Never burns but stay ablaze


“Painters, poets, storytellers, return to the lotus pond! Study the light—every day!”

Who said that? . . . Someone did. . . . I guess.


If you like, you can come with me.


Down to the pond.


Down closer.


Down to edge of the muck.


Where we’ll see the light.

Maybe beneath overcast skies.


Maybe under skies of azure.

But we will see the light.


Lotus Flower

The pink petals, paper thin—

as thin as our grasp on all things—

So full of light.

How they do amaze—

Never burn but stay ablaze.  170721_lotus_blossom_2_600

Mt. Tengu

170716_tengu_view_of_peaks_600From Shizuoka, it was about a three-hour drive to the trailhead, Karakawa Kosen, a hot springs resort in Chino City, Nagano. I didn’t forget my camera but I did forget my memory card, so this time all the pictures are courtesy of Tamami Hearty-Hiker.


The loop from the onsen can, of course, be taken in either direction—but counterclockwise we went, which meant approaching the West Tengu Peak first, and the East Tengu peak second. Maps suggested it would be about six hours of walking and that’s about what it took us.

We were ahead of the average pace on the way up, feeling fresh as daisies two hours in, along the “shakunage” ridge . . .



. . . but maybe dragged a bit on the way down.

It never feels like a particularly steep climb . . .


but negotiating the rocks, whether . . .


. . . you’re crawl-climbing over them (the final bit up to the West Peak), or you’re being mindful of every footstep upon them or between them (an hour along the river bed going down), adds a bit to the fatigue.

170716_tengu_miyamikuroyuri_600It was the season for kuroyuri (“black lilies”), and we were happy to spot a few.

The woods, especially those we passed through on the way down . . .

170716_tengu_moss_trail_600. . . are known for the moss. Some folks, we’ve noticed, like to put stuffed Totoro dolls among it, to snap photographs. (We didn’t have one!)

When you’ve driven a long way, and you’re not likely to return very often, you hope for clear skies, but when you don’t get them, it doesn’t mean the experience is less joyful.

Just look at these guys—these Hearty Hikers.


Their expressions make me so happy.

170716_tengu_praying_600Their expressions make me feel so grateful.

A couple of coins

And a dusty bowl,

Stacked on rocks,

Light up my soul.

And as you know, when the skies are overcast, you can always focus your attention on the works of art on exhibition along the trail. Here are a few of the ones we delighted in this time. If you go yourself, keep in mind  that the curators are always putting away some pieces—and displaying anew others. You can’t predict what you’ll see, so keep your eyes open.

Open wide.


“The Eye”


“Moby-Dick’s Head”


“Spotted Nutcracker in Green”


A Grass-Chewing Mouse Strolls an Overcast Night”


“Starburst in Green and Green”    170716_tengu_pine_cone_600         “Summer Christmas”

Dragonflies at the lotus pond


What sort of problem is it when you can’t afford to live in the part of town where no one has any garden space, your home is not surrounded by luscious green mountains, and there is no lotus pond just down the road?

It’s the sort of problem I can live with.


There’s the pond. There’s Ryuso Mountain. I’m lucky to live somewhere in between.


But you’re not too far away from the pond anywhere in Shizuoka.  And you can always book a place on the mystery tour.


June and July are the big months for the pond. A few weeks back, though, when the blossoms were opening over about half the pond, we had a torrential rain. The dark gray clay of the pond is just like the dark gray clay of the rice fields. It holds water. The lotus leaves, which rise a good four feet above the surface were all submerged and the blossoms that had opened were destroyed.


A lot of the leaves died–or half died.

Now, at least over a lot of the pond, the buds are reappearing, and new blossoms are opening again. The buds that haven’t opened, well . . .


. . . some folks just can’t seem to wait for them to.

A few years ago, I wrote a novel, Along the Same Street. The protagonist, Kenta, a teenage boy, wrote a poem about a dragonfly. In his mind, an autumn rice field was where you’d go to try to catch a dragonfly. For him, a dragonfly was a metaphor for the amazing girl he loved. And he tried to make his poem look like a dragonfly.


The dragonflies I saw at the pond were not so frenetic.


One seemed content to perch on a not yet  unfolded lotus leaf—and remain there.


