdot of death - were it even visible - would land; anywhere was the answer: any point you are running toward was where: how the hell could you know? That was god’s department. 
     But you’ve got to do something, it’s just not teenagerly possible to stand there awaiting the descent of death with so much space around, instinct insisting you at least make it hard for death to find you, plus you feel it even more if you just stand there, with time to imagine the high-speed metal tip penetrating its fated target, but you have no steel umbrella or tank lid, so running for your life is the best bet and at that age you do run well, so at least during those precious seconds remaining before skydeath you run zigzag in all directions, as away from all fears...
     What a condensed life metaphor it is in retrospect, an invisible arrow now descending as fast as it shot off on its arc, while we all live on until. It was life or death right then and there for me and Mick, Jackie, Teddy, George, Paul, Marty, maybe Charlie and a couple other guys but we all survived, at least that day; we must’ve learned something from it, to use as we went on to disappear into our own skies...  
     But then, after so many tingly seconds had passed and we were all still alive and unhurt: Where’s the arrow, let’s do it again!   
     When you reach elder, you get to wonder how you made it this far...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Prayer of My Granddaughter

I give no faith 
to the ways of madeup gods,
but watching my young granddaughter
take a moment from play
to pray by herself
at the grave of her pet,
I know there is prayer.

There is a turning inward 
to all the self,
a proving of the universe.
No need for a god,
She is the god.
She is the universe living,
the circle closing
embracing its own.

She stands at her best,
folds her hands
bows her head
summons a silent blessing
from the place of places
that powers the heart,
ends with her own amen.

When she turns to play again
there is more to the air.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

      (from unposted archives)

Gardeners, like leaders of nations and global corporations (who, however, have clean fingernails) are continuously confronted with key decisions involving allocation of territory, life and death, choices dependent upon time, weather, experience and myriad other background factors of infinite combination and no possible resolution, like the mind of a US president earlier in this century. 

With succulents, as with legumes and drupes, there is no going back. Ask the guy who ran Enron, ask W, ask Bill Gates, ask anyone making key decisions and they’ll tell you, as soon as they have a minute, that yes-- tomatoes, snap peas and squashes, like honest auditors, software and Afghanistan, can be unforgiving. But that’s part of life in the fast lane, just as it is with backup cucumbers: you have to move on. Like time, markets and battle theaters, Cucumbers wait for no man.  

It is just such a dilemma that I’m facing at the moment, now that the hurricane has passed on by, the goodgod rain has stopped and the sun is shining, in between intense downpours: I have to do something about the backup cucumbers I got because the extended sunlessness was not what the early cukes desired, any more than the early tomatoes had. I got backup tomatoes, too, but tomatoes are more demanding and less patient, sort of like Afghanistan, so I had to deal with them first, but that was a no-brainer, since tomatoes give up quickest; but cucumbers, as fragile as they appear, can and will hold on to their last yellowing minileaf. 

It’s like Ron Lay with honesty, Gates with Netscape Navigator, or Obama with the Bush legacy: what do you do? In the former case, where there’s big money involved and stockholders matter, so you turn on a dime is what you do. You get on your gardening clothes and you go out there: get your tools and dig in, get to work, make the hard-nosed decisions, get it done: WHAM: backup cukes in the ground, in the form of Internet Explorer built into Windows, thriving in new atmosphere. Or you can take the traditional political course and largesse the money gardens of your buddies with another 600 billion or so early cukes, but not at your friends’ expense; distant low-and mid-income residents of no connection will cover the cost of the extended mistake a second time (see gardening records of earlier presidents, governors, mayors). More a matter of inner circles than money.

So I guess I’ll plant the backup cukes where the snow peas were, when it’s politically safe. At least I don’t have stockholders or a misguided electorate or a Federal Reserve Bank that’s not Federal or Reserve or a Bank.

Vegetables never lie like that.

Friday, November 27, 2015


Earlier this week Keech concluded his 2-month visit, which in terms of elder time lasted slightly over 3-4 days, maybe a week. Elder time, as all we who live it know, accelerates exponentially. I had barely spun three times in my wheelchair at the Big K's arrival, when he was waving farewell at the station.

