Not a good way to start a day when the sky is filled with the sound of American fighter jets thundering overhead, again and again. It’s a sound that invades even the deepest core of your dwelling. Luckily I don’t have to stay here all day; I’ll be leaving in a few minutes. But it didn’t make the grey air taste any sweeter…
Here is well-written and detailed look at what is happening here in Japan (and, by association, all over the world) concerning the bases. It provides a very good outline for one reason why so many people around the world are infuriated with America.
Random thought: With all the uncertainty of what blogging/ web journaling/ rippling constitutes, I wondered last night if perhaps it is kind of latter day, secular confessional. You’ve got the screen, the listener with the feedback, the anonymity, the focus on oneself, and even the worship of a huge, all-pervading organization, with its priests of information. The time that we spend spilling our hearts almost seems to be trying to make up for the years of silence we all endured as we gave up the old institutions…
Suggestion… For those of us for whom good writing makes up the most important aspect of web journaling, I would like to propose a vote for the best written entries of 2003. We could start with single suggestions from bloggers (except one’s own blog, of course), tallying up, say, 30 of the the most often named entries, then vote again to pare it down to 10 entries, that can then be posted on their own page. Any ideas on this? Can you even remember any specific entries? (I find it quite difficult…!)
Evolution… A while ago I wrote that blogging is probably a new form of communication, still in its infancy and offering something that neither books nor magazines can. Beth of Cassandra Pages discusses this new trend, too, talking of our being pioneers in a new medium. Many of us have struggled with the sense of addiction that blogging brings out in us, and, for those of who are writers, the way it seems to invade the time we spend writing for print. William Gibson, the science fiction writer, went so far as to quit his blog because he found blogging to interfere too much with his writing. The funny thing is, blogging instigates us into writing everyday in a way that print writers only dream of! Many people who have never written before, suddenly find that writing is actually fun. What is it about blogging that gets you coming back, day after day, month after month, and probably year after year? Even online chatting never had me so hooked (I’ve completely stopped doing it). My hunch is that it’s fireside storytelling reborn. Where anyone round the fire can have a go. No hierarchies, no filters, no initiation process that stills the voices of those who don’t make it into some inner circle. The spreading of the word like wildfire. Minds suddenly set free.
An interesting development is that while this site receives quite a few visitors, my other blog, Harubaru: Far and Wide has from the beginning recieved almost no visitors. It is an illustrated fiction blog, originally intended for children, but I’m wondering if it just doesn’t work if done as an individual’s blog. Perhaps fiction in a blog needs to be created jointly, or perhaps it doesn’t work at all?
There is a lot of exploring to be done, and the imagination is rife with possibilities. It will be interesting to see what develops from here on.
Lisa of Field Notes posted an account of her encounter with a dead raccoon that had been hit by a car and how she was moved to stop and take it off the road. The story reminded me of Barry Lopez’s essay “Apologia”, from his book, “About This Life: Journeys to the Threshold of Memory”, and both Lopez’s essay and Lisa’s struck a recurring chord in me.
Just the other day I was walking to work and passed the crushed and flattened body of a pigeon that had been hit by a car and run over multiple times, until it was recognizable only by the splash of its grey feathers.
So many animals I’ve seen downed by cars, all over the world. In Japan it’s mainly birds and large insects, hit by cars or ramming into windows and street lights. In America it’s raccoons, squirrels, skunks, armadillos, deer, opossums, seagulls… In Europe it’s hedgehogs, badgers, pheasants, foxes, jackdaws… I still remember finding a badger in Northumberland, its paw still soft and warm, like a baby’s hand, and blood leaking out its eyes. I called the animal rescue service; there was, of course, nothing they could do.