The other on the bud.

Well, you’ve gone to see the blossoms, but you end up watching the dragonflies.

And then you notice the damselflies.


You might not have even known that there was such a creature as a damselfly. And you might even get to see a pair make love, see them clasp onto to each other and curl their abdomens, forming a heart. It wouldn’t be at all strange if you saw that—because that’s why they’ve taken on their adult forms—and they’re only going to live as adults for a few weeks.


Yeah, but just sit and watch the dragonfly sitting on the lotus flower.

Maybe think about the leaves of the lotus. They’ve got a special surface. Just as birds’ feathers do. Water rolls off them. Or rolls into them. Yeah, first it rolls in, collecting whatever debris that has fallen into the leaf, then the leaf grows heavy and tips over—and . . .


. . . Presto! You have a perfectly clean leaf!

At the lotus pond, watching the dragonfly (My! but he looks obsessed with that bud!), you might began to wonder about yourself. You’ve slowed down. You’ve got the time.

You might wonder what you were meant to do all day every day. Might wonder, over the long haul, what you were meant to get done.


You might wonder what legacy you’ll leave behind when after your petals have fallen . . .


. . . after your bones have gone bare.


They say that a lotus seed can sleep for several thousands of years and then germinate. If you’d like to ensure that a message of love and beauty and truth survives deep into the future . . .


. . . you could do worse than leave behind a single lotus seed.


Things don’t always go as planned.

But an inner nature, if allowed, usually can find its way to the light.


That’s what beauty is—an inner nature, allowed, finding its way to the light.



Nineteen ways of looking at the yashio


A couple of weeks back, we had seen the yashio trees in the grey. A few days ago we managed to see them in the blue. Two different ways of looking at the yashio.

I once heard of a man who sung of thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird.

When I saw the yashio in the blue, I wondered, “Just thirteen?!”





Why only nineteen ways of looking at the yashio?

I haven’t had much time–

And I am very small.



Was it frustating, trying to take the photo of the yashio swaying in the breeze?

170523_yashio_19_298 170523_yashio_21_b_298170523_yashio_4_298 170523_yashio_20_b_298



 A little leeway. A little time to spare. A bit of elbow room.

A few seconds in which you can choose to leave—or linger.

The view expands, evolves, develops, disappears.



Much to see . . . between the leaves of the yashio.



A flower.

Leaves with a flower.



On the mountain, the shijukara flit frenetically.

The eye can hardly keep up with them.

The eye cannot move slow enough to see the frenetic movement of the yashio as they journey to where we all journey—

The light.



Stand where you will, the yashio know the way around you.



Plum blossoms are bursting open now.

White-eyed birds are sucking at the source.

Cherry petals soon will paint the sky.

The yashio will give us reasons why.

Red-tipped leaves will glisten like the stars.

It’s bound to give our closed-up hearts a jar.



What was just behind the yashio?



We sat upon a tree that had bent down low beside the trail for us.

We looked at the yashio blossoms, peered into the centers,

Read the green braille on each petal

As the bees do.

170523_yashio_6_600  XV

A shadow—perception’s knife.


We were not sweating,

Not panting.

The climb up the ridge where the yashio bloom

was not a climb at all—

not on this magical day

in the magical month of May.



She said,

I’m so glad you’ve come along with me.

I said,

I am so glad you have come along with me.

Neither of us spoke words.



Look, Jane, look.

Look, Dick, look.



Pot luck.

We’ve brought the oxygen—

Decorated the table.170523_yashio_18_600XIX

Respiring, inspiring—with the yashio, breathing.

At tiny flowers fall to your knees


May 14th. Up to Umegashima, up the Mt. Hakkorei trail, we went, to see what the yashio were doing. They usually bloom around the end of May, but it was a cold spring, so we weren’t sure how far along they had come. The forecast was for blue skies, and we had dreams of taking some great pictures.

The skies, though, didn’t turn blue. They remained grey—and except for the bottom end of the trail, most of the yashio leaves were not yet out.  But at the bottom, up against the grey sky, the leaves that were out were lovely.


In some places the leaves were so thick, you could hardly see the grey sky at all.


Yashio trees belong to the azaela family. They grow, more or less, along mountain ridges (out in the wind and the partial-day sun), at altitudes between about 1500 and 2000 meters.


