I'd try that recipe for pasta with 10 kinds of tomatoes, if local Japanese markets had more than one kind of tomato or I had zero monkeys. Time to plan my garden perimeter fencing with patrols and guard towers...
Every time I go down into the flatlands below and, say, wait on the platform at the train station or wander through the village, stroll country roads, viewing farm fields and kitchen gardens here and there, left and right, in every sunny nook and cranny, I can't help but suffer extreme salad envy as I admire the lush vegetables I behold as if in some kind of cornucopious church-- the towering bean plants, the voluptuous tomatoes, the resplendent lettuces and fat pumpkins, to say nothing of the Cullinan-diamond quality of the onions they should be kept in strong-boxes is my impulse, the jade richness of lush cabbages just sitting there in rows like well-fed bankers-- or the beans, the okra, cucumbers, the fruit-laden trees inyerface and whatever the hell else they got coming up like thunder down there at any given time of year and gnash my teeth at their luxurious lack of monkeys.
Few persons from other parts of the world appreciate the luxury of monkeylessness, or have zero-monkey cravings, for nearly all have always had zero monkeys, or at most only occasional zooey and therefore illusorily fascinating exemplars of simianhood, as I myself have had in several naive stages of my former monkeyless life (how do you appreciate what you don't know you have?). I confess that zero monkeys has for some time now been a dream of mine (surprise, o faithful reader!), for the fact is that countlessmonkeys is part of the price of living up here on the mountain.
I therefore must seriously begin planning my Vegetable Fortress...
In the night, the August night, I barely awoke from a dream about deer and the world was still of the dream; I heard the sound of deer taking careful steps through the high grass in my garden, then there was a soft crunching as of deer browsing on my prospering verbena or my surviving basil, their chewing so intent that I arose and peered out the window in the first hint of dawn and was able to see a morning's dream: a summer dawn rain falling in soft waves, with a rhythmic, tender sound like the slow chewing of lush, new-grown leaves, as from the house eaves came a slow regular dripping, like the soft steps of deer though high grass in a dream to which I returned at once, awakening later to find the basil and verbena not only intact, but fresh from dreams of rain...
Commuting is an unnatural activity, perhaps even moreso here in the Land of Harmony. It should therefore come as no surprise that strange things occur when mass humanity undergoes the physical delivery of self elsewhere. As founder of the Brady Museum of Commuting Oddities, I myself have seen or participated in numerous of the escapades on exhibit at that virtual institution, but the Bright Blue Aloha Shirt stands alone in its own special corner by the Museum entrance.
Gaudy is not practiced much in Japan, in fact it is generally frowned upon, particularly among the elders. So when I of the long white ponytail and two gold earrings don my blinding blue-and-yellow flowered Aloha shirt, some might call it the acme of gaudy, but I say up theirs. I use that shirt or one of its less glaring fellows on certain days to lift my energy level like a cup of coffee does in times of other need, in the present case to offset (or at least belie) the severe F.O.G. (Fog Of Grandparenting) I was experiencing after several long days with the three GrandGirls.
It was in the early morning version of that drowsy miasma that I selected the brightest garment in the morning dimness, to get me through a long day in the big city. I pulled the technicolor article off the clothesline, put it on over my jeans and blue-and-red running shoes with the big, sun-yellow laces, and set off for work. I was the apotheosis of gaud. No way I could close my eyes too long wearing these duds; a look in the mirror was a refreshing slap in the face: Thanks, I needed that. I took the station steps two at a time I was so buzzy, my shirt seeming to catch the eyes of plodding gray-clad fellow commuters taking one step at a time. I was feeling zipped already! I had no more idea of what was really drawing their attention than do you, honored reader of these humble meanderings.
But ignorance of actuality has never stopped me before, apart from the occasional sudden brick wall, so after a shirt-displaying wait on the platform I boarded the train, where my dazzling garment also caught a few passenger eyes like a sunburst. I edged past an aisle-seated man and took the seat by the window. His eyes too followed my shirt. As I sat down, I heard an unusual snapping sound, my belt-edge catching on the seat piping or something. I had no idea. F.O.G., you understand.
