Monday, October 10, 2016

 - An American Halloween Memory -

This was in the neighborhood of Second Avenue and Delaware in Albany NY in the latter 1940s, when as little kids we ventured out into the chill October night to wander through the leafpile smoke that misted the streetlights and the roving hordes of ghosts, skeletons, witches, monsters, cowboys, indians, pirates and all else that new minds could come up with, ourselves also dressed as members of the spirited mob, each carrying a big paper shopping bag that gained heft as we went from door to door ringing the bells for treats or else tricks with our soap and candles, toilet paper and other even worse stuff-- seldom used, but not never.

For the fact was, many houses were dark because the kidophobic, candyless, grumpy or just plain old stingy residents were pretending no one was home. But it's not good to try to fool kids, who have powerful psychic skills when it comes to adult shenanigans; they also have a hive mind and a vast neighborhood database. They know the truth, and can't be easily fooled by cheapskate owners cowering quietly in their house all Halloween night unable to turn on a light and read the newspaper or listen to the radio lest they be detected by the sharp-eared, candy-hungry hordes of sprites and get “tricked” beyond mere soaped windows and toiletpapered front porches.

There were hundreds of ruthless tricksters out there, thousands roaming the dark of the city demanding sweet ransom, their bags filling with candy corn and marshmallow peanuts, licorice and candy bars, sometimes money or unwelcome healthy stuff like apples, tangerines or unshelled nuts, you never knew what you’d get on this most important of Autumn nights, until you got home from the dark and dumped it all out on the floor and what a rush as you rummaged through the swag, calculating, separating: chocolate over here, candy corn over there, wrapped candy and bubblegum here (MaryJanes, BB Bats, DubbleBubble, Bazooka), sampling some of each, all the grownup stuff to the side-- nuts in the shell, fruit in the peel...
Some of the houses were good and ready, when it was usually the lady who would open the door, the men weren't good with kids, be all gruff and half-hearty, wanting to get back to the newspaper or radio show, but the woman would be interested, often enthuse about the costumes and who might we be behind that makeup, do I know you, she was having fun too; then there were the grumpy-looking houses or the skinflint houses remembered from last Halloween-- In the funeral home  they always had apple cider and cinnamon donuts back in the dim distance, you had to enter the shadowy front rooms, where there likely were ghosts, and walk far into the back room to eat and drink right there, looking cautiously around like a pirate at a Frankenstein cocktail party...

And another house over on that short street that diagonaled from Whitehall just above Delaware and Second (we never did anything on that street in the normal rascally way-- no fruit trees there anyhow), the street where big Frank the barber had his shop and the new doctor had his office where I got my head stitched after the “haunted garage” door fiasco - anyway, somebody in that big old house had an authentically terrifying sense of horror and fun. You'd go up on the dark porch and ring the bell and after a pause the door would slowly c-r-e-a-a-k-k-k open into the deep dark of the silent... house... mmmwwahahahaHAHHH! We always saved that for last.

What a different world it was...

Saturday, September 17, 2016

MENDING FENCE                

Up on the ladder this morning mending the garden fence, I couldn't help but hear, in the recesses of the idle mind that such labor kindly affords, the words of Robert Frost, who as a relative newbie couldn't quite grasp why fences were needed when there were no cows around, and when his neighbor had pine trees and he himself had apple trees, so as they went along mending the wall in his famous poem Frost kept bugging his neighbor about the need for the thing, but the taciturn fellow would only say that good fences make good neighbors. Which I suppose is true in Vermont, where some things are simpler.

In addition to the vague “something there is” and rabbit hunters, Frost made no mention of monkeys, and for good reason: some things are simpler in Vermont. Humans were the only animal problem in his equation, and unlike monkeys, humans at least know what fences imply, so Frost and his neighbor worked together, each on a side, to rebuild the wall between them-- Frost a bit mischievously, as befits a poet knowing that the builders of the fence are the reason for the fence.
Their shared fence was meant to status their own kind either in or out, and that's the whole of it. Simple. You can tell as you read the poem over and over that Frost and his noncommittal neighbor have had no acquaintance with the reasons I have my fence, why my fence is the way it is and why I mend it alone, up here on an early Spring morning that looks like rain. The ravaging creature in my equation does not know what fences are, so we do not work together, each on a side, repairing the portion that has fallen to each; the monkeys do not offer to assist in keeping themselves from my onions and turnips. Up here, good fences have nothing to do with humans.

In those regards I have the advantage over Frost and his neighbor, who view their wall in vague and questioned ways, as a fundamental structure stonily affirming the fellowship of distrust. There's no such factor in my equation, which is short and crystal clear, with no questions, no unknowns. I know what I'm walling in, and I know what I'm walling out.

