Journal Musings

North Window

Ice Pickets
Ice formations along the banks of the Charles River, Boston, U.S.A., 1988


For the past three days, just as Beth expressed in her New Year’s Day post, I have been filled with a mingled deep calm and radiating joy that seemed to flow in when I opened the living room window on the morning of the 1st. A shock of cold air greeted my nose, but there was also a dalliance of sunlight that glinted off everything, but most especially from the branches of the magnolia tree where lately the white-eyes gather in their frenetic rest stops. I stepped out into the garden, with its dried leaves and clenched soil, and just stood there breathing deeply for about five minutes. Then I stepped back inside and swept about the apartment, throwing open all the windows, letting the morning breeze in, with its bite, and busying myself with dusting the corners. When all was done I settled by the north window in my bedroom and sat still.

It was something new, because just days before, after creating three days of window rattling racket, the neighbor right outside had demolished his work shed and moved out of the house. For the first time in three years the north was quiet, without a soul moving in the small garden that never received full sunlight. I read a bit of Thich Nhat Hahn’s book, “Anger”, which makes you stop often to ponder and to let things sink in. A jungle crow barked from a distant rooftop, its voice echoing through the morning. I took to peering at everything there, in the runners of the window sill, in the crannies of the lattice panel I had put over the window to block some of the sudden openness to prying eyes, in the sky, and just in my room. The sky was filled with hazy cumulonimbus clouds without definite form, glowing pink from the warming sun. Dozens of star-shaped spider webs dotted the lattice panel, hiding the eggcases beneath. A sweet- bitter smell of decaying leaves wafted in through from the living room, stirring up pangs of hunger. My breath dispelled before my face in shreds of white tissue, disappearing into thin air. Dew clung to the window pane like a silver constellation in reverse, the slate in white instead of black. A male gnat, with feathered antennae, crouched in the nook of the lattice wood, pinched close to the corner, hiding, waiting for the hand of winter to pass. And my tea and buttered toast smoked with warmth, fingering the moment as I sipped and chewed, simple sustenance. I closed my eyes for a moment and just let the stillness wash through, feeling the cleanliness of a hungry stomach and a mind cleared of noise. Here I am, I thought. Here I am.

This slow burning away of anticipation and anxiety, of just smiling without rancor or expectation, is exactly how I wanted this new year to begin. And how this greeting of myself, as the mirror swivels, would allow me to nod and remember what last year wrought from my heart. It is not anger or fists that I want or even need. It is this calm acceptance. Somewhere in the great mechanism a gear has shifted. And I would walk from such a dawn into the open, to find a tree somewhere and sit, waiting. To not disturb the surface with a flurry of excuses, no hand-tossed crumbs of complaint or outrage. Sit still, waiting. And let the trees teach me a thing or two about peace.

Journal Musings

Heart Massage

Irori House

I want to wish everyone a hearty

Happy New Year!

Thanks for all your wonderful company throughout last year and your heartwarming support during this rather difficult end/ beginning of the year. I’m still quite surprised by the number of responses to my last post, but it is very good to know that we have all formed a close-knit community and that most likely if we all lived near one another we’d be getting together and clashing glasses of champagne or beer. I look forward to a time when that can actually take place.

It wasn’t exactly the best of holidays. It wasn’t awful, like last year… I guess I’ve learned how to take things as they come and adjust my mind to them… but I wouldn’t exactly say the time was a barrel of laughs. I spent most of the time holed up alone in my apartment with the flu, followed by a bad, lingering cough that just won’t let up. Since without exercise my diabetes tends to get worse, my immune system hasn’t been exactly up to the challenge. I’m wondering if I’m missing important nutrients in my diet (I know that I don’t get enough vitamin B’s), so I started looking for good sources of information on maintaining a balanced diet. After watching a program on the Discovery Channel about ayurvedic medicine (interesting that the spell checker doesn’t recognize this word…) I wandered about the web and Amazon seeking information about ayurvedic cooking. Would anyone have any suggestions on good nutritional and eating information?

I was hoping to get out to the winter mountains this vacation, but it looks like that will have to be postponed for now. Maybe it’s a good idea to start the year off small. But this year I want to make a difference in my life and, hopefully, in the lives of others and to the planet itself. Beth said in her latest post about 2003 that for her it was the Year of the Blog. Yes, indeed it was, and it will be fascinating to see where it goes from here. But it was also the Year of Lies and War. I am not an American and so have no recourse to voting Bush out of office, but I will join the ranks of millions who will do all we can this year to remove Bush from office. What happened last year was intolerable. I’m sure a lot of others must also feel that our inner resources have been renewed and that clearly it is important that something be done about the current political climate. Perhaps I can’t do much, but I can speak and, at the very least, I will open my mouth and try to add weight to tip the rolling boulder.