When the train arrived in the big city I got off onto the crowded rush hour platform and was pleased to note that my shirt was bringing joy to many in the crowd; it IS a very refreshing shirt, in its flashy, exotic fashion. And thus I walked the usual streets to the office, noting admiring glances at my shirt along the way; next week, perhaps a few of these smiling folks would take a chance and wear their own hidden Aloha shirts.
Got to the office, shirt admirers in the lobby and all the way to my desk; sat down thereat and heard a snap and then a crunch; reached around and found bits of what had been hanging from my bright blue shirttail ever since I left the house: a bright blue plastic clothespin. My fellow morning rush-hour enthusiasts hadn't been admiring my bright blue Aloha shirt, they'd been enjoying my bright blue plastic tail!
Now that the cooling days of late August are here, the insects that sing of night are singing of day as well, full in the summer of their contentment… Here in a mountain breezy afternoon I can't begin to count the variety of choruses from earth, underbrush, tree and sky-- it is impossible to distinguish, into their exquisite threads, all the woof and warp of this skywide tapestry of song...
Last night a singing insect of a kind I'd not yet heard (i.e., not paid attention to) began singing through our screen door-- or rather, sounded, for it was not so much a song as an unadulterated call, unrefined for human ears of course, it was a summons to all kindred, with a rhythmic generation more sensation than sound, defying such mereness as ears, meant for entire bodies of the proper size and impulse, a vibration of greater measure than humanity allows... would that I could hear beyond our mundane range to the sonic rainbow this song implied, with its attention-perturbing power.
On and on it went as we do in our own conversations, but this was only one, giving all there was, awaiting a response in its brief turn at life and what it means to say... A little Zen master, unseen, offering nonetheless a cosmic koan. The same heaven was born in us, if we have not been taught - and learned - to forget…
The other morning I spotted this train ad for the tallest meat construction I ever saw for commercial sale (note the fluffiness of bun, the tenderness of lettuce, the softness of cheese, remeniscent of fat hanging over a belt), though the looming Megateriyaki was no svelte offering. I remember when I thought a Big Mac was huge and before that, when a burger and fries was a meal... I suppose in another two years it'll be six burgers high, and then eight... Are the jaws widening as the bodies do?
We had our last blast with the trio yesterday while their mother went into Kyoto for some long overdue personal shopping. It was the last time I'd see the wee ones for this trip, since they're going home to Tokyo today and I have to go to work in the big city. They weren't informed that this was the last day of their visit before returning to their regular routine of school and the local playground.
It was raining most of the day so we were confined to the house, and in the rainlulls to the garden, where they could play with the hose and create a greater hullabaloo until lunch, after which we went to the beach but as soon as we got there the thunder and lightning started and then heavy rain, so we scrambled back to the car and went instead to a kiddy game center in the big department store where, since it was Wednesday, they had the place entirely to themselves and my change purse.
They rode every ride several times, their favorite being one that produced a doggy picture for each ride, the one who put the coin in getting to keep that card. We also took a wacky group picture in a photo booth (which I will post herewith later, if I can snap a decent copy of the tiny blurry image). Then we went home for dinner, they clutching their doggy pictures.
When their mother returned in time for dinner, we ate together and I wore myself out frolicking (impossible to refuse little open arms raised toward you) until they were almost as sleepy as I was, when we said our last goodbye and they drove off into the dark thinking they'd see us tomorrow too… One-sided goodbyes are easier…
Imagine you're a grandfather my age and your daughter takes an afternoon off to visit some friends for the first time in a long while, and on the same afternoon your wife goes off for a few appointed hours to practice yoga, leaving you alone on a hot August day in a mountainside house with no car and three granddaughters aged 7, 4 and 4 years whose every request must be honored, in order that it may cease.
While you're at it, imagine also that you have a large editing job to complete by tomorrow morning and that every now and then, while the three are engrossed for the few minutes possible - for example in energetically drawing large, bright images with colored felt-tipped pens on small pages atop your unmarked oak floor - you sneak upstairs to do some quiet typing until before too long a small shadow comes creeping upward to stand beside you and ask, "What are you doing? Can I use the bubble gun?"