To myself I say, as I go along mending: good fences make good deer and good wild pigs; there are no good monkeys.

                                                                                                    [from the archives, edited]

Sunday, August 21, 2016


No one knows for sure how they got there, who put them there, or why; how they disappeared or who took them away. But we long-term residents can surmise...

The tragic tale began one evening on a quiet mountain road-- not in Verona, as one might think, nor even in Italy, but a rural mountain area of scenic Shiga, Japan not far from Kyoto-- a region more famed for its historic struggles among samurai clans-- as Etsuko was returning to our home on the mountainside in the twilight and came upon the young couple lying in the road, clearly and tragically deceased, perhaps only moments before. They had been carefully but oddly arranged; nothing in the scene seemed to fit...

Etsuko slowed the car and glanced out the window for a passing glimpse of the clearly mismatched pair: one was a young monkey, a Montague of sorts; the other was a member of another notable animal family: a young raccoon-- say of the Capulets, in keeping with human/animal history and tradition. 

They had been laid out side by side, perpendicular to the road, requiring drivers to “go around” somewhat. Clearly they had been placed there with care, to make some impression; or, if by their own actions, which seems more likely, had arranged themselves in the romantic tradition of Romeo and Juliet.

Nor did any part of the forensic scenario fit the available methods of fatality: poison (none around), roadkill (not flattened), animal savagery or gunshot (no wounds)-- with no injuries or bloodshed to be seen, the two individuals in the flower of their youth were just lying there peacefully together, Juliet reaching her little paws for Romeo’s little hands, exactly  as though she had found him dead in the morning because he had thought she was dead when he found her, and so killed himself in grief, to be with her once more, but she wasn’t dead, only in an induced coma he didn’t know about, and when she came out of the coma and found him dead, she killed herself to be with him, the two young lovers figuratively holding paws throughout the night on the stage that is all the world.

You see how only one set of facts fits together perfectly: it was romance that claimed them; mythic romance, eternal love and no mistake: interfamily/interspecies, what’s the real difference, but if art is any indication, the Monkey Montagues and the Raccoon Capulets have been united forever by this epic tragedy involving their beloved children.

Then in the morning, the pair were gone. No doubt their families had taken them home. The romance, the romance!

So much is to be found in these mountains of legend... 

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Heian-kyo Media page

Great review on Lulu! Profound thanks for that. Additional kind words or comments/reviews, Facebook etc. "likes" also much appreciated.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

                                                             (from future archives)

Remember those simpler, innocent times, before the “Not In My Garden” movement (when it was already too late), when you could still say “Some of my best friends are root vegetables”? Before tomatoes had a temper? When cabbages had nothing to hide? When an onion could be trusted? Before the great genetic disaster fully empowered rutabagas? Back when you’d never think of using an uzi on potatoes?
Well, that was the old past. The authorities still assured us it was ok: "The tomato won’t hurt you, just don’t make any sudden moves." They told us not to be afraid, they assured us that horned zucchini weren’t dangerous, so long as you grabbed the right end; they told us we could eat foods with a few odd genes and safely glow in the dark, that we needn't worry about deformities in our children or mutations compounding in future generations, but those assurances always sounded Monsantoish to me. 
By the time I came of age it was still considered unnatural for an adult to be afraid of fanged string beans, but when as a child I got caught in the bean patch— no, I can't get into that, there's little time left...  
It’s been half a century since the first rogue DNA escaped into what they used to call the "wild"-- back then you could distinguish cultivated areas, and it was still safe to travel through most gardens, though I’m not sure how they did that. I think they used fences or something, but the sudden emergence of metal-devouring tyrannocorn caught us all by surprise, made short work of barriers. Not long after, the brontomelons began to roll over everything. 
I hope someone finds this note someday, if there's ever anyone left, so at least they'll know that vegetables weren't  always ruthless, that there was a time when fiber was passive, that we humans once had a stronghold at the top of the food chain...
Have to end here; a squadron of turnip drones has just spotted me; wish I didn't glow in the dark...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


What does it mean, bottom line, to be from a country? Even more bottomly, what does it mean to be from a planet? Wherever you were born, wherever you grew up - your “home” country - is but an atom on a mote on this dust-speck in the cosmos we designate by a primal breathsound "erth," our only home so far, excluding asteroid transport to our fledgling lifeless planet of enzyme building blocks, at which timepoint we anyway had no opinion as to the all of it all. Ultimately, though, because of us and our inner horizons, that dust-speck holds profound meaning for the entire cosmos, even if we are alone.