Unlike some of the other azaelas in the neighborhood, the yashio trees have rough bark—and they’re quite skillful at twisting their limbs out and around and all about, in search of sunlight. The wind, of course, also affects the way they curve all about.

The good thing about the trees not yet blooming—and many of the leaves not yet out is . . . we can go up and look again. We will. For sure.

Anyway, it was a misty grey day, and on such days, we often, suddenly, find ourselves remembering those lyrics by Unknown Shizuoka Duo . . .

When your eyes are on the ground/There really is so much to be found

Walk the misty woods and see/At tiny flowers fall to your knees.

So that’s what we did. Look for tiny flowers.

Like the little guy below. He was all by himself—and had our eyes been absorbed in a blue sky, we likely would not have spotted him.


The kibanahananekonome (Yellow-Blossom Cat’s Eye) were growing more profusely and were easier to spot.


It was also the season for the iwazakura (Rock Cherry) to bloom. We knew that. We’d seen them last year. But we didn’t think to think of them this time, until a fellow hiker, passing the other way, reminded us of them.

The iwazakura grow, more or less, out from the face of rocks—and you can see . . .

170514_kumoiwazakura_1_600. . . that if you don’t have them in mind, you may not spot them.


The same flower closer up.

170514_kumoiwazakura_4_600Charming they are.


Also this time of year, you’ll surely see this green swirling guy, with hundreds of his friends, growing along the Hakkorei trail. His name is baikeiso, and some folks mistake him for an edible green. Don’t you. He’s deadly poisonous.

Hopefully, we’ll have more photos to share in a week or two, of, with a little luck, yashio leaves and blooms against a blue-sky backdrop.

But even if we don’t get blue skies on a day we can go, there will be no great loss. The grey is lovely too, and we’re going to go again next year.



Emerald city and the mountaintop beach

170430_emerald_pool_azaelas_600Emerald City.

One of our Hearty Hikers had been wanting to take us all to Hinata Mountain for a while now, and though she had something she wanted to celebrate on May 2, the weather forecast suggested April 30 might be better, so we all piled into the car and headed up to Yamanashi that last day of April.

It wasn’t May, but it was in place of  a May celebration, and what with our beloved yashio (click here) always blooming in May, we are always believing in (as Shizuoka Duo sing), “A magical, magical, magical May/A magical day in the month of May.”


Except for our leader, we weren’t exactly sure what we were in for, but as soon as our car crossed over a hill and Kaikoma Mountain came into view, we got a good feeling about things. Our plan was to follow the Ojira River canyon up and up and up, and at the last moment turn up the steep ridge up to Hinata (only half as tall as Kaikoma), and then down the other side, a much shorter route back to the campground parking lot.

Out the back of the campground we walked, into the grounds of a shrine, where . . .

170430_warrior_450. . . a mighty warrior leapt out in front of us. Indeed, he was imposing, but the way he sort of pranced in place, did a silly sort of bent-knee jig as he talked, was, admittedly, a bit comic.

“Follow the emerald-green road,” he chanted. “Follow the emerald-green road.”

We stared in disbelief.

“The trail may grow knotty,” he chanted, “but follow the emerald-green road.”

“You may need to build a ladder to the sky and climb on every rung,” he sang, strumming an imaginary guitar, “but follow the emerald-green road.”

We were shocked, to say the least. We were used to meeting Jizo (click here) out on the trails, but never such a mysterious fellow as this. Maybe it really was going to be “a magical day in the month of May.”


Along the river we went.

We were just about to think that we’d imagined the  warrior speaking to us . . .


. . . when we came to the first waterfall, the first emerald green pool. Something inside us began to buzz. Maybe we were on a magical way.

Sometimes the trail would take us high above, and out of sight of the river, and we’d wonder if we’d been tricked, but just then . . .


. . . a line of azeala flowers would dance across the trail, or we’d see that . . .

170430_green_leaves_600. . . the emerald road was following us. The emerald road was . . .


. . . looking down on us, watching over us—no matter how far from the river we got.

Once we were aware of that,  we lost all sense of being on the trail for the first time.

We just felt we were exactly where  we were supposed to be.