On my walks I try to keep an eye out for where I step and for creatures that might benefit from a bit of helping hand. Grasshoppers, spiders, cicadas and cockchafer beetles sprawled on their backs, even bold-faced hornets, all get the tip of my finger to grab onto and hitch a ride into the verge bushes. On the trains, when a butterfly or hoverfly find themselves baffled by the false lights and cannot find their way out, I will swallow my embarrassment in front of all those unconcerned people (who nevertheless shriek when the insects get too close) and lift them to safety. Bees and wasps always present an entertaining diversion, because no one around me can understand how I would risk getting near them. It’s not risk for me, though; if you know how to move and to anticipate them there is no danger. I have never been stung. Can’t say the same for the people…
But the numbers of the dead always outnumber the living.
Perhaps the most searing memory of roadside death occurred while I was still living in Oregon, back in 1984. I was driving with a friend around the Dexter Lake area just after sundown. My friend was talking and driving and not keeping her eye on the road. Suddenly there was a loud thump on my side of the car. My friend slammed on the brakes and the car screeched to a halt. We opened our doors at the same time. I stepped out onto the tarmac and looked back. From the darkness came a high pitched screaming, like a woman with a very high voice. I trotted toward the sound and came upon a raccoon writhing on the ground, her stomach split open and her guts spilled over the pavement. I kneeled down, horror struck. My stomach heaved.
From behind came my friend’s voice. “What is it?”
“It’s a raccoon.”
“A raccoon? Is it hurt?”
“Yes. It’s not going to make it.”
A short pause. Then, “Well, let’s get out of here then. It’s cold. And that sound is awful!””
I didn’t say anything. The raccoon continued screaming and writhing, aware of me, and attempting to drag itself away. Its urine had spilled out. Suddenly across the road, from the grass I saw two pairs of eyes… her cubs. They watched unmoving, without a sound.
I stood up.
“What are you doing?” asked my friend. “Come on, let’s go!”
“I’ve got to do something.”
I stepped into the grass opposite the cubs and felt around for a stone. I quickly found one that fit in my grasp like a loaf of bread. The screaming behind me cut off, followed by quick gasps.
I stepped back onto the road, wielding the stone, and made my way over to the raccoon, who was sprawled halfway across the road now, a trail of blood painting a wet swath on the asphalt. I knelt down beside her and reached out to touch her fur. It was warm and soft, like down. Her ribs heaved quickly. Her tongue lolled from between her teeth. Her breath wheezed now.
Closing my eyes I lifted the stone and brought it down on her head. I felt the crunch of the bone and the jerk of her muscles. I lifted the stone away and stood up. Silence. An awful, nauseous hole bored into my stomach. I lifted the stone and tossed it into the grass, then kneeled down again, ripped out a wad of grass stalks, and then lifted the limp, wet body. As gently as I could, I carried it toward the cubs, but they dashed away at my approach, one of them mewling quietly. They disappeared into the surrounding shadows.
I lay the body down in the grass, away from the reach of car-strewn dust, under a blackberry bush. With a stick (I just couldn’t bring myself to do it with my fingers) I did the best I could to push the innards back into the gash in her abdomen. I sat back on my haunches and silently apologized to her, tried to find words to make some kind of recompensation. What came out was an awkward, self-conscious prayer. Then I stood up and headed back to the car.
I said nothing to my friend, just wiped my hands on the dry grass, got in and waited for her to join me. Without a word she started up the car. We made a u-turn and headed back to town.
Nineteen years later that event still flashes through my mind. It was perhaps one of the most authentic experiences I’ve ever had with a wild mammal. And one of the most troubling.
I’ve decided that I need to write something funnirial. And challiarging for the speldchicarner. Not anything earslitting or bellyarchical or anaesthysing like that. Just somesting counterlative to the slewt of potaten salad gruftiness of my last fued enteritries. For farth tood long have I wayloaded in svelt-pituity, constantinopoly frocussing upon the darthkling sidelongs of the wyrrald. Therrust must be mortok to the actuallections of darley elixisistentious than wharf the newstactions ripplort abuit the wyrrald. You knyow, that parhips there are actuallectilly goord thyings hiphopning arondel the wyrrald, tood. Like riucht nowst. The suurn cominigith uurp, the firsest liricht of the dyey. It is goord to byen arliv.