Then there are two landscapes that I want to try to nurture back to health. My body/mind and something somewhere of the Earth. Buddhism has figured a lot in my thoughts over the last two years and, seeing as I live in a Buddhist land, I might as well take advantage of the institutions that exist here. I’m starting to look around for some temple or organization that I might get involved with that appeals to my cosmopolitan outlook and that doesn’t base its philosophy on evangelical, money-grubbing hocus-pocus. I know very little about what is available at the moment, so it will take a little while to winnow through information.

For my body I hope to get out to the mountains as much as possible this year. That means getting into a vigorous routine of daily exercise and as many weekends as possible out among foothills, because walking with a loaded pack is really the only way to train for this. Of course, just getting out there, being among the trees and under the sky is reason enough to get out.

But I am also thinking of taking up a martial art, such as shorinji-kempo (the Japanese version of the Shaolin Kung-fu… similar to aikido, but with less emphasis on ground work) or possibly, if I can find a good instructor, (difficult here in the land of the the katana, the Japanese broadsword) taking up fencing again, which I used to do in college. I’m thinking I need a sport which not only strengthens my body, but also requires an immersion in mind exercise, an evaluation of self and surroundings.

This year ought to evoke a lot of self-exploration and harder questioning and looking about at the world around. It is no longer enough just to talk about things; it is time to actually make things happen.

And thereby I also want to contribute something real to the planet. Another face of last year was clear evidence of global warming. If I really love the Earth and its creatures as much as I’ve said I do I must practice with my fingers in the soil. Maybe plant trees. Maybe clean a river. Maybe develop my little garden into a haven for birds. Maybe start an educational gathering or getting out into the villages and helping to revive the traditional husbandry of the commons. There is so much to do. And it seems I’ve been sleeping for so long!

Perhaps it was good that Bush and company stomped all over the world. It’s woken me and others out of our stupor, determined to protect what we love. A tranquil heart is required, and compassion. A great wing of water to douse the fire.

May this year bring peace and hope for everyone. Come warm your hands at the hearth, and let’s talk.

Blogging Journal


Animal tracks highlighted in the snow just after an ice storm, Mikuni Pass, Shizuoka, Japan, 1993.

I want to apologize to everyone who drops by here for not being around for a long while. This time of the year always gets to me, especially since I live far away from my family and I haven’t seen them in years. Not only does the Christmas season just have no counterpart here in Japan, seeing that it is quite hard to really get close to Japanese people, to be accepted as one of them, I also end up spending a lot of time alone, most especially during this season.

I don’t like to share the more personal aspects of my private life here on the blog, in part to protect people who are important to me, but also because I believe that some things ought not to be handed out to just anybody. There are some things going on in my life that I try to glaze over here, but they are big things that seem even bigger during the holiday season. Since it will be yet another Christmas and New Year’s alone I’ve been trying to compensate by pulling away from the blog a while, so as not to think so much. With 2 weeks vacation ahead of me it would be better if I got out of the house and cleared my head a little.

One thing that has been bothering me again is the effect of blogging on my time and my mental life. When I last put an entry in it had gotten to the point where any idea I happened upon or even some small anecdote in my day would immediately translate into how I could use it in an article in the blog. I even dreamed of topics and ways to write sentences in my sleep!

I knew then that I had to break away, if just to quiet the noise in my head so that I could open my eyes and see the world around me, not the computer screen. With quite a period behind me now I can say that my mind is quiet again and I’m taking time to get out there.

I know that the tendency to immerse myself in the blog rises out of too much time alone and no friends. When you find yourself wandering the city streets, feeling lost, constantly whispering to yourself that you will be okay, then the voices that surround you in the blog world offer great comfort. All of you out there who have grown into something approximating friendship, thank you.

So I must strike a balance, continue to release the words that well up in me for this ephemeral place, and to get out there and find my home. I can’t continue to live like this. I must find substantiation.

I hope everyone is finding their way through the holidays. To those who are lucky enough to wrap themselves in a winter warmth, cherish it and give it to whoever else needs it. To those who suffer a kind of silent grief, hold on. The darkness will pass. And don’t forget to look up and let the fabric of your spirit clear itself among those clean, untouched stars. These long nights allow us a window into whole of our world and all its possibilities.

Good night.