Journal Musings

Genius Loci

These last four weeks have weighed heavily in my heart and mind, dragging confidence and certainty into a dark corner, and leaving little space for carrying on with day to day indulgences, least of all blogging.

Egg Offering
Cooked eggs offered to the deity (“kami”) of Shirakoma Lake, Yatsugatake, Japan 2003.

These last four weeks have weighed heavily in my heart and mind, dragging confidence and certainty into a dark corner, and leaving little space for carrying on with day to day indulgences, least of all blogging. It is the culmination of a personal crisis that shunted to the forefront of my life two years ago, a week before the New York tragedy, and now has finally reached its dying throes. It’s not something I can open up about on the internet, but suffice it to say that, second only to my diabetes, it ranks as the most emotionally debilitating event in my life. I have been struggling to come to terms with it, to wrap an emotional clasp around it, and come out of the whole thing stronger and better for it. But it’s elusive and stubborn. So much has shaken loose. So much that I took for granted before no longer holds firm beneath my feet. And each time I face the computer screen in an attempt to write something worthwhile, the words fail me.

So I decided today to write about that which is causing the words to fail.

A close friend recently criticized me for focusing so much on complaining and analyzing the less favorable aspects of my present situation, especially in this blog. I’m not sure that is what I have been doing, certainly not after I decided that I would no longer comment and rave about the situation in Iraq or my greatly altered opinions about the U.S., but my friend had a point… over these last two years I have more and more drawn into myself and blocked out much of the world around me, most of all drawing away from any further potential emotional tremors from friends and people who might become friends.

Looking back on the posts of the last few months a sense of remoteness (my friend adds “tragedy”) surrounds the words; there are so few people and so little sense of humor. You would think that my life is just made up of the blog and the mountains, and that I shun being close to people. And yet that is not who I really am. If you would come to know me you would understand that I love a good laugh and love company. These days I don’t know who I am any more.

This too will pass, I know. The world will move on, as will the rough seas of these ailing moments. I will laugh again and there will be friends to share the highs and lows with. It will pass, but in the meantime I seek something to grab a hold of to get through this. In the confusion of facing someone while soundless words die in my mouth, in the disorienting panic that awakes when someone asks a question and I find I must haul up some reserves to fix a steady image of myself for a sufficient reply, I have been diving deeper and deeper, away from all the demands and unnecessary social conventions. I have needed this time away, alone. I have needed time to take stock and regroup. I have needed to remember that alone I am all right, that I won’t drown in my own self doubt.

Getting out, away from the fingers of the computer and beyond the opacity of walls and ceiling, allows me to grow small and insignificant. I can forget myself out under the sky. The smaller I become the greater the pressure of my heart and soul, like compressed air at high altitude. I have a theory that, were I to wink out of existence while out in the lap of the world, becoming infinitely small, whatever greatness lies at harbor in my soul would burst out in a tantivy of wings, to dissipate into the smoke of what is all-encompassing. And I would surge through the aether like a pulse of blood. These are my dreams of flying, full of memories of happiness and fulfillment.

So I visit the places closest to the mix of chemicals, water, earth, air, fire and pressure that brewed up life. Places like the mountains where life is reduced to putting one foot in front of the other, finding shelter from the wind, gauging the limit of your muscles, eating, and drinking. Alone. Without thoughts. Without preconceptions or answers to anything. Somehow I’ve got it into my head that if I can’t explain a damn thing, can’t give a why or wherefore, the steamroller that is rolling over sections of my life right now, will pass by with little damage.

Faith in something I guess. A belief that I don’t have to take on the whole load by myself. A delegation of pain and healing.


Many of these thoughts started from reading Kurt’s (and other participants’) comments, from The Coffee Sutras: The “G” Word

7 replies on “Genius Loci”

I don’t know if I’m alone but I certainly did not get this impression about you from your blog, Butuki. I think many of us use our blog to carve out a little “alone” time which paradoxically involves talking to the larger world. Anyway, I hope you feel from lots of us who read your words that you are not alone. I’ve been wondering how you were doing.


Like you I often go walking out into nature to find some peace. Walking in nature is something so basic, so fundamental for our bodies that it seems to reset the mind, it takes me off the emotional roller coaster that is modern life and gives me time to reflect and relax.

Your writing about nature and what you saw and felt while hiking is often crystal clear and therefore connects us readers through your eyes and mind with nature. It always sounds very close to what I feel when I get out into the elements on my walks and it brings back many memories of my own.

I always thought that you were telling us so beautifully about your walks in nature more for your own good than for us readers, that you are re-living these perfect moments by writing about them and that we readers are just very fortunate for you to share these thoughts with us.

I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this post, other than to say that by sharing your gift of writing you are making this a much better place for your audience to be in.

Thanks, and I hope that you’ll emerge soon from that foggy valley and that you are again walking high up into the sunshine and the crisp air of the mountains of your life.


I hope you will continue to surface from whatever depths you’re struggling in, and show wonderful photographs like this one. As is often the case with talented, unhappy people, I look at such beauty and wonder why it cannot provide happiness for its creators — even though I know it cannot… And your thoughtful, heartfelt writing is something I look forward to reading… for what it’s worth.


Like Pica, I’ve never had the sense from reading your blog of any great unhappiness. And I do think that wisdom begins with the acknowledgment of what one does not know, including the sources of one’s own pain. As one who lives in such close observation of nature, you already know that this will pass, new growth will come.


Butuki, I don’t think you need to add the burden of explanation to whatever else your soul is feeling, although I appreciate this post and the toll it undoubtedly took on you. My guess is that you are following good advice by listening to your heart and going out into nature and solitude. This is where restoration always comes to me, partly because I can’t help see nature as a free gift that is there for me and for anyone who chooses to experience it and become part of it. That is does exist, and is there for me, and for you, halfway around the world, is a mystery I really cannot fathom. When I’m truly unhappy, people’s demands are what break my back, but I’ve also been prey to that terrible burden of feeling pain and responsibility for the world. I dont’ want to ever lose my compassion, but I also have to be realistic. It helps me sometimes to try to remember that there are circles of responsibility. A wise old woman who walked across the US for peace when she was very old, “Peace Pilgrim”, once said that when we feel overburdened, it is a sign that we are taking on too much. God (or whatever you want to call it) asks us to do what we can, but not more than that, and it’s up to us to see where we are on that scale at any given time. If you need to retreat to your particular “well” – as we all do from time to time – follow that prompting and don’t feel you have to explain or analyze it. I think you have a very pure and wonderful gift, but you have to take care of it gently, like those eggs.


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