(just needed to break out of the regular pattern here. nothing too groundbreaking…)
Lately I’ve been wondering a lot about the direction I’ve taken in my life. Here I am living in a city (Tokyo) that, while safe and stimulating and quite airy and quiet compared to, let’s say New York, or Boston, or London, still strays about as far from the kind of environment that I thrive in as I could have chosen. My work, aside from struggling to make it as a writer (not an easy thing to do from Japan if you write in English) and illustrator, teaching English in the evenings is fulfilling in that I love my students, enjoy the company of my colleagues, and have discovered over the years that teaching brings out the best in me, and stirs up both the desire to distill what I know in younger people and to learn from them in return. But that is not where I started out from or where I first set course for when I headed to the University of Oregon back in 1978, fresh from Japan. I look back and try to filter out all the fascinating elements that kept building up the layers of my learning and maturing to the bedrock of the person I always felt myself to be. The grasp of my existence that withstands even the hardest winds. And always I come back, basically, to two words: Nature and Words. When all else falters I can always count on these two concepts and ways of making sense of the world to wait for me at the bottom of the barrel.
I have always known these things as essential to who and what I am. My first glimmerings of awareness of the world around me inevitably arise, with an intensity often blind to other things around, framed in the light of how the natural world looked or how things were said. The most intense memories nearly always hover around natural places or creatures or around books that I’ve read or conversations that I’ve engaged in. Numbers seem to get filtered out, as well as all the popular attractions that other boys always go gaga over, like flashy cars, cushy jobs, team sports, or irreverent talk about women. It made me strange to boys and men around me, and even today many men don’t have a clue as to how to begin a conversation with me, and I often feel I have nothing to say in return. My heroes as a child were Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, and George Schaller. None of the men or women that I knew did anything close to these three.
After studying creative writing, literature, geography, and ecology (with an apprenticeship in animation under animator Ken O’Connell… he was quite disappointed with me when I left, and I often regretted the decision since then), all of which I loved, for some reason unknown to everyone in my family and close friends, I decided to study architecture for graduate school. I’m not sure of the reasons myself, except that I imagined some kind of marriage between art, social work, and sustainable development (not yet a term at that time). There was also an unspoken need to satisfy a restlessness in my father whenever he spoke to me about what I was planning to do. My talk of writing and my lifelong love for wild animals, especially insects, never seemed to elicit the reaction I was hoping for, but when he heard that I had been accepted into architecture school, his voice changed. I still remember the way his eyes lit up the first time I saw him upon returning to Japan for the summer. It was only just two weeks ago that I learned that he had dreamed of becoming an architect when he was just out of high school.
Architecture didn’t work out. While the studies were fascinating and the tumble of new ideas and the breadth of learning needed to develop into a master at this craft staggering, I never had the patience to sit for hours debating the orientation of a structure’s axis or to put up with the penis envy of all the star (almost always male) students and teachers. I soon discovered that, like Antonio Salieri, I could pick out and appreciate good design, I just didn’t have the knack for organizing spatial elements in a way that brought out the soul of a project. I found no joy in the process. It was always a struggle. One of my fellow students once remarked, when he came into the studio at 3:00 a.m. and found me cursing at my conceptual sketches, “If you dislike it all so much, why don’t you just give up? It doesn’t make sense to torment yourself like this.”
Still I persisted, convinced that it was only lack of knowledge that made me feel so frustrated and empty. I went on to live in Boston, where I struggled for five years to make it as an architect. Only three jobs came my way, one of whose bosses laid me off after one month, in favor of his nephew, who had never studied architecture. On my bicycle commutes to work along the Charles River, more and more something else began to rear its head inside me, a ghost from the past, drawn by the nighthawks swooping over the evening waters and the ice breaking up along the banks. I began to arrive late at work, drawing looks of disapproval and a few warnings from my manager.
During a month-long bicycle ride from Denmark to Paris all the voices from that earlier time when I felt I had been absorbed, body and soul, into the exercises of fulfillment that characterized close encounters with wild places, exploded into my awareness like a flock of skittish ducks. I knew what had been missing, knew what I ought to have been about. I returned to Boston heady with change, but scared. My boss, a nice man, overworked, with never enough time to see his newborn daughter, took me aside and said, “I hate to do this, but your heart just isn’t in architecture. I’m going to have to let you go. I would think seriously about what you want to do with your life.” Harsh words at the time, but perhaps the best advice I ever got.