For my small part, while I’m here and moving around I try not to be misguided or feel controlled by passports, visas, borders, boundaries etc., which are after all virtual fences designed to keep others out, which would be bad enough in a happy society (the hopeful fruit of evolution), but even worse, in our currently diverse societies they’re often serving to keep us in.

Whether we know it or not, or even think about it, we transcend territory by an infinite range, yet still we have fences and borders. We abstract them into the skies and into the sea and earth, as well as in the South and North Poles, and beyond even those dimensions we carry ancient, locally built stone fences in our heads.

Seems impossibly distant, but one day, one day...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

some days 
taking out the trash 
is victory

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Anyone with any sense would rather have a good leg than a Lamborghini, if one were to ask such a silly question. To the rehab staff, I call my challenged leg ‘my Lamborghini,’ not to impugn the streamlined beauty of the Lambo, but because legs need a little flattery now and then, a little incentive to get moving more gracefully and stylishly than a sub-par leg such as mine is at the moment, lazing in its new milieu. I need more class down there.

When I call my leg a Lamborghini, the limb evidences a certain flair upon at last lurching into movement; it wears a new hint of grace, because a leg of any reasonable age and sensibility knows what a Lamborghini is, and begins to show distinct, though distant, signs of Astaire. Things are improving. This is the proper approach to managing a leg I believe, on the basis of limited subjective experience, which is basically all one ever gets.

Of course I do not mean to compare legs and Lamborghinis in any real way; Lamborghinis may be fast on certain roads and race tracks, but only there. I can go up my stairs in 30 seconds or into the pantry for some donuts right this moment; that is the proper domain of legs: living space at large. Lamborghinis, being strictly limited in range, are unfairly diminished by this comparison.

Just because I with my quad cane can walk rings around a Lamborghini, which can only sit rumbling throatily by the roadside while I totter into the greater world at will, we should not mock the Lambo, it can reach 60 in 3 seconds, if you insist on doing pointless things; waste is the lap of luxury, after all. There’s no waste in a leg, nor any need for luxury. 

Just a touch of style.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


Some things you can’t really compare, but for reasons far beyond reach you feel you have to. It can help counterbalance your self-esteem to try realizing how insignificant you are here at the relentless pinpoint of existence. 

On the one hand, we have various local timebound methods of asserting self-significance: one true religions, material possessions, the pyramids and selfies, to offer just a random sampling, but those are small potatoes when you go deep field into the night sky with your mind wide. 

No one can wrestle for long with that reality; it surrounds us with countless lifetimes, a trillion generations wouldn’t begin to cover it. Within your own few decades you feel over time your life’s fabric stretching to its limit; your joints begin to tire at the continuous effort of being, as you physically prepare for your own reconvergence.

Historically, we have attributed these physical life changes to time itself taking a merely chronic toll; more lately in our new scientific version we blame it as well on our dwindling personal supply of telomeres, if you want to stick to that. Plastic surgery is no cure, bionics is no cure, downloading to a motherboard is no cure. There is no ‘cure,’ as there is no disease.

Let’s look up and face it: we are each and all destined to become one again with the entire night sky; what’s the problem with that? What could be more magnificent in scope, more exquisite in detail? What could be a more appropriate continuance to the mysterious yearnings of life toward the stars?

We can all imagine infinitely worse, and often do.

Sunday, June 12, 2016


One thing they don’t tell you when you start re-walking after a cerebral hemorrhage is how far above the ground you now are. The new reality is a bit of a shock. As a  young man of full height I topped out at a bit over 6 feet (183cm); then, over the course of a lifetime of impact sports, hand-delivering groceries and newspapers, body surfing, motorcycle and other collisions, lugging’n’tossing firewood, general aging etc. I’d bottomed out for a time at about 5’ 11”, with lower elevations anticipated as time arrived. I never expected to be towering like this.

But when in the semi-Lazarus phase after my comet ride I rose from my bed and began to walk with a cane, I was astonished at my elevation. Though the distance is subjective, that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. You yourself are starkly aware of the skyscraper you have now become, teetering atop record-breaking legs, head in clouds-- but you could never prove it. 

It is a new experience, far more disquieting than mere hallucinogens. Equally disturbing is the fact that no one else perceives this change; all relate to you as though you were at about the same elevation as before, and wave their friendly greetings right in your face, in all kindness destroying your focus and aggravating your instability way up there alone in the head at the top.

