Monthly Archives: June 2015

All that’s real 2



In early June I needed to go to Kobe for a Sunday afternoon literary event and ended up spending a day and a half walking around Kyoto. Climbed up the mountain from Kurama, walked along the ridge, came down to Kibune, with its maple-lined river, maple-lined avenue, maple-lined everything.



Peeked into Kibune’s expensive kawadoko restaurants in the river. Strolled about its many small shrines.



On the way back downtown went to Enkoji. Had dinner along the Kamo River. The next morning walked the narrow, bamboo-lined, tourist-congested street in Sagano. Walked the quieter grounds of the Okochi Sanso Villa. Had a cup of tea. Sat before the pond in front of Tenryuji Temple.

Saw lots of pretty faces.



And that’s about it.


downtown Kyoto . . . the Kamo River

Maybe the most important thing I can tell you about the trip?

Well, at the train station in Kibune, all weary-legged, my fellow Hearty Hiker and I had to decide whether to go to a hot springs, or take the train all the way back into town and cool out beside the river . . . or get off before reaching downtown and hike up to another spot, a temple called Enkoji. We gave it a good thinking over, let our knees comment freely, then made the no-brainer decision. We could go to a hot springs any time back in Shizuoka. We could cool out any time. The Kamo River would still be flowing through downtown Kyoto after dusk. This might be our only chance ever to walk up to Enkoji.



That decision made all the difference.



We were instantly mesmerized by Enkoji. Both of us. But we’d only been there about twenty minutes when we realized if we didn’t head back right away we wouldn’t make our dinner reservations.



Again, a pow wow. Again, an easy decision. There were lots of restaurants. We wouldn’t starve. We’d get in somewhere whenever we got back to town.

150607_pond__tenryuji1_600Tenryuji Temple

And that, too, made all the difference. Really. . . . Trust me.

The words that follow flowed out from both the suikinkutsu (水琴窟, “a cave of water strings” … my translation, very awkward) at Enkoji—and every other place I’d ever been before and have been after . . . including the lotus pond in my soon-to-be new “neck of the woods.”



Here’s what we heard in Kyoto.




And here’s more of what we saw in Kyoto, the pictures, as above, in no particular order.

Just Kyoto pictures. No picture of a wasp eating a worm, or a cawing crow circling above the traffic.



But those can be found in previous posts. And of course, so can the lotus flowers. 



The lotus flower’s veined pink skin

Is lit up bright from within.

You have to stop and feel amazed–

It doesn’t burn but stays ablaze.

Eyes are ears and ears are eyes,

Helping us to empathize,

Paradise is what you feel

And what you feel is all that’s real.


Tenryuji Temple

I step into a temple ground,

Through a bamboo pole hear a dripping sound.

A xylophone and a string of bells

Leap right out of the bottomless well.

They say a mighty warrior’s tooth

Is buried here beneath the truth,

But under the maples I feel no fear

The moss is green and the sky is clear.



Divide by two, what do you get?

Damaged hearts, a lot of regret.

You’re still yourself in disguise

Sometimes Solomon was pretty wise.

Paradise is what you see,

What you see is all you need,

Just your eyes can make you kneel,

’Cause what you feel is all that’s real.


Okochi Sanso Villa

A cawing crow is circling high

Through a field reflecting a rosy sky.

His mate alights on a telephone pole,

The traffic below she can’t control.

Listen to your eyes, loosen your mind,

Don’t let them tell you that you’re in a bind.

The dripping water’s a magical force

Maybe it’s coming from the source.



Who’s your enemy? Who’s your friend?

When will this talk ever end?

For 2000 years we’ve wondered hard—

Now we can’t play any card.

Paradise is what you see,

What you see is all you need,

Just your eyes can make you kneel,

’Cause what you feel is all that’s real.



A green worm dines on a fat rosebud,

A wasp swoops down, you can hear the thud.

Stormy skies never criticize,

Thunder and lightning just lullabies.

Beginnings and endings, right here in the day,

A dandelion is blown away.

Background is foreground, forward is back,

A swallow’s heaven is an empty shack.


from Okochi Sanso Villa

Who’s your neighbor? Who’s your friend?

What’s the message you want to send?

You’ll never be a step ahead,

Your soul is never in the red.

