Monthly Archives: February 2015

Oh, the nectar!


Oh, the nectar! What a day, boys and girls! Drink up!  Heck, we can make a day of it!


What? What’s that I hear you saying? Not so much time today? Can’t drop everything just to join a nectarfest?

Gotta keep on the go? Gotta long hard drive in front of you? Got places to get to? Maybe in the fast lane? Well, what do you know! That blue sky stretches a heck of a long way!


It’s surely a good day, too, to take a driving lesson. Learn how to make it down the road without whacking your front fender into or raking your side door along a telephone pole. We’ve got a few of those here in Shizuoka City, as you well know.


And it’s surely a good day, if you need to, to jump into a speeding train . . . and a good day as well, no doubt, to . . .


. . . jump back out again.

But me, I decided to stick with the nectar.


In the morning, just when I was getting a good layer of that fragrance built up on my beak, I saw my buddy Steve on his bicycle, heading off for that university he works at. He stopped to say hello (he often does), but when I invited him up to the branch to suck from a blossom or two, he said he had to get going. The way he said it, I knew he wanted to stop and spend some time up here. It made me feel a little guilty—but no way I was giving up this day.

Still, I felt like doing something for him. So I told him what we mejiro know instinctively. (I never have understood clearly exactly how much human beings feel these sorts of things.)

It’s in the air, I said. Pink and lavender clouds, over there in the east, this evening.

I pointed my beak at Yatsu Mountain.

From here, I said, it’s only two minutes or so up to the best viewing spot. Might be mighty spectacular. Hold on, for a human being, it might take fifteen.


So wasn’t it a joy when Steve came by this morning to thank me for the cloudcast. He said he’d put his nose to the grindstone, got his work done, and got up on Yatsu Mountain just in time. He said that I had “hit it on the nose.” Those were his exact words.


Then he asked me what I thought of crows. He seemed to have some newfound affinity for them, so I didn’t say that you’d never find one on a guest list of mine. I just said that I’d never really talked to them much.

So he told me that while he was sitting there, up on Yatsu, looking out at Mt. Fuji and the pink and lavender, a dozen or so crows suddenly swooped down on a citrus tree, wrestled the fruit, and sent four plummeting down to the trail. The three they’d gotten their beaks into didn’t roll very well, but one (he said) rolled right down to where he was sitting.

150224_suruga_orange_290   150224_suruga_orange_cut_290

Now do you believe that?

Before he went on his way (on to his university for another day, I guess), he asked me why I hadn’t told him about the sunset.


Do I have to tell you everything! I peepy-peeped down to him. He smiled and took off.

Looks like another grand day to me.  Man, this stuff is good!!!



What were you born for?



Two of us had been on Aozasa Mountain just ten days before, but we had had to come back—it had been the most beautiful day ever and we were hoping for another one exactly like it—and we wanted as many of our friends as possible to experience it with us. In the end, seven of us went—a two-Aqua affair.

The sky turned out to be a bit more hazy than before, so as far as views went it was perhaps not another off-the-charts FIFTEEN . . . but a mere perfect TEN.

We’ll take that any day.

But every hike brings new and different delights. The new fallen and deep snow on the last bit of the trail heading down to the Jizo Pass was particularly joyful, with all sorts of slipping and sliding and bum bouncing occurring (no fears, nothing dangerous, no injuries).

And last time, the snow mushrooms had yet to sprout up here and there on thick branches and fallen logs . . .


and we had no opportunity to see snow animals out on parade.


Of course, none of these “new” sights surprised me—I’m quite aware of what Mother Nature is capable of—but I do have to admit that I did a double-take when I saw . . .


. . . that Mother Nature had used the snow to produce a cute little winter cap for us to marvel at. Actually, I was at the end of the hiking line right then. I suppose I was the only one to see it. Wait a minute, I’m remembering it now:  I had just whacked my head on a branch (permanent damage?), and suddenly my ears had gone cold, and . . .

Oh, never mind!


When you’re walking through the cedars like this, and the snow is soft and powdery and easygoing, and the sun’s sneaking over the top of the ridge and shining down on you, it’s easy to start daydreaming and musing about all sorts of things.

And I certainly did. And so did at least one other of us. Because suddenly I was hearing this question tickling my ears: WHAT WERE WE BORN FOR?


What were we born for? What kind of question was that?

What were we born for?

Why were we born?