As to the bottom, where not long ago your leg/torso relations were congenial - a matter of longstanding trust, so to speak - now there is a profound distrust of your old rambling partners, with whom you've shared your life, on all its many paths, right down to the ground. But now, as you peer from your teetering summit in the lower stratosphere, you know better. Just look down there. A mere two legs stand below, one of them questionable. Yet folks expect you to operate this bipedal  behemoth with a common grace. See those feet down there, wanting to move? Put on your glasses. There. See them now? Recognize those two shapes in the big, look like shoes? Next to the hospital? Be careful, there are a lot of good folks in there. That’s it, now take a step. 

No, a step; try for the old normal. Of course you feel dizzy now and then. For not-dizzy, you need a normal world with a normal you in it. That’s nowhere around for the moment, but just keep practicing, reality will return. At least most of it. And your leg will less and less think it’s maybe a wing. Trust me; soon it won’t even be thinking of stepping over a car.

Control is the operative word here; that’s what your leg doesn’t have right now. A raw nervous system component is exemplary of chaos; it is the way the universe was just after the Big Bang, so it's familiar to a leg, which had its start in the caldron of universal hardware development. Chaos, amok, rampant -- these archaic words, arising directly from the raw aftereffects of the Big Bang, also apply. And like that early chaos following the primal dawn, they are also temporary.

So enjoy gazing over the Pacific at the tops of the Rockies while you can. 

That perspective won’t last long.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


I grew up in a city, under crowded circumstances, but when you're young everything is food of a kind. When I grew old enough to develop a natural taste of my own for a place that would feed my older soul, the country was where I found it.

Whenever I make the trip into the city from the country I feel a loss, I miss the sky, I miss the quiet, the space, the breath of trees, the way nature arranges things, she has good hands. I miss her native friendliness, her infinite language, her random acts of beauty.

In my youngest youth I’d always sensed what I later realized: that the big city was where we still yearn for the Eden that pulls at the tides of our hearts, that city folk use for picnics and vacations, summer homes when they can get them; but that knowledge did nothing to ease the feeling of being away. I couldn't wait to get home.

Now when I return home, the closer I get the quieter the air becomes, the calmer the people and the closer we are to the heartbeat of the earth, source of our destiny among the stars.

We all came from the country.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


The fragrance is and isn't, like a light bulb on the fritz - suppose that happens more and more as you get older, the thought slips in - he can’t catch and hold it, that magic and uplifting fragrance that takes him back to a self he’s lived in before, like those romantic moments themselves, whenever and wherever they were, impact like a freight train made of air, like any romantic moment in fact, was it a moment on a park bench or just walking along a street somewhere somewhen...

He’s no longer where his body is now, but is strolling in the past along this big city street toward the intersection just before the office, wandering among the kinds of memories that come flashing back into life on wings of the air like this, suddenly there they are, those powerful connections that no longer really connect, just reach back into who you once were and are no longer, like starlight into outer space...

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Gardens of light are better than gardens of darkness, rows of nourishment better than sloughs of toxicity. How much nicer to turn the deep and living soil, watch it gleam in the sunlight, alive with tomorrow, than to foster shadows of past illusion... When you till your garden you till yourself; when you seed the earth, you grow; when you nurture life, you live the more.

Sunday, May 08, 2016


You may think you’re in charge of your hands, and they’re content to let you think that. But you were born knowing practically nothing about "hands-on" hand management, because we have a life to learn to live and must get on with immediate matters while our hands delve into the ancient archives of handiness. 

The infant initiate must accrue practical hand skills slowly over the years, using the massive database of ancient handcraft. Right away giving you all they have in the handy archives is not good survival policy; you have a long series of more important lifethings to do than spend your waking time on the finer points of hand operation-- slicing onions, painting the Mona Lisa etc. The nanodetails of pinky lifting alone are formidable, with vast archives in the genetic database.

It’s better we remain in the dark on these points. Too much detail can be hazardous, as hands have learned from long experience. These distal experts don’t need you mucking things up with Oh should I this with the knife or Oh should I that with the club, so wisely they don’t tell you 99.999% or more of the background particulars; once we’re out of the way on this, we have a shot at survival. We should be thankful. Hands have been clawing forward for a long, hard time, in situations beyond our imagining, and that info is stored in a safe place within. We ourselves, on the other hand, are new here. 

So there’s lots of stuff that hands keep secret. If there’s something you personally want to do, like hit a bullseye with an arrow, carve a Pieta or write cursive, hands just say “Ok, show us what you want over and over, then stay out of the way. Leave the details to us.” Hands prefer simplicity in their personal relations. 

Nonetheless, we generally believe we’re in charge, since we appear to direct our hands, to bid them do our will and it is done; we seed the avocado, play some Chopin, change the tire, perform the surgery etc. -- i.e., we believe that we are ruling these dandy handy devices at the ends of our arms, to say nothing of these footy items at the ends of our legs that we we think even less about, other than that we are tacitly their masters, if we're asked. 