Eyes are ears and ears are eyes

Helping us to empathize,

Paradise is what you feel

And what you feel is all that’s real.



 If you ever visit Enkoji, please say hello to this guy for me. . . . And listen to the water drip!


On a rainy day

150621_foggy_cedars_600 On a rainy day, in the mist, you might miss the turnoff . . .


. . . and end up in a place completely new.


On a rainy day, you might see things that are right in front of you . . .


. . . that you wouldn’t have noticed had the sky been blue.


On a rainy day, you might run into folks who, fundamentally, prefer the rain.





On a rainy day, the white flowers of the yamaboushi tree might poke their heads out from the grey . . . just to entice you.


On a rainy day, you might not worry about the spray coming off the waterfall.


On a rainy day, on your way home, you might remember the lotus pond.


On a rainy day, you might imagine each lotus leaf a giant pitcher in a giant hall, with a grand feast in progress, and when each pitcher grows heavy with the puddling water and finally tips over and you hear the water gurgling down into the pond, you might imagine a throat thoroughly quinched. Or you might imagine—well, it’s up to you—you could imagine anything.

That puddling water in those elephantine lotus leaves might remind you of your mother’s favorite crystal, the one she always asked you to be careful with.


Or you might (whether you’re eight, or eighty-eight) imagine that someone, someone special, has opened up a jewelry box, and there, before your eyes, is a diamond pendant . . . no, no, no, not a diamond pendant, it’s more lovely than that.

You might imagine how it will feel resting upon your breast.


And those flowers, beaded with rain drops, might make you think, “And from this muddy muck!”


On a rainy day.


***Japanese haiku a joint effort from yours truly and Tammy Tam (a tremendous member of the Hearty Hiker team). A rough translation: “In the mist . . . the stark white . . . of the yamaboushi flowers.”

All that’s real


Yesterday I got up and thought I’d better go out and water the basil I’ve got growing on the lot I’m getting ready to build a house on. It’s not very far. I figured a bit under an hour for the round trip on the bicycle, maybe 10 minutes to water the basil—and zucchini and acorn squash. Fifteen minutes to stand on the lot and feel dazed and happy.

An hour and a half tops.

But it took a lot longer. There was just too much to see.

The lotus flower’s veined pink skin

Is lit up bright from within.


You have to stop and feel amazed—

It doesn’t burn but stays ablaze.


Beginnings and endings


Are right there in the day.


Background is




Forward is back.


Who’s your enemy? Who’s your friend?


When will this talk ever end?


Paradise is what you see

What you see is all you need


Just your eyes can make you kneel

‘Cause what you feel is all that’s real.


Oh, and the basil was just fine. Some little fellows had eaten a bit, but with a little luck, there’ll be enough for all.

“All that’s real 2” coming soon. Maybe.


The end of me


I’m madly in love with shiroyashio. There, I’ve said it.


Shiroyashio. Otherwise, known as Rhododendron quinquefolium. It’s a short, stocky, rugged sort of tree, with rough bark—thus, the sometimes nickname of Japanese cork azaela—that grows mainly, as far as I know, along the ridges of a limited number of mountains in Japan.


The leaves come in whorls of five, with each green whorl red-tipped—“flowers” in themselves. If you can get up to the mountain on just the right day, the white blossoms will be open, and the fresh red and green leaves will glisten in the blue sky like springtime stars. It will amaze you.

At least, it amazes me. Looking at these guys in their spanky clean colors, there’s no way I can feel blue.

When I look at them, and the sun that makes them glisten shines on me, too, well, it’s hard—really hard—to worry about the end of me. Or you.


I can feel the end of me / I will never find life’s key

(But) I don’t want your sympathy / (She said) I can feel the end of me.

 I see darkness in the sky / I have lost my will to try

(She said) I no longer can say why / (But) I see darkness in the sky.


(I said) Please come with me / See what we can see

Please come with me / Feel what we can be.

I just feel that all is vain / Sunny days look like the freezing rain

(She said) I can’t bear this kind of pain / I just feel that all’s in vain.

 (I said) Please come with me / See what we can see

Please come with me / Feel what we can be.

 150215_red_plums1_600Plum 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 your closed-up heart a jar


Open it, pump in that mountain air


Then you’ll see it’s not all so unfair.

You can find so much happiness–

Just open – your heart.

You can find so much happiness—

Just follow – your heart.