Then it's out on the deck (more fun than typing) refereeing turns with the bubble gun, which soon runs out of bubble juice, so you try to make some more over the kitchen sink from dish detergent etc. with six small arms hanging from your own so as to help you finish faster, then back out and one girl blows bubbles while the other two chase the rainbow orbs into the garden, where the girls begin sampling herbs and trying out the garden hose, it works very well, wets the firewood, the girls and an upstairs room nicely, so you go into the garden to supervise, then they get thirsty, then hungry, and a full half-hour has passed already, only 4 or more hours to go.
At some point in the long blur, one of the 4-year-olds points to your midriff and says "Is there a baby in there?" referring to those few pounds you've only just begun enjoying as the first small bit of fat on your body in all your life, the look on her face perhaps implying that this non-stop exercise is just what you need. Yet through all this, somewhere inside you, in a place not quite accessible at the moment, you love every relentless minute of it. Ah, how we discover new reaches of the heart. Imagine.
Meanwhile up in superheated Tokyo, where there are no mountains, secret forest waterfalls, lakes or beaches to speak of, a lot of people gather at indoor pools; in the above case en masse, in the massiest sense of the phrase... See what happens to all those folks, who are actually in a pool, when the wave machine gets fixed (scroll down)...
Yesterday in the clear, hot afternoon Echo and I had the Tornado Trio again, this time while their parents went to a nice French restaurant for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon doing their own relaxing thing. As per the plan laid out inOperation Tornado we took the kids and their gear upmountain to a secret forest waterfall a kilometer or so along the rough road (the kids loved that rocking and bouncing!) above the spring we go to sometimes to get our special mountain water.
Kaya had visited the falls before and liked it, so we figured it would be a good place for the three to burn off some of their pent-up house-energy. When we got to the spot, made our way down the path from the road to the 5-meter-high roaring falls under a close canopy of trees and got the kids into the shallow sandy part of the pool, the twins looked way up at the giant roaring cascade and, all unexpectedly to me, got scared and wanted out immediately.
So we went back down to the spring to fill the jugs with water, the kids helping for about 30 seconds because from the spring there issues a small meandering baby stream of foot-wide overflow, in which all three girls splashed and played happily with their bags of beach toys for an hour or so until all the toys had been used up one by one in all the various permutations and they had learned for example whether it is possible and what it takes to fill a big water bottle from a stream by the spoonful and then empty it into the stream by the ladleful, how long it takes to empty a big bottle of toy-shoveled water into a little stream, how to hold the bottle while doing so (emptying whole bottles of water right out, again and again, without an adult interfering even once!), how much water a plastic bag can hold, how to carry a plastic bag full of water and how to pour it into a small-necked bottle, what happens when you suddenly squeeze the bag, or poke a hole in it etc., wisdom-bits we all must acquire (whether we remember it or not) and somehow assemble along the way into what we come to call understanding, as way back when little Keech had to learn whether or not dad's favorite pen would write on toast (nothing like a buttery nib), or how many times you can put a ball into a box and take it out, thereby early on acquiring a hands-on grasp of what he now understands as infinity.
Speaking of infinity, it was exhausting for Echo and I just standing back and monitoring the whole freestyle affair cubed, so when the trio at last wore the stream out, on condition they cleaned up all their beach toys we took them back down the mountain (fun rough road again!) to a secret little beach we know of on this side of the lake, where they could frolic in the waves and sing their spontaneous water songs while we lay flat on our backs in some shade on the sand and just breathed. We grownups have to play too, after all.
On Sunday took the goodies swimming again, this time across the lake at a secret beach right beyond the famously photographed nanohana garden (in this season full of sunflowers) on the lakeside roadway whence, I suspect, Hiroshige got some of his mountain views for Omi-Hakkei, a view that Basho in his local wanderings no doubt also stopped to admire.
Comfortably heedless of all this history, and of the splendid view, the trio spent their time in the water, with only rare breaks for food or drink, the slanting beams of the westering sun lighting the lake surface to a sparkling blue lain out before the green mountains, the vast paddy slope beside which we live clearly visible as a patch of imperial jade on the tree-dark green of the distant slopes, whose shape Hiroshige captured in his own way; it was less than 200 years ago, that distant human world, a split second to a mountain.