Despite the headspinning brevity of it all, it was great to have a youthful body around that could run upstairs 2 or 3 steps at a time and then bound down like he had wings somewhere, lift heavy objects and split wood for hours, though that latter task was difficult for me to merely watch and not be too much of a supervisor, since I used to know right well how to do it all myself-- and better than anyone else, now that I’m unable.

Among the more-than-a-year-overdue household chores that awaited the limbs and energy of youth were such tasks as painting, caulking, chainsawing, lugging logs and climbing ladders onto trees and roofs, plus major etc. I'd never realized how many limbs and convolutions are actually needed for the formerly 'simple’ task of climbing a ladder and then moving around on it to even higher, teetery places -- a fearful set of skills, best not to watch. There are so many key areas of common life to which one has given little or no thought by this common time in my life-- a shocking series of revelations, when at last they dawn and one has thankfully survived, predominantly intact.

It was nice too to have renaissance conversations with the Big K, those rambling-where-they-will kind that I enjoy so much... he was more focused in his older being than when I last saw him... 

All those many thanks to Keech...

As to my own ongoing return, of which more anon, my blurry hand is more and more finding its own place-- often irritatingly insisting on it in fact, like a child (it is, after all, little more than a year old): I wanna brush teeth! I wanna use those scissors! I wanna open that jar! Lemme try! I can carry that! etc. Go ahead, I say; knock yerself out! 

A heartening thing, such ambition in the young...

Friday, October 30, 2015


One day recently, with Keech at my side here in Japan while FaceTiming with Kasumi and the Trio in CA, upon seeing my image in the corner of the iPad screen I remarked with some surprise: "As I get older, I'm looking more and more like Keith Richards..."

At that, two  sibling voices from opposite sides of the globe responded as one: "WHO?" 

            --- Commence extended freezeframe of deep intergenerational awareness ---

As had happened at several recent instances in my life, what had been cultural Everests were suddenly shown to be current divots. Our family's earlier Western-flavored musical component had been more of a dylan-zappa-doors-nirvana-pixies blend, so this reaction was not so big a surprise, but one does accumulate a certain mindfill of beloved cultural debris over the decades, in contrast to which a more youthful perspective -- however chronically misguided -- can come as a shock. Thus marches history and its icons backward across the stage and beyond the wings, out of sight but to those who remember...                  Exeunt big time...

As to book affairs, the Simple Vegetarian Recipes 1-9 series from The Big Elsewhere will begin their shared appearance on Facebook any day now (long-term PLM readers please FB friend me), as soon as Kaya has completed her art work and the computer stops fritzing around. 

 Also, I can now fully extend my right arm.

Sunday, September 06, 2015


More and more often these nights, I realize in a dream that I have just walked casually across a room before it occurs to me that I have forgotten to use my cane... Yet the freely walking experience feels fully normal to me, unaccompanied by the usual regret at it being only a dream... even though I awaken again to the same status of ambulatory ability.

Nonetheless, the grip in my right hand is growing stronger daily, and my old crippling shoulder pain has diminished to the point that I can almost turn and lie on the shoulder directly, even fall asleep on my right side, for the first time in over a year since the big short circuit! 

Going full circuit, as the final days draw near for completion and publication of The Big Elsewhere -- John E. arrives back from the US today, the final proofing has been done, and following final selection and arrangement of sumie illustrations, the first full-edition pdf, for starters, will be ready to send out.

Deb's welcome idea for promoting The Big Elsewhere by posting Simple Vegetarian Recipes as a stanza series took a quantum leap when I got the special arts crew of Kasumi and the Trio on board, Kaya, Mitsuki and Miasa to do three stanzas each and Kasumi to supervise. The Trio are thrilled by the idea, especially since they're in the book! The first test drawings are every bit as charming and to-the-mark as I expected.