Historically cunning creatures that they are, hands are perfectly willing to let us go on through life believing such balderdash; pride has no place in hand character, despite the truly stunning amazing breathtaking awesome things they are capable of, right down to the atom, electron, quantum level and beyond, as they well know. 

Hands put miracles to shame.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


...and I remember thinking, as I sat there gazing at the aesthetic detail of the small chapel, how much they cared, the carpenters of the far past: every joint, every curve, every scroll and support, the selected and honored wood grain, the structural complexity, the craftsmen's love for the very effort, was evident everywhere in that ancient work; and where in the neoworld do you see anything approaching that selfless level of intensity, manifested for all, direct from the long-ago hands and life times of unsigned individuals working alone at their craft for meager reward, unknown even now for the inspiring beauty of their achievement. Nor did distant future renown matter to them; nothing mattered but the greatest beauty and quality of which their hands, minds and skills were capable, the “How could it be otherwise” character of their timeless craft...

Monday, April 25, 2016


It’s hard to weed, it's hard to be young, it’s hard to do the things that have to be done.

Just now thinking, as I was weeding the garden too long neglected, how I’d had to learn (and later teach the grandaughter trio) to tell the weeds from the feeds, and thence in weedly fashion I got to thinking about a defensive critique I’d read recently about the Humanities (they now have to be defended!), how beneficial they are in nurturing the most important quality in living: an interesting and interested life.

Most significantly, the Humanities are not taught primarily in preparation for employment, which seems to be the astigmatic purpose of most education in our time - for a career that ends when you retire - but in an ancient understanding of preparation for life, in laying the groundwork for cultivating a broad mind with interests that sustain imagination and curiosity in new aspects at every age.

In my case, it nourished my hunger to read, and then to write, led me to travel for new knowledge; I'm still exploring after all these years, an 'alien' in 'foreign' lands: what greater source of  ongoing natural education (children, grandchildren, world, peoples, cultures, languages, gardening, monkeys, firewood etc.) as a way of life, unlike linear training that in time becomes outmoded, less and less part of a life that looks forward to retirement... The humanities, in contrast, are integral to life beyond its end.

Which is not to say that other fields of study don't offer these benefits in varying degrees, but the Humanities provide the broadest cast of all. All this flowed to mind (suggestively, while weeding) because the Humanities are being dissed these days as having the least income value, when in fact they are the reliable source of the greatest wealth-- not the external kind that incrementally isolates and uneases, but the kind that accrues within oneself, inner riches to enjoy and share for a life entire.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


The Rock is a work
of quiet atmosphere
and simple exterior.

The Rock defines
a place in nature.

The approach to The Rock
is by footsteps
symbolizing passage
from another world.

To passersby, The Rock seems
nonchalant, perhaps even

Yet once inside, 
the visitor discovers
one ingenious space 
after another.

The Rock is conceived
as a series of experiences,
based on its own
compositional logic.

Rock visitors encounter
emotions they would not feel

The Rock is neither abstract
nor representational;
The Rock is enthralled with
ambiguities of perception.

The Rock evinces 
an uncanny power
to convince the observer
of its spatial impact.

The Rock is the embodiment
of gravity.

A linear path
links all Rocks.

Each Rock is located 
at the center of the site.

Friday, April 08, 2016


Sometimes you gotta go minimal on your dreams. Bugatti or Lamborghini would be good; Ferrari too.. As at various other stages of life, I must now confront a new reality: my cane is beginning to feel slow.       

It’s a welcome problem when you outpace your cane. And notwithstanding my long-term Astaire fantasies, I think a good, fast, sleek walker might be the next interim device to accelerate me down the long, well-paved road without handrails toward cane minimalism, something that will take the curves like a dream and leave my fellow caners in the dust. Plus it has wheels. If Bugatti or Lambo don’t make walkers yet, maybe I can get a genuine logo or hood ornament to put on it, or at least a bunch of decals to stick here and there for when I zip past my ambulatory confederates. 

Dreams take time to fulfill, which is what gives them value. Infants, pure as they are, don’t need value, don’t even dream of walking, let alone squealing around curves to take the lead; they live in bottomline reality (where it is best to retain a foothold); they’re happy to waggle their legs in the air for as long as it takes to get wherever it is they might be going, whatever that might mean. They don’t know until they graduate and get their legs, like I’ll get my Bugatti walker. 