Fortunately, Tammy Tam was on hand to help me pull together an answer.


 And you’ll forgive me for providing you, here, with the answer that was, later in the week, “recollected in tranquility” and duly recorded for prosperity.

(Give me and Tammy Tam a break—it was the best answer we could come up with. We gave it the best thunk we could.)

But I must warn you that listening to our answer may grate on your ears, so take comfort in knowing that you can skip the sound file, just look at the pictures, and pretty much get the same answer.


And here I’d just like to say that . . . we’re so happy to have Tammy Tam with us at Persimmon Dreams Recording Studio. This time, not only does she provide a sweet vocal, but she also plays a mean Scracalac (no introduction to that instrument necessary, I’m sure), as well as putting in a fine performance on the—in Japanese—百貴銭鈴, pronounced HYAKKI-SEN-RIN, and roughly translating as the “One-Hundred-Precious-Coin Bells.”

Anyway, here’s hoping you’ll join us on the mountain some day. . . . If it’s your cup of tea.

Lyrics below. With the pictures.


Were you born to wear rings / on your fingers like kings

And to pull all the peasants / along on a string?

Were you born to travel / in crowded cabooses

To never know wrong / to have good excuses?

Were you born to collect tolls / or to fix all the holes

Or to sit at the table and butter the rolls?


Tell me, oh, oh, oh, what were you born for?

Tell me, why, why, why, why you were born?

Tell me, oh, oh, oh, what were you born for?

Tell me, why, oh why – were you born?



Were you born to learn / to wait for your turn

To see all the sorrow / and show some concern?

Were you born to be tense / maybe sit on a fence

Or to work for a penny, a yen, or a pence?

Were you born to be one / with the stars and the sun

To romp with a cloud / just looking for fun?

Were you born to hold power / stay long in the shower

To live at the tip of the top of the tower?


Were you born to sew stitches / to overcome hitches

To wear chains on your legs / and to dig in the ditches?

Were you born to build bridges / to live along ridges,

Or to whack kids with a belt / on the back of their britches?

Were you born to have headaches / heartburn and such

To lose your eyesight / and walk with a crutch?

Were you born to chop wood / or to build neighborhoods

Or to do what you should / when you knew that you could?


Were you born to prevail / maybe chase the grail

Or to save the world / with a milkshake of kale?

Were you born to fix arteries / all clogged up with fat

Or to stand up a crowd / with the crack of your bat?

Were you born to cook quiche / become nouveau riche

To wander around without finding your niche?

Were you born to divorce, to feel remorse,

To laugh and to cry but to seek no recourse.

Were to born to take dares / to pull out grey hairs

Or to eat all the peaches and leave all the pears?


Well, why I was born I can’t really say

But I hope to find peace by the end of the day

So I walk in the hills and I sing and I sigh.

And I glide through the snow / and I keep on the go

And I laugh and I laugh / at how little I know

And I’m wimpy and weak / and my locks have been shorn

But I just have to say / I don’t know why you were born

But if a walk in the woods / is your cup of tea

Then I’m happy to have you / come along with me

Yes I’m happy to have you / come along with me

I’m so happy to have you / come along with me. 


The most beautiful day



It was the most beautiful day ever, but first, before I get to that, I’ll give you some barebone instructions for experiencing it for yourself—what some might call the blog’s “useful” information.

Drive up route 29 from Shizuoka City. About 30 or 40 minutes. Turn right at the big “Utogi” sign. Wind and climb up the winding, climbing road. Park at Aoi Kogen (葵高原). Lock your car. Don’t drop your keys. Head up the road that heads for Mumyo no Toge (無名の峠), otherwise known as the Nameless Pass. (Later, if you become contemplative, you can wonder how a mountain pass can be named the Nameless Pass.) But it is truly there, and so named, so when you get to it, the Nameless Pass (an hour or an hour and a half climb), take a deep breath and enjoy the sudden and stunning view of Mt. Fuji—sometimes known to friends who are quite familiar with him as Fuji-kun. Then make a sharp right turn and walk along the ridge. A half-hour or so later, you’ll get to the top of Aozasa Mountain (青笹山). More on that later. Eat lunch. Sing a song. Walk back the way you came, past the pass named Nameless, then walk the ridge all the way to Jizo no Toge (地蔵の峠). A jizo is a stone statue of a guardian diety. Say hello to Mr. Jizo in his little hut. Leave him some pocket change. Don’t drink his beer. Then turn left and head down the mountain. Hit the road. Follow the road back down to Aoi Kogen. Find your car keys inserted into the lock of your car door. This is not where you left them. You dropped them on the ground. Somewhere. Who knows where? But some kind soul picked them up and put them in a place where you’d be sure to find them. In the lock of your car door. Now it really does become a perfect day for you.