It took a lot of sucking up my pride and working at dead-fisheye jobs to gradually swing the prow away from architecture. After all, there was all the money I had put into the studies, and all the years of self-prestidigitation to overcome. Japan harbored the old beginnings of my first foray and so back I went to pick up the string where I had dropped it. I’ve written my first book, decided that I want to teach, and am full of certainty that I want more of authentic time in the natural world. It is all there.
Perhaps, as Fujiko Suda expresses in the concept of “shu-ha-ri” used in the development of one’s thinking in marital arts, I had to go through all that to be able to come to this node that I am standing on right now. Like making a run around the rim of the volcano only to come back to this point. I’ve gathered all the tinder and kindling I need to start the fire; I know what I want to cook and then to eat. All the husks and peels have been pared away, and everything that I have built up until now has been discarded. My knife is poised and I must kill the Buddha.
But, damn, it’s hard taking that step! I’m terrified of that fall, without a bottom. It’s so much easier and familiar to just wait here, like a wolf whose cage has just been opened to freedom, afraid to step outside. My eyes know that there is nothing to it, but the hippocampus recoils. The mind is not always in agreement.
I came across a post by Thomas of Pacific Tides about the state of the world today. While there have been thousands of posts concerning the war and the dying, something about Thomas’ post left me numb and so grieved that I almost broke down weeping. He sums up in such succinct and simple words the stupidity, futility, and sorrow of all that is going on that I couldn’t help but feel the weight of the last two years bearing down upon me. Thomas links to the Washington Post’s photo catalogue of American soldiers who have so far died in the ongoing war (what crassness to announce the war is over!). I took some time to gaze at a few close-ups of those mostly young faces and for many moments I felt lost and overwhelmed. Looking at them up close, with their smiles or brave seriousness, all the possibilities and reasons for being alive swept through my heart. They will never come back. They will never again feel the kisses of their loved ones. They will never more know the wind on their faces or the taste of a peach. They will never more hear their mother or father laugh, never sing a song or lie on a beach watching the stars. And what for? What for? There were Bush and Blair laughing ( laughing! ) while soldiers and civilians are dying. What the ……. for?
I put on David Wilcox’s Frozen In the Snow to try and ease the pain in my heart. Like waves on a quiet shore, the song rolling back over and over again, the sad words repeating. The memories of those I have never known bobbing like flowers in the wind. A lullaby to the dying and the dead.
I have always been fundamentally against militaries of any sort, anywhere. They represent to me the worst of human endeavors and the epitome of failed communication and thoughtlessness. People talk of violence and injustice toward women, but why do they turn away from the violence and injustice toward (mostly) young men? Why is it all right that young men are recruited, taught how to murder, and then sent out to be anonymously slaughtered? If, in the course of the nightmare, they come to feel that they must take their lives into their own hands and attempt to leave, they are chastised for being “cowards” and “dishonorable”. The law is set up to punish them, often with death. What is the difference from slavery? Always there is talk of “patriotism” and “for the homeland”, accompanied by strong emotions about who they are and what they are defending. And when they come home in body bags empty phrases repeated without any way to truly compensate for the loss. Mothers nodding to themselves that their sons died valorous in battle. Valorous.
And what of the “Enemy”? The countless thousands, who are painted as non-entities, mere shadows to release your weapons at. Where are the photo galleries of the Iraqis murdered? Will anyone ever take a moment for them? Give them faces? Comfort their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters?
They will never come back. Let us take a moment to let that sink in.
Here is my version: ( “Nature Boy” was the nickname that I was given in elementary school and that stuck with me until I graduated from high school. I hated it in the beginning, but have come to feel that it describes me very well )
I am from cobblestone streets wet with oak leaves,
from the tantivy of pigeons circling.