Figuratively, I’m just departing a new infancy. I’m long past waggling my leg in the air, which is boring if you’re an adult and have been to Le Mans. A good Bugatti, though, that hugs the road, with maybe not disc brakes -- I’m no longer into that kind of speed-- but with serviceable stoppers, ‘cause I plan to be veering a lot. I still love the verge of control, which I overdid a few times in the early cane phase and on the old motorbikes now trashed, plus even earlier a couple of cars, more lessons learned and life thankfully continued. But a saner life looms now, in a rather novel way for me: a new life of streamlined walking, with a world-class brand.

Now I have to find a reputable sports walker lot within decent driving distance, where they have a full range of the latest models with all the accessories and options right down to flames and pinstriping, ideally in a nice candy apple red...  I can cane around the lot and view the selection, kick the tires, so to speak, ask expert questions like what's the 0 to 60 for this baby? How’s the turning radius on this model? Can this one do wheelies? etc. Maybe even take it for a test walk, well below the speed limit at first.

Be great to be on the road again, that leads anywhere I choose...

Saturday, March 26, 2016


We modern folk seem ever to be wanting more out of life than we're getting out of being virtualized toward artificiality; what’s going missing, other than we ourselves? Modern knowledge as handed down via commercial and other media pays little heed to the vital portion of our being that generates no profit. It is as though time past has gone only into the dust of history, as though it weren’t coiled up in us vital still and always, living back to the first of all... 

What impresses me the more I age is the extreme youthful difficulty, as viewed from even this mere vantage, of avoiding the conventional channels of thought, the standard lifemoves and the received ambitions to which they give rise, while the natural mental topography, traced with ancient pathways, is fundamental in our thoughts, concordant with the ancient knowings, where understanding is as the flowing stream to the mountain slope. The meditative mind when let to fly soon finds its true compass and nourishment for the journey, inner light acting upon a mind as the sun upon a garden.

I recommend that you become a hawk for a time; use your own wings. Discover for yourself the heights of your heavens and see what once was unseen that is yours; move in dimensions where no bodied man has been. What person would refuse this experience, even one chronically virtualized? The truest way to earth is from your own heaven.

Friday, March 04, 2016


Amazing, how long you can store pain without feeling it. Take my right arm, for example. And don’t say I never gave you anything. When I get my rehab massages, the painless arm blossoms into amazing and colorful waves of “welcome” pain, the kind I can appreciate, that I’d had no idea I was blithely carrying around. I’d been kept ignorant of it through the benign graces that have always known their body stuff right down to the ground.

As of now, it’s been about 18 months since my brain short-circuited in a minor way, randomly scrambling the communication routes originally divided between the limbs on my right side, which are now blended in a curious new arrangement and must be reaccommodated, adjusted, built upon and redirected by a select crew of innate nervous system and other operative entities who are complete strangers to me, using unknown algorithmic systems I embody but am not in charge of, thank goodness; I’ve always been inattentive to the principles of higher corporeal math. 

These cryptic entities are now busy trying to reconfigure the new situation, so I wisely remain aside;  I can feel them colluding and assembling in there, working day and night, making way-in-my-head decisions regarding things that even science has no inklings of. It is best not to interfere as though I know what I am doing; when a limb is ready to make a move, it will do so-- and thereby inform me of its success. It’s a nice series of surprises. I’ve never really “known” how to operate a limb anyway, and this is not the time to start, except in the most basic of ways; best leave the fine details to the corporeal experts that were me long before I was.

These nameless entities, which have been carrying out such complex tasks for eons and to which I am newly thankful, have generated a number of miracle-level surprises along my way, the most surprising (and informative) to me being that it’s going on without me-- it doesn’t need yours truly much at all, when I’m the de facto boss, but who the hell do I think I am, anyway. I go along with it all-- not that I have a choice. So what if a hand thinks like a foot for a while now and then? 

Broadens the horizons.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Shiitake have IQs. You don't believe it, just ask me. Admittedly, it's a kind of intelligence most folks don't encounter in everyday life, outside certain areas of finance; it's an intelligence we who prefer full daylight don't know much about. I've never read any scientific studies on shiitake IQ either, but if you actually raise the savory creatures, you come to understand the shadowy time-transcendent intelligence you're dealing with. You get that eerie Twilight-Zone feeling, as in the presence of chronic bankers. 

One example of shiitake savvy, apart from the amazing hydraulics of their existence and other unfathomable skills, is that they always grow biggest in places you don't look for them. When you're out searching for lunch on a log and at some point realize that there aren't any shiitake worth harvesting and are willing to swear there are no places on that log that you didn't check for shiitake, just a short time later you’ll see a giant sofa arm edging out from the very same log, with that TZ theme deedling in the background. You swear to yourself once more that you checked there, you checked everywhere, you've been doing this for 15 years now, after all, you should know, hunger doesn't overlook food, but your time and experience mean little to the brown-hooded brood...

