Thursday, March 05, 2009

Tokai Shizen Hoedown: Westbound II (One for Nanao)

It was a beautiful day, very clear, very warm. We biked along a gradual slope, which led us between and around the small bamboo laden hills that dot the northern part of Kyoto. Out along a small creek, feeding the fields still sleeping away the winter season. Above one field, we saw a huge banner of Kokopelli, dancing in the soft breeze. This must be the place. Today, Wakusei Gakk o was hosting a memorial service for Nanao Sakaki. It was supposed to have started at 10, and despite our showing up a half hour past that time, preparations were still going on, mainly in the form of lighting fires and chopping wood. A few people were busy getting lunch ready. We all milled around, chatting quietly and respectfully. A small altar had been erected in the southeast corner of the yard, with a few pieces of fruit, some branches and flowers, a cup of something. One man with a beard and long ponytail knelt before it offering prayers. The rest of us stood silently, watching. The man began to play his handmade dulcimer softly, meditatively. After a few more prayers, he sang a song on his guitar, dancing back and forth in a rocking folksy style. Lastly, he picked up a long branch which looked like an unstrung bow, blew on it a few times, then stated in a loud voice that this wasn't a weapon, and that those of us gathered were lovers of peace. He threw the branch on a small fire, then followed it with some pieces of food, some water. Finished now, he stood back up and yelled at the sky, "Nanao, Omedet ō!" The rest of us did likewise, applauding and yelling our congratulations into the air.

People began to move into the school. One long wall was covered with dozens of photos, some with, or taken by, Gary Snyder or Allan Ginsberg. Gary's reading here in 1988 was where that flying Kokopelli had come from. Below the photos were tables covered with programs of former poetry readings, plus some handwritten letters and poems from Nanao. At the center of things was a small altar, and beside it were a few possessions, his jacket, his hat, his rucksack, his sandals. For a man who had stirred up so much dust, he certainly had small feet. At the back of the room was a stage. The rest of the day would be spent in poetry and song, capped off by a screening of an old Suwanose film from the old days. It looked to be a good time. Yet it was too nice outside. Giving it some thought, Miki and I decided to get out and honor it, and Nanao, in a way that he would have appreciated. Saying a quick goodbye to friends, we stepped out into the sun, and began to walk Earth A.

We followed the Tokai Hodo through the hills marking the western edge of Arashiyama, dotted with many small temples. Happily, we ran into few people out here, despite the good weather. We were reminded that we shared our walk with other living things, in the form of a sign in a public toilet telling to beware of Vipers. No surprise since they love the bamboo groves that striate the hills out here. Above one grove, we found a small Obaku temple, standing lonely and forlorn at the top of uneven stone steps which looked like broken teeth. The main hall was a zendo, the inside perimeter dotted with zafu. An "enlightenment stick" leaned against one of the pillars. In such a haunted locale, one could only imagine the severity of the training here. Not far away we followed the trail, ever marked by bamboo, up to a small pass where we rested with tea. Behind us, a new suburb had sprouted. A stone walkway led through it, following a creek which flowed between the cookie cutter homes here. If you've read this far, you know how I feel about suburbs, but this place had done well in honoring the surrounding hills and keeping a semblance of green. The rest of the day was spent moving along the groves famed for their persimmons, then on into deeper forest. In the fading light, we came to Oharano Jinja, built with some connection to the Imperial Family. At the front of the main shrine were the usual A-Un figures, this time in the form of deer, the open mouthed one to the right with a scroll in it's mouth (I wonder if Ojisan Jake can shed some light on why.) A bizarre end to the day, winding up in a place built in honor of the Imperial Family, whose deification led directly to the disllusionment of a young soldier, who, finding no place amongst such ways of thinking, opted simply to "Walk On."

On the turntable: "Boycott Rhythm Machine"


Ojisanjake said...

the only thing that comes to mind is the scroll in the mouth of female kitsune statues.. :)boendrus

Ojisanjake said...

apparently the shrine was established by the Fujiwara when the capital moved to Heiankyo,,, hence the deer

ted said...

Thanks Jake, that makes sense. I saw deer at Kasuga Taisha in Nara last night, little surprise there.

What I'm curious about is the scroll in the deer's mouth. I assume it's a sutra, but having a mouth full of words already formed takes away from the magical abstract of the "A" syllable, which arises to give birth to speech, and therefore set the conceptual parameters of the universe in words.