From Tante Luise’s soft fingers grasping a worn potato knife
and Oma tiptoeing by the window sill, watching pedestrians.
I am from terra cotta roof tiles and forests of chimneys,
from a grandfather clock chiming at midnight.
From cherries and plums and dewey blueberries in bowls,
from echoing stairwells and the acrid bite of coal and potatoes in sacks.
I am from Opa’s tar-stained fingers grasping a hazenut stick,
from stock still hares and barking roe deer.
From an open top Morgan purring down the Autobahn,
from clanking trains pulling into iron framed halls.
I am from Mama’s worn diary and sepias of country lanes,
from Papa’s white lab coat and Vespa touring the tarmac.
From ship smokestacks gliding atop a levee,
from a first kiss in the westering sun.
I am from brick walls laced in ivy,
from mantis nymphs spilling down a papery shell.
From smashing a neighbor’s igloo and squirrels clattering along eaves,
from a blue blizzard toppling my friend, a weeping willow.
I am from the tales Joseph told of elephants in Rhodesia,
from the Planet of the Apes and a bone tossed into space.
From hoola hoops and Hot Wheels,
from pansit served with yams and cranberry sauce.
I am from candle balloons filling the air and cherry bombs in toilets,
from Auntie Soli dancing the tiniklit, between bamboo poles.
From Josh’s sister abducted and never seen again,
from Tatsuro’s Egyptian cartoons and Bitsy’s flying tackle with a kiss.
I am from a short-eared owl staring from a barn roof,
from the white teeth of children in a black Brooklyn school, streets shouting, “Integration!”
From horseshoe crabs washed up on Jones Beach,
from hoary firs standing silent as I land.
I am from limestone walls bulging from muscling zelkova trunks,
from sweet straw mats and shoes kicked off by the door.
From cicadas electrifying the summer haze, making trees speak,
from wooden sandals clip-clopping along train platforms.
I am from helmeted students shouting, “No war!”,
from pantomiming five comedians on black and white TV.
From shaved ice with melon syrup and glass balls punched into bottle necks,
from the girl down the street who never said hello.
I am from Jonathan shouting, “Jumbo Jet!”, everyone rushing to the window,
from Peter’s water pipe and my bloody nose.
From a family of foxes pausing on the dirt road up north,
from rhinoceros beetles and luna moths and azure-winged magpies.
I am from hitting tennis balls at a wall, sobbing and wishing for friends,
from jam-packed commutes and girls in sailor uniforms.
From lying beside the Okhotsk Sea with my brother, watching Perseid meteorites streak the wide ink sphere,
from clouds drifting across the face of Fuji, crowning her in white.
I am from the North,
I am from the West,
I am from the East.
When I got home from work this evening I switched on the computer, sat down in my trusty swivel chair, and flicked the cursor over to my e-mail client… and promptly got a load full of 160 e-mails, mostly spam. Among these there were several e-mails from readers, telling me that my ripple journal could not be accessed. When I opened the journal in my browser, I found all the posts of yesterday deleted, everything that had had anything to do with all the spamming that had been going on.
My first reaction was total panic and when it dawned on me that I wouldn’t have a clue what to do if there had been some malicious targeting of my site, deep, sinking depression. I was so down about the possibility that someone might wish me harm that I seriously thought about just giving up blogging altogether. I just didn’t want to deal with all the stupid technical stuff and was mentally exhausted from the onslaught of the past week. Months of working at and learning how to put together a blog had developed a sense of accomplishment and pride that left me feeling pretty vulnerable when the possibility of losing it to some creep who couldn’t care less hit me.
Sometimes my imagination gets the better of me, though. After pulling myself away from the computer to sit and watch a children’s animation on TV and just forget about all this mess (and eating a delicious tiramisu pudding in the process) I came back, renewed, and headed over to my server homepage to have a chat with the administrator. To my surprise I discovered that the server’s hard drive had failed right about the time I had posted my last posts. THAT explained the loss of my data. And WHAT A RELIEF THAT WAS! I contacted the administrator and right away he replied that he had managed to save my index file from earlier in the day. Phew!
