Friday, April 30, 2010

On the Turntable

Back to sharing a living room with my LPs, I've found myself listening to a lot of vinyl again. There is nothing like the hiss as the needle finds the groove; the unselfconscious pop that irregularly marks time; the clunk of the returning tone arm amplified through the speakers. I've long forgotten how short the sides are. None of these packaged-by-the-hour tunes of compact discs. None of the 'bop 'til the batteries drop' of mp3s. Instead, every 20 minutes you have to get up, walk across the room, and flip the album over. I'm surprised at how much I've missed this manual labor.

On the turntable: "Lester Young" (Giants of Jazz series)
On the nighttable: Joan Halifax, " The Fruitful Darkness"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

And Regrets? I've Had a Few...

These days, one of my favorite activities seems to cause me great pain. Every time I watch a Japanese film, I begin to badly long for Japan. No matter the film -- "Lady of Musashino," "Okuribito," or "Zen!" (exclamation point mine, due to all the drama)-- it causes me to doubt my decision to return back here. Now, I'm adult enough to realize that this is due to the fact that I have yet to establish any routine to ground me. Instead, I've passed my days in errands, tasks, and the simple act of waiting for life to begin. There is great peace for be found in meditating and gardening at Upaya, and on the yoga mat. But in 3 months, the only single fun thing I've done for myself was wandering the Tsankawi mesa. On that day, I was thrilled to be here. Most other days, I play the what if game.

Would another year in Kyoto have been so bad? Near the end, I was finally finding acceptance with the yoga world as it is marketed in Kansai. I could've gone back to simple teaching, forgoing the excess of workshops, and trying to ignore all the nonsense. I would've thrown myself more into translation. I would've spent less time in the hills and more time with friends in cafes or alone, strolling the city's narrow streets. I most definitely would've given greater priority to my training in Takeuchi and with the Omine Shugenja. These last two lost chances really sting when recalled, and serve as major sources of regret. Yet, that mantra of 'one more year, one more year' is self-perpetuating and can lead to an entrapment strongly bound by the laws of inertia.

Those who've followed me this far know of my great love for New Mexico, a love I expect will return. But for now it feels like revisiting an old flame who, though still a beauty, has lost some of her charm. And the mind naturally turns to the form of another, who, in times of better and worse, long warmed the bed.

On the turntable: '"Collector's History of Classic Jazz"
On the nighttable: W. Sometset Maugham, "The Gentleman in the Parlour"

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Papers: Jiantung

"Studying the Way is like planting a tree -- if you cut it just when it branches out, it can be used for firewood; if you cut it when it's about to reach full growth, it can be used for rafters; if you cut it when it's somewhat stronger, it can be used for beams; if you cut it when it's old and huge, it can be used for pillars."

On the turntable: Bjork, "Post"

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tokai Shizen Hoedown Revisited

Last summer, I had planned to sort through the TSH posts and edit them into something of a guide to the hike. But time and life stuff got in the way. I was further urged on by a New Years email from Wes asking for more info. Finally, I got it together.

Most of the posts are the same, with some slight editing. I also tried to fill in the blanks here and there, since I didn't write up the North Kyoto parts that we previously hiked as the Kyoto Isshū Trail. Most importantly, I listed all the resources I used.

Overall, it still reads less like a guide than a cynical travel piece. But, as the only English information out there, I hope it is helpful

Tokai Shizen Hoedown

On the turntable: "Backbeat" (OST)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

Morning in short-sleeves,
Evening in the snow.

Even on her day,
Old Mother shows off some tricks.

On the turntable: "Sky Dancing"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


We sit on the edge of a cliff, watching the storm drift past. Once again I find myself atop a mesa on sacred native land, just out of reach of rain and lightning and thunder. Three of the four of us share Irish blood, so naturally our conversation leads us to that Emerald Isle, moving from there to Tibet, from the Bronx to Piedmont, CA. Across the ravine are the concrete towers of Los Alamos labs, birthplace of the bomb that flattened the city where my wife's people come from. I follow her eye line over there. Someday, we'll need to bridge this gap and complete the pilgrimage.

I later find myself alone, off-trail across this mesa topped out with scrub. It narrows to a dull, rounded edge, like the prow of a ship cutting across this ancient seabed. I sit awhile on a disembodied boulder, wondering what to call those peaks over there, still snow-capped this late in Spring. Brother raven flies over to check me out, squawking a greeting. The rain eventually drives me from this aerie, and I scramble down the rock face, leaping the last few feet onto the next shelf. There's far less wind on this eastern face. I follow a narrow white band as trail, passing beneath petroglyphs and yellow splashes of lichen. I find a cave and climb in, to meditate on the crystaline sand floor and dip into Nanao. I come across this:

Underground deep
fossil cave dark

you sit down
might be midday

someone comes in
you can't see him, hear him, touch him

still someone with you for sure;
is he friend or devil?

you don't care
all the same

you smile
he looks blank
I burst into laughter

no body
wave after wave

On the turntable: Julian Cope, "Rite Now"

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sunday papers: Yukio Mishima

"The law is an accumulation of tireless attempts to block a man's desire to change life into an instant of poetry."

--Runaway Horses

On the turntable: Built to Spill
, "There's Nothing Wrong with Love"