170430_emerald_pool_1_600And then we were back on the river . . .

170430_emerald_pool_sand_600. . . feeling more and more . . .


. . . giddy. Feeling giddy . . .


. . . and something else. I felt it as much as anyone, but I couldn’t find the word for it.


Not until our leader suddenly raced to the edge of a pool . . .


. . . and said this:

I do believe in gratitude.

I do believe in gratitude.

I do I do I DO believe in gratitude.

170430_jinja_taki_b_450Believe me, we all understood it then. And that was the magic of the emerald green road.

170430_root_knot_600At least, that was the start of the magic.

Our vision improved.


So much delighted us.


And the way we felt just then, well the forest sensed it—and just then we peered in among the trees and realized that the trees had gathered and conferred . . . had chosen a representative—an ambassador—to bestow on us Hearty Hikers a heartfelt message.


I know, some of you may be disbelievers, tree branches don’t talk to hikers on the trail, you may say—but just try telling that to any of the Hearty Hikers who experienced that magical, magical, magical day—a magical day in the month of May.

Sure, you may take a dozen or so strides down toward the tree, get off the trail, get a different angle on things . . .

170430_heart_branch_stretching_600. . . and try to tell us all that the branch was not intentionally showing us its heart (in a language that we could understand, of course) . . . but we Hearty Hikers will answer that your perspective only shows how hard the tree is trying to persuade its branch to try and try and try to speak in a language that passing-by hikers can understand. Your perspective only shows the effort trees do make on our behalf.

You might try going back and standing in from of the emerald pool, just where our leader stood.

But it was steep, make no mistake about that. And as the warrior had warned . . .


.  . . things did get knotty.

Once we even came to a place where a landslide had destroyed the trail.

Fortunately, our emeraldized leader was undaunted. She clicked the heels of her boots together three times . . . and suddenly . . .


. . . there was our ladder to the sky.

Have you ever climbed a ladder to the sky? I’m not talking about that children’s story beanstalk mularkey—I’m talking about a genuine ladder to the sky,  a ladder to the stars.

Once you have, as my good friend Henry says, you will never see the tree you’re walking past—or your neighbor, or anything—in the same light again.

The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and
different beings in the various mansions of the universe are
contemplating the same one at the same moment! Nature and human
life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what
prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place
than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?

Once we’d gotten up that ladder, once we’d seen all the way to the stars, we certainly saw things in a new light.


All sorts of things.


We saw that trees could channel a lot of rock if they wanted to.

170430_treetrunk_root_600We saw that tree roots could channel tree trunks.


We saw that trees could grow right out of rock if they wanted to. (It’s a matter of minerals—and security.)

170430_sandy_slope_2_450And finally we saw that you could climb up and up and up through the canyon, up and up and up the ridge toward the mountaintop . . .


. . . and come to sand dunes.

170430_hinata_peak_2_450Saw that if you trudged up through the sun dunes, you would come to a magical kingdom.


Come to the the most glorious beach . . .


. . . overlooking the most glorious ocean.


Kaikoma would look on, enviously.

But this, after all, is just a hike. At a good clip (but stopping for pictures), four and a half hours through the canyon and up to the mountaintop. From there, maybe an hour and a half back to the campground and your car.


But as you take the short walk back, you’ll probably find yourself peering up through the trees, trying to keep a hold of the magic a little longer.

And once you’re down, you’ll probably need to drive to the nearest hot springs as quickly as you can . . . to let the whole day soak in.


On a cold day . . . a museum


It has been a cool spring, but first, down in the city, the plum blossoms came and went, and then the cherry blossoms came and went, and the weather forecast said it was going to be a sunny, sunny day, so we Hearty Hiker’s headed up to Umegashima and the Abe Pass . . . believing that we’d see the spring being repeated—or at least beginning to be repeated—up in the mountains.


Once we’d climbed (in the car) up to the trailhead, though, we looked about and saw a lot of bare branches, no new leaves popping out, only the tiniest signs of spring (the flowers above), and above us only a grey, grey sky. So much for the weather forecast.

Then, as we walked, the morning side of noon, the temperature dropped.  I’m not sure why.