And as though to top it all off, yesterday evening as I was returning here after my usual Saturday visit to the house on the mountain (where  I set new up-and-down speed records on the stairway), I had ambled out the door a leisurely few yards, almost to the car, when I realized I had forgotten my cane, only this time I wasn't dreaming...

Felt pretty normal, too.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

                                                                         (From journal archives, 1996)

At this stage in my life I'm having a lot more conversations with vegetables, particularly eggplant and cabbage. The lack of in-depth, one-on-one vegetable conversations in my earlier years reached its low point when I moved into the city with its hypovegetable ambience of concrete, asphalt, sirens, car horns, subterranean rumblings, auto exhaust, broken sunlight, demented wind, artificial weather and whatnot, unlike the countryside with its genuine climate-filled original silence, rich with the whispers of history and teeming with animal and vegetable conversations, including those of weeds and other less raucous foliage, all with a core of tranquility.

Though I realize now that vegetables have always sought my attention in one way or another, whether through their varied crispness, showy leafery, supermarket vegetable signs or by just pushing up out of the ground right at my feet. The turnips, kohlrabis, eggplants and broccolis of my younger days didn't get through sometimes, and when they did I often wasn't listening (youth feels little kinship with the vegetative, except during college) so I didn't get to hear their half of it, though I've always appreciated the fiber content.

When after marketing my older adult life for a sufficient number of decades I was at last able to move back into the country and resume the vegetable dialog pretty much where we'd left off, I began to realize how much vegetables had done for me, how big a role they'd played in my life despite my early disdain for their contribution (vegetables are a lesson to us all) and I could understand more clearly than ever how they had called me back home in their various accents, from the crinkly flutterings of lettuces and the dry, aristocratic tone of eggplants to the sensual implications of tomatoes. The firm gesticulations of cabbage and the tacit attitude of carrots have also become more endearing over time, as have the glottals of okra and the orotundities of pumpkins, just to mention some conversational rows in my garden.

There was nothing in the big city like my old and true friends, who always say precisely what they mean and then live up to every word.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Today I at last received a proof copy of my new book, The Big Elsewhere, which has been a couple of years in the writing and compiling, with sumie illustrations by Komori Fumio.

In the book I have distilled our 20 years of life here on this rural mountainside into an organic arrangement of "Views from a mountainside," slightly over 300 pages, from my journal writings, publications, public readings and selected, edited Pure Land Mountain entries arranged ("choreographed," as I like to think of it) by master arranger Ken Rodgers, with such chapter headings as: Living High, Deep Weather, Talk on the Wild Side, Monkeys and Onions, Walking with a Child, True Destinations, Where Is the Wild? and The Endless Breath, to name about a third of the chapters. It's a full volume in more ways than one.

Following thorough proofing and final editing, The Big Elsewhere will initially be available via publisher Heian-kyo Media at the Kyoto Journal, hopefully some time in late September-early October. Feedback and suggestions for reviews and promotion most welcome.

Thursday, August 06, 2015


Here and there in the grains of photos remaining 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 now was the bottom of an incinerator the size of their city, still burning 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 in vain through blackened flakes of what once was life, once a place of daily living, where now nothing stood, where all was flat and dark, dust and fragments of death...

After the fires died, first the relatives 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, brothers - wandered for days, weeks, the rest of their lives in their hearts in those ashes of a city of families, passing by in their dreams those passengers on the train who were charcoal statues in their seats, or those still just alive who wandered also, in search of death that waited only days away, or those who had left their instant white shadows on the flash-darkened stone of the bridge or the building when 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-- all of it, is in our voices now...

Friday, July 31, 2015


In this instance, a right hand.

In the middle of winter nights I often had to pull the blankets up on my hospital bed using my left (good) hand. It was an action familiar to me by now, some 4 months after I had clambered onto the comet. At that time, I was not yet using my right hand (I was originally right-handed) because it was still short-circuited and sensitive. So my right arm lived pretty much on its own during this time, and seemed to have forgotten the finer points of handship altogether. I was doing exercises, but the response was primitive, so I wasn't expecting too much too fast; for the time being, at least, I had resigned myself to left-handedness, which had a new interest all its own.