An interesting side thought, though. While I pondered the effects of possibly not being able to continue the blog, I also realized just how wrapped up in it I was. I have to remember that the journal is not my life; it is what I am trying to write about that is my life. Hopefully I can remember this.
Now to get back to real writing!
I’ve been trying to restore all the data in my website from before the server crash, but unfortunately only my main blog content could be retrieved. All the recent comments that everyone made have been permanently lost. I apologize to everyone for this. It is my policy never to touch comments in any way, unless the content is lewd, overly belligerant, irrelevant to this journal (such as spam), or disrespectful to me or others who leave comments here. Since the crash I’ve backed up the whole site, just in case. Comments are part of the journal, so I would prefer to preserve them if I can. I hope the deletion of former comments doesn’t affect anyone leaving comments.
I feel like I’ve just emerged from three days of slogging through a sewer. One spam blight after another, with no time to write about what I really love. I hope I’ve fixed the problems for now. I’m off to my evening work now, but hope, when I get back, to post one or two of the offline essays that I’ve been writing while on the train. I’ll have to leave a little early so I can sit down in a quiet cafe and take my time eating something nice to cover the taste of bile in my mouth and settle the twist of my guts.
Thanks everyone for your input on all this. It’s interesting; publishing companies would probably die to have problem solving feedback as immediate and diverse as this. Think of all the time saved on editing and layout! Quite a learning experience.
Two people have now e-mailed me to tell me that my page isn’t showing up right on their screens. I can’t reproduce the problem on my own browsers. is anyone else having this problem? Is there a difference between Mac users and Windows users? Where does the problem start within the page’s text? Is this problem only recent?
I’m wondering if it has something to do with the hacking of Blogrolling’s files the other day, since the coding for that is located in my sidebar. I haven’t touched anything in my site’s structure, so I’m not sure what is going on. No one ever complained about this before. Did someone go into my server files and mess something up? I wish I knew more about all this. The spamming and hacking are going beyond my level of experience or knowledge.
I’d appreciate any feedback on what you are experiencing with the page.
I want to thank everyone for sending information on how the site appeared to them. Really appreciate it. Sort of eased the sudden panic I had that maybe my site was falling apart!
It looks like the problem is with the Windows version of Internet Explorer. The page works fine on my Mac version of IE. Until I can figure out how to fix this problem (IE is supposed to cause a lot of headaches for CSS structured websites), may I recommend two browsers (free, all platforms) that would fix the problem for you? Mozilla or Mozilla Firebird. Firebird is still in development, but is a fast and elegant browser nonetheless. You can even download an extension through the browser interface ( Firebird Extensions ) called “Edit CSS” that allows you to view and change ( only in your browser, of course! ) the CSS coding of any page that you download. Very useful for learning CSS.
I’ve been spending so much time trying to work out spam and hacker and improperly configured website coding for my site that I haven’t had time to publish the daily stories I’ve been writing off line! Ahhhh! Still can’t figure out why Internet Explorer suddenly went haywire with my site though.
Wow, what a total headache this is causing. Dozens of people have contacted me now about the sudden change in my blog, and not being able to read it any more, whereas before there was no problem (all with Internet Explorer, Windows version). I went through my CSS codes and couldn’t find anything wrong with theme (at least nothing more wrong than before). I haven’t made any changes for about two months now, so the sudden problems don’t make any sense.
Does the page appear normal again now? I hope so.
If the referrer is the problem I would like to warn anybody else using Stephen Downes’s Referral System to be careful. I will contact him to let him know, and perhaps get some advice from him. In the meantime, to any people who are using referrers on their site, please be careful. Some of those links down there might be spam.
Ignorance knows no bounds… What I took for spam was actually a lack of knowledge on my part of problems with CSS coding. All I had to do was specify the width of the referrer’s links to prevent overstepping the sidebar bounds and all was all right. Kind of embarrassing to have shared my ignorance and outrage with all the world. If there was anyone out there referring to my site whose link left a longer than usual link signature, please forgive any critical assessment I made of your link, calling it spam. I should learn before I speak…