This happens year after year; they always grow biggest where you definitely looked for them. I can only conclude that certain places are forever invisible to non-mushrooms. This is not standard reality we’re dealing with here, this is shiitake reality; they live in multiple dimensions and are not fully of this earth. I know the round-earthers and other reality-restricted types are right away poo-pooing this idea but of course they do not raise shiitake and probably work in finance or its vicinity. They react with knee-jerk responses like "Of course they grow biggest where you didn't look, it's because you didn't look there, so they weren't found, but were left to grow big!" The obvious is often all the reality-prone can command...

The metafact is not that shiitake grow big because I don't look where they are growing, it’s that they grow big in those places because they know where I cannot look! I understand this because of all the times I have left a good-looking mushroom in place to grow bigger in a couple of days, and it NEVER DOES... That's right, it knows I'm going to harvest and consume it, so it doesn't bother growing any further! The resources go elsewhere: they go to the mushroom unseen.

Moreover, the shroom I haven't spotted knows I haven't spotted it and thus that it has a chance to spore, so it goes for it, rockets out and up, aiming for the fences right before my unseeing eyes. With every fiber of all the mycelium backing its effort, it goes massive. It then permits itself to be spotted, because by then it doesn’t care, it has grown beyond edibility. It stands there jauntily, in plain sight now, doing its oh-so-subtle victory dance and wearing that protosmirk they get at that stage, like the good guy at the end of the war movie who's dying but has managed to blow the bridge.

Still. I get most of the newbies sooner or later, so in some ways I'm smarter than most mushrooms, if the monkeys don't get them first, though in other ways I'm dumber than mushrooms, and throw the monkeys in there too for good measure, it all works out in its own way-- monkeys, mushrooms, humanity, finance, all one big cycle bobbling in its own kind of balance, just ask the universe. 

The evidence is always right there before your eyes, where a shiitake isn't.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Cold Spring night 
Sogyu brings out
sweet potatoes unearthed
last Autumn,
split and dried over winter,
to roast in slow time
over embers like your hunger
as you practice
too hot to hold--

Then bite with care
chew with a dancy tongue
and the sweet
comes alive with your life,
the sun, the rain,
the earth in you,
relives in taste
how all things grow
and raise you up
because you are their flavor


                                     RB ii.2016


Friday, January 29, 2016

In re the aforegoing and as per the hereinafter, I should have mentioned that at this time of year our house itself is a cold frame. We stop heating at the beginning of March, if not earlier, as soon as we enter the single-sweater cusp, so the house becomes a big cold frame.

Aboriginally, plants of course lived their entire lives outdoors, in their natural environs. Market demand for specialized cultivars, however, has since rendered their derived produce so civilized, so coddled, so entitled, as it were, that modern varieties are becoming weaker and more vulnerable to even slight variations in their environment. 

Analogically speaking, their offspring are losing their ability to read and write cursive, and make a living for themselves in the real vegetable world. They need all the debilitating luxuries and medicaments, right away. And not to put too fine a point on it, if you cross them you don’t know what you’ll get. Is this the vegetable future we want for ourselves? Monsanto PR says a big YES!!! in giant yellow herbicidal letters sprayed across a vast industrial cornfield not far from your home, using what used to be called Agent Orange.  

But anciently honored vegetables have their own opinions.“Why, when I was still green,” says an elder sun-dried Roma tomato, “we learned to write mentally, with the figurative equivalent of a steel-tipped pen dipped in 100% tomato juice! We mastered the fine points of tomato grammar in seedling school! A second language was a budding requirement; I studied our original Nahuatl. Day after day we absorbed the ancient Endless Tomato Saga, continually reciting it from memory in absolute silence! That is not easy for a youngster.  

“Yes, we were born outdoors, lived outdoors, and you never enjoyed a better tomato. We were so proud... Those were the days... They were all real tomatoes back then, let me tell you; it was a great time for a young fellow to be alive. Why, look at what they have in the supermarkets now, no integrity at all-- cloned in labs, grown in greenhouses, even in soups of chemicals... 

“In the old days, though... Let me tell you about this beautiful Italian tomato I remember well... She was a beauty; you don’t forget curves like that, nosir-- Bella Toscana her name was, we grew very close, even hung around together... Strictly vine ripened, of course... They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to... Saucy as hell... What a dish... Why, even when we were still green, one time she and I...”

We tastefully leave the elderly tomato over in the gourmet section, musing to himself with a wistful smile, dreaming of a fading past, of beauties that once were, of glorious sauces and truly haute cuisine, when even ketchup was made only from the finest families of the land...

