Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gary and Me


(This post is an addendum to what I wrote here.)

I'm sitting in an uncomfortable folding chair, waiting for Gary Snyder to appear. And he does, moving through the door right beside me. He looks older than I'd imagined, small and somewhat stooped. He's finally come into the look of the wizard, an image cultivated more for, than by, him.

And on stage, he's suddenly much taller, his movements more dextrous and grand. The 81-year old that I just saw walk through the door is gone. His energy is astounding, outlasting my own as the reading nears the ten o'clock hour. I'm tired, the baby's asleep. We need to get her to bed, as much as I'd like to stay after for the book signing and tell him a few things.

...I'd tell him, remind him, of the first time I met him, here at Naropa in the summer of 1994. I'd mentioned that I was bound for Japan in a month, and had asked if he could recommend any temples or hikes that he found particularly interesting. And he cut me dead with a curt, "I'm not a guide book." I backpedalled, and said, no no, just a hint at something that had inspired him during his long years there. And he again fired off a "I don't even know you." I was so disappointed that I didn't even ask him to sign the copy of "No Nature" that I held in my left hand.

I sat awhile on Boulder mall, justifying it for awhile; that he'd had a busy week, that I'd overheard many requests to him, that I had been like everyone else in wanting something from the man. But then suddenly I
really got it. It was time to kill the Buddha; time to step out from behind my heroes. Gary, among others, had pointed the path out to me, but only I could walk it. And walk I did, down the darkened Boulder mall, and into my own life...

... I'd tell him of my friendship with Pachi and Yoko. The latter was my tea teacher in the 'Nog, a woman who had studied at Daitokuji while Gary had been there as a student of zen. At my first tea lesson with her, the other students had all sat quietly as Yoko Sensei and I had a long chat in English about him and their shared history...

...I'd tell him of my friendship with Uchida Bob, who I'd hosted when he played a gig in the 'Nog while US bombs were just beginning to fall on Afghanistan. The next morning, my now late son had sat in his lap. (Later, Ken never failed to recognize Bob's voice on the stereo.) Over coffee and pancakes, we talked of Gary, and of Nanao, and of the three communities they'd once created back when US bombs fell on other parts of Asia...

...I'd tell him of my friendships at Kyoto Journal, and of our mutual friends there. I'd tell him of how Iwakura Ken had commented on the blog post where I documented carrying my rucksack from Kyoto to the Sea of Japan, of a temporal crossing of paths...

...most of all, I'd introduce him to my daughter. Had he not served as a major catalyst for my moving to Japan, I'd have never met her mother, and this wonderful little girl would never have been born. Despite his claim of not knowing me, we both shared a responsibility in her creation...



On the turntable: DJ Food, "Kaleidoscope"
On the nighttable: "The Gary Snyder Reader"


5 comments:

blaine said...

It all makes sense.

This couldn't have been said better.

I wonder what part of me will never leave once I'm no longer here in Japan.

ted said...

Blaine,

The mark you leave is surely the strange way your name rolls of your students' tongues, the aroma wafting from the magic of your kitchen, the footprints you leave at the base of waterfalls...


Just don't leave yet. I sincerely hope to do some mountain exploring with you sometime.

blaine said...

I think it was before/after I studied abroad for 4 months in Japan that I found Unfamiliar Glimpses of Japan. Through the links there I found your blog.

I remember you spoke of the 街道 that runs nearby the 京阪線. I lived in 寝屋川市 during my study abroad. I knew of some of the spots you spoke of. Reading about it really resonated with me.

The idea of ancient paths was very intriguing to me. Even if the path had been paved over, altered, or changed altogether I could imagine how it felt to travel something reminiscent of another era. I'm sure that some of the roads I've driven were once foot paths long ago. I try to imagine what that might have been like.

The stories of your walks and journeys have been quite inspiring. I'm sure there they have influenced my own desire to make paths of my own.

With that being said, it would be a pleasure to go for a hike or walk with you sometime. I hope the opportunity presents itself.

ted said...

We'll make it happen Blaine. I'll be in touch...

vegetablej said...

My immediate reaction is -- even bastards can inspire people. What rudeness to a fellow writer AND a customer. Fortunately not all inspirations are nasty-- you certainly inspire me.

I'm sort of surprised to see you are back in Japan, but not really. There is at least half of me that is still living there in the old house with the Rosemary bush outside, the black yard cat and the sound of the language bubbling all around. I never developed your expertise, but still, when I watch a video in Japanese on youtube, the sound is comforting and familiar, and all the stock phrases, which I still understand, are what comfort most.

Good fortune to you and your family there. I hope life will be soft and sweet for you.

:)