And there in the sun of much the same afternoon were the offspring of that world, three little sisters in their bright bathing suits in the light of the same setting sun, holding hands to make a ring in the gleaming water and singing songs to fill a New Yorker’s hungry heart. With even the slightest real look (real looks is all they have, at that age), they make me realize with a bit of mental lightning what I have known since birth but that often slips my attention: every real moment is beyond price.
The KMM trio (Kaya, Mitsuki, Miasa) visited on Saturday, and as they always do made captive of my every moment. Their all-unknowing beauty and growth, their brand-new grownup forthrightness, their inherent privilege shown in their faces from the open door, when they began without compunction from where we left off months ago as if it had only been a moment, though it was months to me and a great part of their lives to them. But they and their smiles, and the hugs that came with them, held all the good there has ever been.
They and I went right out into the garden and cut some of the lush lemon verbena leaves, brought them back to the deck where we rolled them one by one between our big and little hands, put them in the big jar of water to make amazingly sun tea. The twins couldn't quite get where the tea-making part was going to come from, even when I pointed to the sun. Then we went swimming at their favorite nearby spot on the lake, where they swam until the sun just couldn't stay up any longer.
I managed to hold out for a couple more hours than the sun.
Though the dressing up of pets is certainly nothing new - the ancient Egyptians gave them golden earrings - sometimes you can't help but feel that manipulations of a certain kind may this time be going too far. Though that feeling certainly isn't new either.
By now, no doubt there are virtual cats serving as virtual pets for virtual people somewhere virtual; but here in what we are still generally pleased to call reality you have an actual cat being 'enhanced' (at considerable expense!) so as to vaguely resemble the generic figment of a purely brand-name creature that really doesn't have much in common with a genuine cat. Surely the cat is diminished thereby...?
Sometimes you have to wonder how these animals that have accepted being our pets look upon us two-legged, mostly hairless, mastercreatures... Is that a look of wistfulness in the cat's eyes, for the good old days when just being a cat was the most pleasant and fulfilling thing in life?
with thanks to who-sucks.com, where there are more refashioned cat photos...
Watched a wide-winged, feather-fingered hawk doing the flying he was built to do, riding the ripples in the down-mountain wind-edge, just the way it swirled off the forests and ridges and rose and swooped in big invisible curls of torrential air, the hawk playing the wind like a lifelong pro, living it like a holy text, sailing and plunging right above the treeline below, swinging back and forth on the wind's own waxing and waning, its left and right, up and down, toward and away... tail fanning, wing feathers grasping for every scrap of airy purchase, the hawk wasn't doing anything but that very thing; he wasn't hunting, he wasn't gliding idly, he was just using his wide, fullspread wings to the ultramax they were made for, and as I watched, feeling a tingle of that same feeling in my own very wingbones, I could tell by the way he went on and on, tirelessly doing what he was so very good at-- all the fancy stuff too-- that he was loving it, loving being the way the wind and his wings let him, wanted him, made him, be: his actual full and audaciously skilled windriding self: pure, feathered joy on wings, passioning all that blue sky.
Regarding my July 24 post on rice paddy art, some folks seem to be of the opinion that it's all photoshopped, which is understandable, given the complexity that would be involved in creating the "real thing" on such a scale. So here's one page of the Japanese website showing in time frames how rice paddy art is created. For examples from other years (Heisei 14~18), just click the characters at the page bottom to get to the home page index. Amazing.
So Prime Minister Abe finally saw the light, confronted the reality of his party's trouncing in the recent election, looked in his heart for a decisive path of action, and fired the Minister of Agriculture. World leaders seem to be having unusual amounts of trouble discerning reality these days. In one nation, maybe it's the lack of an army to wave around; in another perhaps it's the approach of the Second Coming. The possibilities are legion. Who can explain it? It's certainly not the leader's fault. Maybe it's because they're not used to sincerelyapologizing.
Born and raised in upstate New York, traveled for a decade after college, lived in various places around the world, keeping a journal. Settled in Kyoto in 1980, moved to this mountainside above Lake Biwa in 1995. Started Pure Land Mountain in April 2002.