It wasn’t that cold (I say), and from time to time, we saw a strip of blue sky or two, but maybe because of expectations, my fellow Hearty  Hikers started shivering in their boots. (Later I’ll have them tested, to see if they’ve got any reptile blood in them.)

Anyway, when most of your team feels a little cold, there’s only one thing to do: dip inside a museum. Fortunately, when you’re up in the mountains, you can almost always find a good museum open. And what I like about the mountain museums is they are fairly comprehensive. They don’t split up art, science, natural history, and religion into different buildings.  You can study all those things all at once.


The first artifact/relic/artwork/cosmic sign we saw was entitled “Mountainside  Seashell.” For those of you who understand evolution in its standard form (all life rising from the oceans), or those who understand it in it’s more cosmic form, you will realize the value of this piece.


This one was my favorite this day: It was called “Energetic Creature Born of a Cosmic Bubble Swimming and Flying the Ocean and the Sky in All DIrections All at Once and Dreaming of the Glucose Produced in Green Cells Absorbing Light–the Light which was the Beginning of All.”


This piece is extraordinary, too, I think. “Stick and Moss,” it’s called. Some, I know, have said it’s childish and too simple to warrant much attention, but we can never be encouraged enough to appreciate green, and I would dare anyone who scoffs to pick up your paint brush and see if you get all that moss configured just as it is. I bet some of your canvasses may end up looking a lot like a plate of green peas after a young boy who’s determined not to eat a one has mussed them up a bit with his fork, squashed a few, in a futile attempt to convince his mother that he has tried a reasonable amount.


This one was called “Blurry Woodpecker In Blurry Red and Grey.” You may wonder if there really is a bird that looks so, or if it’s just a sort of “conceptual” rendition of some twisted idea that only live’s in the artist’s brain—and I’m not sure the answer, but I do like the pattern on the bird’s back, the touch of red on the top of his head, and how everything seems to blend.


There are also performance pieces. These two trees, as you can see, have grown together. That is true dedication to their vision, their craft, their art, their beliefs, their whatever, I’d say. It is a bit hard to say for sure how this insistence on non-duality is trying to influence us, but it did remind me of the way tree roots often share glucose with friends who are having a hard time getting the resources to make their own.  It made me think a little bit about what all might be going on beneath the soil the soles of my feet were pressing so ever slightly into. It is important to feel what’s going on in your soles.


The other Hearty Hiker’s, though, were most fascinated by the water color painter who is always on hand to paint the sky, as it is right then. As this guy painted, my teammates kept looking back and forth between the canvas and the sky, and the more they did, the more they seemed to get confused about which one seemed composed of the most real colors.


One even felt compelled to get as close a look at the sky as he could.

I suppose it’s one of those things you have to experience for yourself–so if you’re ever up this way on a surprisingly cold day, please step into a museum and have a look for yourself.

We forwent the souvenirs shop, got back in the car, descended the mountain a couple hundred meters, and took another walk. Here the springtime was a little further along.

We got to enjoy the cherry blossoms again.

170423_cherry_blossoms_2_600And those lavender-colored azaelas, you won’t find those down in town. If you want to get a hold of that color, you’ll have to partake of some high ground somewhere or another.



Talking cherry blossoms

170412_hanami_sumpu_tamami_450Last time, I wrote that the cherry blossoms have gotten some awful good press over the years—and that other flowers that bloom at the same time have gotten less coverage—and less love—than they deserve. This was not meant to take anything away from the cherry blossoms.

I love them.


And today, we at Persimmon Dreams are happy to have with us an expert on the beauty of nature, one of our Hearty Hikers, Ms. Tamami Kano.

What credentials does she have? She has the most essential one. She constantly has her eyes on nature, is always seeking something new, and is constantly finding and celebrating beauty.


PD: Tamami, thank you for meeting us to enjoy the cherry blossoms today. Just in your own words, what do you feel standing here surrounded by all these cherry blossoms?

Tamami: Just happy. And grateful. I’d like to thank them for being here with me.

PD:  Do you have any favorite song or poem about the cherry blossoms?

Tamami: “Sakura, hira hira, maiochiru.” (The dancing cherry petals flutter, flutter, flutter down.)


PD: What do you think about the color of the blossoms?

Tamami: Impossibly delicate.

PD: Where is your favorite place to see cherry blossoms?


