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poetry

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Our little blue car was released from the car elevator this morning for the ride to Nagano via the coast road.

Kanazawa’s morning was wet and windy. By the time we pulled into a roadside lunch spot, the rain had stopped and there were signs of sun. Buying ramen by ticket can tend to be a guessing game, but you can’t go too wrong.

We stopped at a lookout to see the cliffs of Oyashirazu where story boards related the tales of this most dangerous part of the old Hokuriku (aka Koshiji) Road. The name Oyashirazu means “parents don’t know”. Travellers had to navigate their way through the waves to continue on the road.

A 12th century clan leader was defeated in battle and escaped. His wife followed him and penned this poem after their child was lost in the crossing.

The parents not knowing

on the waves of this shore, a child

vanishes in the foam along the Koshiji Road.

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The clouds were low today and the rice fields were a mirror for the sky.

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We arrived in Nagano and high-tailed it up to Zenkoji before it closed. The structure of the Hondo or Main Hall dates from 1707. Our ticket entry included going through a pitch black tunnel underneath the sanctuary with only our right hand to guide us along the tunnel wall until we reached the Key to the Pure Land, emerging to see ourselves reborn in a mirror. One touch of the key ensures eternal salvation, so we’re good to go.

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We’ll head out to dinner soon in this Winter Olympics City (1998). Tomorrow will include a trip to see the Snow Monkeys.

Arishiyama is also the home of the UNESCO World Heritage temple, Tenryu-ji. This place was the site of the first Japanese Zen temple (in the 9th century) and in its current form continues as a temple of the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism.

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The 14th century designed Zen garden is, like the temple, set among the backdrop of the surrounding mountains. The designer was Muso Soseki and his approach of incorporating the external environs of the garden is called shakkei, which means borrowed landscape.

 

Muso Soseki (1275-1351) was hugely influential in establishing Zen Buddhism in Japan. As well as being a Zen Master and garden designer, he was a poet, teacher and calligrapher.

This poem (translated by American poet, W S Merwin and Soiku Shigematsu) appears in This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World, curated by the wonderful Naomi Shihab Nye.

 

 

At this time of year, a trip to Hokkaido is the only way to possibly see sakura or cherry blossoms. They are just starting to come into bloom and we are likely to miss them at their peak. Nevertheless, those early bloomers gave us some pleasure today in Sapporo.

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This word is mono no aware (pronounced mono no ah-wah-reh) and its literal translation is “the pathos of things”.

More fully, it relates to the feeling of gentle wistfulness at the brief and transient nature of beautiful things and an awareness of the sadness of existence.

Hi ka raku you is another beautiful word meaning “blossoms fall and leaves scatter – the impermanence of worldly things”

 

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today’s haiku

the coming of spring

beautiful, fragile, short

the blossom’s lesson

 

Tuesday 24 April.

Yes. It’s the start of another trip. We’ll be spending five weeks in Japan, eleven days in Mongolia and a couple of days  in Beijing (as we head homewards) to see what’s changed since we were there in 1994. We’re topping and tailing the Japan chapter of this trip in the capital, Tokyo.

I’ve been hitting YouTube, language apps and books for the past few months so as to, hopefully, give us a head start on day-to-day communication and help with the recognition of traffic signs and the like.

As far as the blog goes, this time I’m taking my old iPad2 to which I’ve added a cheap and cheerful bluetooth keyboard. The Sony A6000 (loaded with some new apps to try) will be the camera of choice, with Snapseed as the editing tool. And I’ve packed a small sketch book and a few pencils and water brushes just in case. Time and fatigue levels allowing, an occasional haiku may appear.

See you tomorrow in Tokyo.

I spent the first few days of November in the peaceful surrounds of Lake Kanuga in North Carolina at Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb Camp. This inclusive, communal and creative gathering is now an annual must-be-there event for me. I always return home refreshed, encouraged and full of new insights, ideas and skills.

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morning-on-lake-kanugalabyrinth-at-kanuga_fotorPoet, Glenis Redmond, shared her powerful words which now, more than ever, will be needed to jolt us out of systemic injustices that exist across the world.
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Jonathan Santos sang songs of ancestors and breaking through.

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We took a day trip on the water taxi to Stradbroke, armed with only an iPhone as camera.  Back to playing with haiku with these three photographs.

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Bluebottle poses

(with tassels tucked underneath)

as a small pillow.

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Scattered randomly,

beach obstacles in the sand,

– driftwood as sculpture.

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Skipping over waves,

a kite surfer grabs cross-winds

for the love of speed.

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Folded pieces of paper tucked into books can reveal themselves decades later. In this case, a poem by Judith Rodriguez. I liked this poem when I wrote it down some decades ago. I still like it.

 

talking of people

Talking of people I love

I grope for traits

to dignify and endear them, move

you nearer my place

where it’s a celebration to forgive.

 

And I always fail. I’m staggered

when I start cads,

bigots, hypocrites, blackguards

with my unwary words.

Phrasing all of anyone’s a hazard;

 

their music comes so varied

it takes thousands

of listening moods to be married

or related. Vows and

gene-sharing have miscarried

 

oftener, worse than fetuses.

Though you sometimes purchase

illusion, weeding a field that has

upstanding virtues,

there’s a hardy strain in weaknesses

 

at least for loving: they’re funny

they last. Classic

folly – perhaps too many

for most – emphatically

disgracing us graces the randy

 

centuries that, hot after living,

warm immortal

gossip, and our rage for believing.

May I glow gaudy

in the spate of a friend’s forgiving!

Judith Rodriguez