Then one winter night I was again aroused from deep sleep by a cold right arm and had to pull the blankets up. My left hand was maneuvering the covers with the usual drowsy impatience when all at once, from out of  the darkness came a ghostly right hand, emerging slowly from beneath the blanket! It scared the hell out of me. The hand then proceeded to try awkwardly to-- lend a hand. My right hand was wanting to be a hand again! It had ambition! And some form of manual pride! It wasn't going to be left behind, not if it had anything to say about it.

That was when I began to think I was going about this in the wrong way. My right hand was telling me something. I had been thinking that I knew more about being a hand than a hand did. I was treating a hand like a mindless tool, or at most a tool with my mind, currently short-circuited. But here was a hand trying to be a hand all on its own; I wasn't a party to this effort. What I call my hand was wanting to be a hand again: it missed its old job!

As I've said or intimated more than once in these scribblings, my mind knows more than I do. I should pay deeper attention to myself.

Friday, July 24, 2015


For decades, it has been your partner in the enterprise. Like you, it has its scars. After you've split a day's worth of fuel for next winter-- this winter's fuel is long ready-- you clean yourself up for the evening and though you wipe the axe clear, maybe sharpen it for tomorrow, it still bears the marks of plunges into the hard grains of oak, hickory, ironwood, as you do, but visibly. There is a price, after all; you can see it in the iron, feel it in the bone.


It looked so lonely, sitting there, my old friend, worn companion of so many labors, uncomplaining bearer of all those years of strenuous effort that we'd shared.

Nonetheless it had held up well, the old camphorwood splitting stump, from what I could see of it through the car window, just the top of it sticking up through the conquering weeds in the rain as we pulled into the drive. It was a lifetime away from me now... 

At that moment the inanimate stump seemed like an old friend, I knew it so well. It was where I'd sweated and sworn, busted my jeans, got hit by a wedge, dodged the axe, wore out years of muscle and bone, rolled the stump under the plum tree in Spring, to work in the shade...

I knew it would wait there forever, that gnarly old trunk, it would wait through sun and rain, through winters, and I'd never be coming back to swing that heavy axe, watch the fragrant woodpile grow-- imagine feeling heartache over a splitting stump.

You feel the true values at the pinpoints of life.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


The sublimity in simply sitting here, with only nature as company, that calls to the nature in myself, of eyes and sounds, scent and touch, that quickens in me all the roots from which I stem... all the implication of my direct lineage with sunlight and branching trees, my kinship with running streams and rising clouds, insect song and moving air-- the colors, the music, the graces of motion, so vast in their ways to my clockworn being as to hold me in their time at last as one among them, together in the sublimity of simply being...

Thursday, June 18, 2015


The dance of the light-- what a performance to behold each time, as it plays down the mountainside in motions of green and gold toward the dark of the waters that stretch to the far side of perception, every wave, like every leaf and blade, performing the movements that only nature can command... 

The clouds in the distance do their part, rising and advancing in their opalescent finery, the straight blue line of the Lake horizon dividing the scene into perspectives that artists range their lives on-- all the tints of blue, all the hues of green, the shades of thought, hints of memory and of yearning spelled out there in aspects beyond the reach and grasp of eyes alone, all going on from light into dark as the heart goes on, holding and letting go--

The hinge of the heart understands these things, shares their echoes with those who want moments to go on, life to go on as it is, but that is not the way of days, or of beauty...

                                                             --Dedicated to my dear friend John Velie, fondly remembered.

Monday, June 15, 2015


I was watching rain on television the other day like a modern person, you can still just slip into that mode sometimes without thinking. At first I didn't realize the bizarrity of the fact, but then it hit me: I was watching rain on television to find out whether it was raining outside. 

It was raining outside, but only on TV. The TV rain was falling on some other outside that was standing in, as it were, for what could actually happen here, i.e., rain. And then where would we be, we ask ourselves in silence,  we've got to get some umbrellas or something, we've got to act, look at what might occur, and right where we are! Water falling from the sky on us walking along!