Tamami: If it’s daytime—and the sun is shining—I like the trees that cascade down over the moat, on the north side of Sumpu Park. The view from the bridge is marvelous. The color of the water and the grey of the moat-wall rocks and the pink of the blossoms harmonize perfectly.


PD: We know that you are a great connoisseur of beauty. Is there some difference between the beauty of the cherry blossoms and other flowers?

Tamami: Yes, there is. Should I try to explain it?

PD: If you don’t mind.

Tamami: With cherry blossoms, it’s the balance, the shape, the sweep of the limbs that creates the beauty. And then, also, I think . . . they are really Japanese.


PD: “Japanese”? What does that mean?

PD: I mean, they are a part of Japanese culture. When I stand under them, I feel a little bit of wabi sabi.


PD: Sorry to keep following up, but what is wabi sabi?

Tamami: Wabi sabi is a basic idea about Japanese aesthetics, finding perfection in imperfection and transcience.

PD: Is that your original definition?

Tamami: No, that’s the definition of my friend from Hungary. (laugh, laugh)


PD: I’ve noticed the shaga are blooming here in Johoku Park, as well as all the cherry trees. What do you think about the shaga? Are they beautiful, too? Is it the same beauty?

Tamami: Of course, the shaga are beautiful, too. But they are a bit different from cherry blossoms. I feel a wild energy in the stalks of the shaga. The flowers of the shaga seem both cute and elegant at the same time.


PD: Are the cherry blossoms cute and elegant?

Tamami: They are elegant. They have more of a mature beauty than a cuteness.

PD: Thank you for your time today. One last question. You said you feel grateful to the cherry blossoms. Is there anything you’d like to say to them now?

Tamami: Now I’m just thinking that maybe we have a lot of things to learn from not only cherry blossoms but from all plants. They never complain and accept things as they are. And just enjoy living. That’s really beautiful.


Good press


The cherry blossoms get good press.  For many, they are the Jimi Hendrix of the spring flowers: virtuoso rock stars who come on stage and dazzle—then leave us all too soon.


Here in Japan, at least, they have the status of great tragic heroes. They are Juliet, so pure and passionate, then, at such a young age, gone.


When people say hanami party (hanami–literally, “viewing the flowers”), they are almost always thinking about the cherry blossoms.  No one I know, here in Shizuoka at least, has a hanami party sitting beside a tulip bed.

Do you know how to count the blossoms on a mature cherry tree? As far as I know, there is only one way.



But a few days ago, as I commuted to work on my bicycle,  I could see, easily (anyone could), that the cherries weren’t the only ones out showing themselves off.

The cherries weren’t the only ones shining bright, for what (yes, they knew) would only be a short time.

170401_nichinichiso_450The nichinichso.


The shaga.


The daffodils.


The camellias.

170405_camelia_bee_b_600Not everyone puts the cherries above the camellias.


Not everyone puts the cherries above the na-no-hana.


And what about the harujion? Are they truly just weeds? Sure, maybe they need to comb their hair—but don’t they have their own sort of charm?


And the daisies—lord, what bad press they’ve gotten!  They make the soil soft and clean. They’re full of potasium, calcium, vitamins A, B, and C.

Maybe you’ve gotten the idea that you don’t like them. Maybe you don’t want them in your yard. That’s fine. But don’t tell me that the dandelion flowers are not beautiful. Don’t tell me that some of your children don’t think they are beautiful.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the cherry blossoms, too. I love them on a blue-sky day, and on a rainy day, too.

I just don’t like all this ranking. And all this ranking is probably the main reason why I’ve lost interest (for the most past, not completely, I admit) in competitve sports. Somebody beats somebody else 121-120, and somebody becomes the glorified champions of the universe—while somebody else becomes a footnote. They’re the losers. Maybe they even choked.

Choked 121-120.

Ranking is dividing. Dividing is divorce. Divorce, in all its meanings, is one of the worst—if not the worst—thing there is.

Nature is a Unitarian.

Anyway, when it comes to the dandelions, if you’re determined to exterminate them, you’d better have a pretty damned good plan.  They like living just as much as you—and they’re ready.