This whole walk will take about six hours–if you take 40 minutes for lunch and you take 212 pictures along the way. (Yes, there were “restroom” breaks but don’t ask about those.)

So that’s that.

Now, what I really want to tell you is . . . well, actually there are lots of things I want to tell you, but the first one is . . .


. . . that this amount of snow is easy and fun to walk in. Really easy. Really fun. We had boot irons in our backpacks but never took them out.  It’s not so much snow that . . .


you can’t see the signs. But even if you couldn’t see the signs,  the trail itself would remain (barring an unprecedented blizzard) clear and easy to follow, and . . .


Mr. Jizo would always be in the vicinity to guide you and assure your safety.

So that’s the first thing. The second is . . .


a clear day on this mountain, in February, just a few days after a snowfall, will be the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see.

When you get to this stretch of snow, just beneath the summit, you’ll giggle, half embarrassed, wondering why it’s you that’s so lucky to be here, in this place, on this day, with this snow and this sky, with this double hedgerow of bamboo—why you’ve got it, for all practical purposes, all to yourself.

You may find yourself clicking your boot heels, jingling your bear bell, and mumbling, “Follow the silky white road, follow the silky white road.”

Then you’re going to be on the top and you’re going to spin about, arms spread (yes, kind of like Julie Andrews), taking everything in, and you’re going to wonder how ten minutes earlier you could have possibly seen the most beautiful thing ever . . . when you’re seeing it just now.

Go ahead. Take your time. Take it all in. The Alps, the ocean, Fuji City, the pine forest of Miho, Fuji-kun, little puffs of snow blowing off the top of his head, the mouth of the Abe River. Sing your song. Sigh your sighs. Shake your partner’s shoulders and say . . . “There ain’t no need to say nuttin’—is there?”






At least that’s how I think you’ll feel. I could be wrong. It was, though, how I felt.

In awe.

I think I’m using that word correctly. (And afterall, I’d just “followed the silky white road.”)

In The Great Gatsby, Nick retreats from his East-Coast experiment in “making it” in the bond business to his hometown in the Midwest. He tells us that he was so disgusted by the carelessness he witnessed in Tom Buchanan and others, he “wanted the world to be in uniform and at moral attention forever.” I, on the other hand, standing atop Aozasayama, could only think that I myself wanted to stand at moral attention forever—and at attention in the uniform of the universe*—I could only think that I wanted to stand in moral attention to itit, the universe—in its uniform, forever . . . maybe a little longer.

*The uniform of the universe is, of course, the ultimate uniform: UNI-form + UNI-verse = Ultimate. (That was 10th-grade math, I think.) (I think if you give it even a little bit of thought you’ll see this is how the form of the verses flow.)

Emerson tells us this: “The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible, but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance.”

More or less that’s right, but Emerson never stood atop Aozasayama. If he had, I’m pretty sure he would have written, “The blue sky sunshine, the rosy sea, and the puffs of snow blowing of the top of Mt. Fuji awaken a certain reverence because, because, Geez, just look at it all! Take!  It!  In!”  He could have kept the second part of his statement as it is, the part about all natural objects making a kindred impression. That’s dead on. All you need is a blade of grass. Or a spear of bamboo. That’s all you need to search out nature’s secrets—and ultimately to search out the secrets of your own mind. And any man or woman who does that will surely learn that “in going down into the secrets of his [or her] own mind, he [or she] has descended into the secrets of all minds.”

And I kept hearing Georgie’s beautiful voice: Some things take so long / But how do I explain / Not too many people / Can see we’re all the same / And because of all their tears / Their eyes can’t hope to see / The beauty that surrounds them / Isn’t it a pity?

A few days before my hearty hiking partner and I climbed Aozasayama, I received a message from an American friend, sympathizing with me over the death of Kenji Goto. I was living in Japan. Goto was Japanese. For certain, it was very kind of her, but even so, I wasn’t sure how to respond.