Fortunately, as I've indicated, the weather on TV is almost always somewhere else, raining on some other unfortunate city, because if it's raining here, then of course, like most news, it's not news, because then everybody knows it's raining, especially since a lot of folks are right out in it already, what can you do, word gets around, people bring the info home with them, which makes it primarily pointless to get your weather from a weatherperson indoors on tv.

It used to be that if for some reason we couldn't turn our heads to look out a window, we just opened a door and stuck a hand outside, but the days of hands outside are long gone. And good riddance, many unweathered smart alecks say, though I often miss the old ways and time they took to make things come true...

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Soon after my release from the hospital in February, I visited home for a few hours during the late deeps of winter up here, to get an early start on the domestic personal Everests.

Primarily I wanted to scale the escarpment of steps to the distant second floor, my first stairway attempt; it loomed in the subjective mists like the Stairway to Heaven. I used a lateral approach without crampons or pitons, going sideways both feet on each step, a long, slow tedious process reminiscent of efforts toward the traditional afterlife.

Got to the summit at last - this was where I'd boarded the comet - caned my way around some rooms, debotted the PC, got out some clothing for Spring, realized for the first real meaningful time that the bathroom was downstairs, now a distant place involving serious rapelling time and reverse footwork logistics - gone the days when these same feet barely touched the steps flying down taking two or three steps at a time - but I have more careful things to do now, more to be hazarded, so it would all balance out nicely, as soon as I got to the bottom...

Endless list of other new tasks to master while my hand and leg are finding themselves. Good thing I love puzzles. The topological problem of putting on a long-sleeved shirt, for example: how can the outside of one side turn behind your back into the inside of the other side? It's literally beyond me. To think that all those stroke-hindered people I've seen in my life underwent and overcame all those same challenges, with so few complaints!

And what a range of them! What? No stair railing on the left-hand side going up? No hand rails in the toilet? At the entryway just one big smooth log? How can even a one-dish meal kinda guy do anything here of the cook-and-carry type while using a cane, with the other hand still in early training and the slow foot without a leg to stand on? Spend a lot of early time eating at the sink, I expect. I've been there, that can be good. I'm also learning to use scissors again; that's always a thrill. Handwriting and chopsticks, on the other hand, are frissons of a higher order.

In any case there's little point in complaining, since you're all alone with the Stairway.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Finally I have the time and mind, ability and space to begin to try and respond collectively to the uplifting communications so many of you have kindly afforded me over the past several months; please be assured they were of great support to me in finding uplift for my new wings. It has been interesting to take on the challenge of mobility again at my age. I just wish I could remember more of how I did it the first time; toddling seems so effortless, in retrospect. Of course, back then I had all the time in the world, and falling was a key learning tool.

Finally left the hospital six months after sufficient recovery from what turned out to be a relatively contained left-brain cerebral hemorrhage (not "massive," as was first announced here). I attribute it partly to stress (zipping around like a 40-year-old) but mainly to my last two motorcycle accidents. I have foresworn use of vehicles other than my good leg, until perhaps such time as I regain pedal-to-the-metal capabilities. Went through the two-month recovery period (lot of great people and good stories there) and then the 4-month limit on rehab (ditto for stories there), then moved to a private rehab center much nearer our house to polish up on my Fred Astaire moves and cane-wielding skills. I finally returned to the house for the first time on a bright Spring Sunday, nine months after I had been carried away on a comet.

Spent a good part of the initial you-can't-go-home-again time figuring out how to get from car door to house door across the formerly beautiful rugged stone driveway with just a cane and then open the heavy rugged door with half the pull power, then how to take my shoes off while teetering not-quite two-legged in the genkan, then how to ascend the Gibraltar that was now the step that had always led to the beautiful - but now primarily slippery - oak board floor level, where at last I stood looking gingerly around at the spacious residence where once I had jetted so easily updownstairs and from room to room with my eyes closed, if I wanted. When we'd designed this place I sure hadn't had me in mind...

What a difference a difference makes.

(To be continued)