Snow Woman


It’s April, but there was a bit of rain yesterday, and the temperatures have been unusually low, so when we decided to head off this morning for a hike up Aozasayama, we thought we might run into a bit of snow.


A bit. Boy, were we wrong!

When you see this much snow from a distance (above), you know it’s going to be deep on the trail. We should have remembered what we did yesterday. An English study group asked me to facilitate a discussion on Lafcadio Hearn’s short folk tale, “The Snow Woman.”


Do you know the story? Two woodcutters, on a bitterly cold winter day, take refuge in an old hut. In the middle of the night, the snow woman comes and breathes on the older one, killing him. Upon the younger one, though, she takes pity—for he’s “pretty”—and she spares his life.

I don’t think you have to read any more to conclude that the forces of nature can be capricious and cruel.

The young woodcutter promises the snow woman never to speak of the experience.


Back to our hike: The jizo, as always, welcomed us to the neighborhood. Keep the jizo in mind as you climb, and you can be assured of your safety, no matter how severe your physical situation becomes.

Back to the snow woman: A year later, the young woodcutter meets a demure young lady (with pale, snow-like skin . . . Hearn certainly doesn’t want you to get confused!), and before you know it, they’re married with ten children. Ten! How lovely and peaceful those years were.

170402_grey_mountain_sky_600But one day, the once-upon-a-time young woodcutter suddenly remembers the night his co-worker, the old man, died. He tells his wife, the mother of his ten children, about it.


She flies into a rage. She reveals her true identity. He’s broken his promise and must pay the price. He must die. Only she loves her ten children—and without him they will not be able to eat. So she spares him—again—and she “melt[s] into a bright white mist that spired to the roof-beams, and shudder[s] away through the smoke-hole.”

170402_snowtrail_450Which leaves me with a whooooooole lot of questions, but it does explain why the trail up Aozasayama was knee-deep . . . and then hip-deep. It was the Snow Woman—she knew we’d been talking about her, knew it was a good time to make her presence felt.

For sure, nature can be capricious and cruel. And if you don’t respect her, you can get yourself in a whole lot of trouble. So if you hike in the snow, make sure you keep your legs and feet dry. If you’re wondering how safe it is to go on, go back.

Most of the time, though, nature just wants to be your Best Friend Forever. To nurture you, and to give you great joy.


I love the patterns of the branches above. How they seem to be reaching into the white and blue, stirring it up. But you don’t have to search for ages to find branches that are playing with the sky like this. They know to grow like that.  They are light eaters—and they know how to share.


These budding flowers are hanging down from a mitsumata bush, the bark of which was (is still???) used to make paper.


The jizo atop the ridge understands nature and the capricious snow woman very well. That’s why he’s built himself this nifty hut. Keeps him dry—and keeps you safe. If you’re in the neighborhood toss him a couple of coins. It’ll be money well spent.


Some hikers may wonder who reigns on the mountain, the snow woman or the jizo, but actually, the answer depends on each hiker’s mindset. Just as the trees channel the energy all about, so do you.  Which energy do you channel most, fear of the snow woman, or gratitude to the jizo? The answer to that question may influence what energy you believe this tree . . .


. . . is channeling.  170402_no_fuji_view_600

Finally, we made it to our favorite Fuji viewing spot. It took us three times as long as it usually does to get here. We were only a third of the way to our destination—the top of Aozasa.

We decided that it was a good time to call it a day. Our feet were still dry . . . more or less.

In the above picture, you may think there is no Mt. Fuji, but if you are eagle-eyed and look closely, you will see a tiny bit of our dear friend.


Okay, I’ll give you a hint.  Follow the most vertical branch down to its twigs. Look just to the right of—and a bit below—the twig on the right.


So much beauty. The trees know how much can be done with water and light (okay, and a few minerals), and so should we.

Turn these wet cedar needles upside-down . . .


. . . and you might just see a Christmas tree, nicely decorated, shining bright.


I, for one, think it’s lovely.

Thanks, guys, everyone in the Saturday study group. Your thoughts on “The Snow Woman” were insightful and thought-provoking. I feel so happy to be able to hang out with such inspiring folks.

Thank you, thank you.

No, no, that’s not the snow woman flying into the upper right corner of the pic below. That’s the sun. That’s the light that enables you to see.