Needless to say, butchery needs to be condemned, and when a good man, with a really good heart,  dies like this, despite his efforts to bridge cultures, it’s a gut-wrenching tragedy. And even though I’m a dyed-in-the-wool pacifist, so non-confrontational and non-retaliatory in nature so much of the time that I’ve been called the worst of wimps more than a few times in my life, I can see that there’s a time when aggresive force is justified to stop a certain brand of assailant from acting further. This certainly looks like one of those times.

But what I worry about is this: The purpose of all this sadistic “tough guy” behavior is  (I think)  to leave in awe young men who might be enticed to join the cause if the awe they feel is deep enough. So you can hunt down and kill the direct perpetrators, but unless you make a counter appeal to those young men, unless you can provide them with some vision of themselves living with dignity and respect, a vision of themselves being an equal part of the universe, the seeds for new and even more sadistic groups will remain fertile.

A few years ago, a lot of folks in the West thought it could be no worse than Bin Laden.

Atop Aozasayama, what I felt was this: Divine I am inside and out. And this:  Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I don’t live in the universe. I’m a part of the universe.

The universe is not some blanket that I can pull over to my side of the bed.

Yep, that’s what I felt atop Aozasayama, and it’s what I can feel now, if only I look out on the back stoop and see the tiny buds growing plump on the itsy bitsy yashio tree I have growing in a six-inch-high pot.


So I say: Let’s continue our visit. Let’s continue our walk through the snow.

Once you’ve been possessed by the 360-degree panoramic spirit atop Aozasa Mountain, you’ll find yourself abuzz, super sensitive to everything. You’ll feel how longingly winter branches reach for spring.


You’ll be touched by wispy clouds of cotton orbiting rings of seeds.


You’ll wonder about the birds. Where they’ve been. What they’ve been up to. When they’ll be back. If they’ll need a hand tidying up.


And something about the way snow clings to tree branches will fascinate you . . .


. . . and when your friend tells you that snow clinging like that is nature’s way of manufacturing pillows, you will smile, and even if you don’t believe her (or him), you’ll probably agree that it is nature’s  way of suggesting “rest” to you, so that you will notice . . .150201_sitting_tree_600

. . . the sitting trees that nature has certainly provided for you (through a long evolutionary process).

And then you’ll be walking down from the Jizo Pass, your boots kicking up a bit of snow, and you’ll still be thinking, “How easy it is to walk through this snow! How nice it is!” Why, you might even start singing about it.

Actually we did. Start singing, that is. Started singing off the tops of our heads about the snow. And fortunately for us (as many of you know), Persimmon Dreams, in an attempt to get people reading, in an attempt to establish greater empathy all around, built a factory with the purpose of manufacturing an extraordinary large number of bookmarks (check the archives). Don’t even get me started talking about all the zeros involved. Anyway, one small area of the factory space was never used, so when we got home that afternoon, we contacted a variety of contractors, and before we knew it, the recording equipment was being hauled in. The buzz attracted all sorts of producers and studio musicians (and agents, too, but we sent them away), and the next thing you know tracks were being mixed and digitally re-mixed and all that sort of stuff . . . and to make a long story short, we are proud here to present to you, at no charge, the first official recording of Persimmon Dreams Studio.

But before you listen (find lyrics and translations below), get off the mountain and find your car keys. Don’t worry about your knees. You’ve been walking in all that forgiving snow. Your knees are fine.

Translation notes: yuki = snow, aruku = walk, yuki ga arukiyasui = snow’s easy to walk in wo = a grammar marker, don’t worry about it, jizo = stone statue of guardian diety, yashio = azaela-like tree with gorgeous green and red leaves, and in May, lovely white blossoms.


 Yuki ga arukiyasui / yuki wo aruku / yuki ga arukiyasui / yuki wo walk with you (me)

Red coat jizo looking good / Welcomes us to the neighborhood

Makes us want to beat the curse / Become one with the universe.

Boots kick snow up from the land / Makes me want to take your hand

Snow blows off of Fuji-kun / Makes me want to kiss you soon.


Cedar trees and yashio / Tell us where we need to go

Fighting, feuding have their say / But cannot end our magic day.

High school hikers make the climb / Up step up step feel sublime

Car keys lost who gives a damn? / I know just right where I am.


Snow-capped mountains, rosy sea / They tell me what you mean to me

Winter branches reach for spring  / They are saying everything

Blue sky sunshine all above / Makes me really feel my love

Diamond snow is all aglow / What else do you need to know?