Now let’s see if we can still find any Heirloom vegetables...

Friday, January 22, 2016


Clockwise - Blue dot: North American plate, Pacific plate, Philippine plate, Eurasian Plate. 

Like everyone else alive today I got here late, tectonically speaking; by the time I arrived, Pangaea was little more than a crackpot hypothesis. 

Soon after reality set in, I learned that I'd been born and raised on the North American plate, which will always be my tectonic home (does one ever truly leave home plate?) but soon flew across the Pacific plate to the Eurasian plate where, during my first years of Tokyo drift, I occasionally traveled to land masses on the Philippine plate and the Eurasian Plate, which, as it happens, bears Kyoto and the Kansai region generally southward, at about 1 cm per month.

Subsequently, as personal transience would have it, in 1980 Standard Continental time I moved to Kyoto via the Shinkansen, which leaves tectonic speed in the dust; even going by foot is faster than any plate on earth. Accelerated existence on my new quake-prone plate has nevertheless been every bit as delightful as my times on the various other plates that go to make up the well-lived tectonic life.

Nowadays, it seems a lot of folks are content just to drift maybe a few centimeters a year on their birthplates while gliding imperceptibly through life, but as a traveler who - like anyone else - can walk faster than any plate, staying pretty much in place while moving indiscernibly is a lifestyle I could never quite accept. The solar system whirls galactically through accelerating space, earth spins and glides its way through the starlit void, its own many plates drift across vast seas of turbulent magma, why in the world should we ourselves remain in place, platefully speaking? It seems not to be in our universal nature; are we not platal in origin?

However big the picture, tectonic movements can be confusing on many levels. As if national citizenship weren’t illusion enough, the constant flux of all these plates, resolutely immune to autocratic fiat, renders them even more illusory than borders. As a native of the shifting North America plate, which glides down over the top of the Pacific plate to add northern Japan to Japan but never quite makes it to Kyoto, all I can truly say is that by birth I am Terran.

That blue jewel is a planet to be proud of.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

                                                                        (from unposted archives)

Out here in the cold March wind of an evening, Siberia swirling its icy cape over the land for another try at winter, I'm pulling tree debris off of just-planted lettuce, shoulders hunched beneath a dull, steely sky-- Tarps torn off the firewood, icicle wind poking here and there through my indoor wear-- this was going to be just a fast outing for quick windblast fixes I could see were needed from a glance out the window, where it was toasty warm.

Once outside, though, at each turn I spotted other things that needed doing before dark - and oh yeah: get more firewood, since I’m out here... Then, clenched in the frigid grip of this time-wrestle, battling once more in the old cosmic arena that life can become in a moment’s darkening, I feel the first sliver of that deep silver loneliness so familiar to one who has lived this far... every such one knows it by heart, that wintry desert deep in the inner times of being. In later life, icy wind and solitude give it a new heft...

At earlier ages, that mood would soon pass, change to a heartfilling vibrancy dipped straight from the well of youth, once again lifting me to joy in natural buoyancy, back in an easygoing companionable world well-stocked with tomorrows-- but now, living closer to the nearing edge of life I’m ever more aware of my narrowing future, of a time when no more is-- of past either, no going back to that laughing, vital crowd, even now all living into their own old ages or too early gone-- soon we will all be far from now...

Then from all the way ago comes an unbidden warmth that lifts me, eases my hunkered mood, transforms this verge into joy that glows like towers of gold--  There are always treasures to be found, along the line of being...

I clear the downed wood, doubleweight the tarps, close the gate and head back toward the warmth, bearing armfuls of firewood amid towers of gold.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

                                                                                                  [from unposted archives]

Here in the Japanese countryside there aren't any movie theaters or entertainment districts, like they have in the big cities. I don't know how we survive out here with just trees and flowers, rivers, lakes, wild animals, genuine weather and distant neighbors-- the most exciting event right now where I live is the plums ripening. Nothing like standing under the plum tree in the cool of the morning and having a couple of sweet ones for breakfast. 

We saved a lot of plums from the ravages of the scoundrelly simians in the historical Battle of the Big Plum Job a few days ago, our victory thanks to the advanced rock-propulsion system we've developed during the million years of struggle between sapience and simiance, a struggle still ongoing in politics and finance. 

Right after that engagement I picked a couple of basketfuls of ripening plums, just in case the furry marauders returned, but I couldn't reach the purplings high up, which are now hanging there ripening in the sun, like the finest rubies in perfectly complementary leaf greenness. Beautiful. 

Whoever designed plum trees sure knew what she was doing.