“If we think no worse of them than they do of themselves,
they might pass for excellent men. ”
Yes, once again we Hearty Hikers were on the road to Ryuso.
Again? Didn’t you just go a few days ago?
Well, yes. But when it comes to Ryuso, there can never be too many agains.
And I think you know every day is different.
But last week when we came to cheer on (cheer up?) the chabohototogisu, well, they weren’t blooming yet. Of course, we had to come again.
The chabohototogisu, you see, have a confidence problem. Their green leaves are “mottled with ugly black spots,” and they grow close to the ground, so they’ve got that height inferiority thing, and because they are so small, and like to stay alone, a single plant growing here and there, hikers really do trod their leaves “fifty times a day.” All summer they save up their energy, if they don’t get stepped on, and then burst forth in bloom, but only for a few days, and then they are gone. They wonder if it’s worth it.
They are a most lovely “demure yellow,” a yellow we love, but one they feel somewhat ashamed of. I don’t know why. True, it’s not the most photogenic yellow.
Well, simply put, they are the most lovely and precious things we’ve ever seen, and it’s a sad, sad thing to be out on the veranda reading a book, or grading papers, or maybe downtown bowling—when you know how they may be feeling.
So up there we went, with Shizuoka Duo and their assorted instruments (those are their words in the quotation marks above), to sing them a song. You can hear the song we sung them HERE. Or not, as you like.
As we approached the realm they demurely bloom in, we felt energized. This is, of course, partially because we were optimistic of success, but also because we were surrounded by . . .
. . . some incredible light-to-energy converters—ones manufactured with the most cutting-edge technology this world has ever known.
We were also buoyed by an unusually clear view of . . .
. . . our dear friend Fuji (if you ever decide to come along, don’t expect such clear skies in August), and by a lovely view of . . .
. . . the big, bold, and blue southern Alps.
Man, I wish I could show these views to Chabo.
Finally, we were entering Chabo’s realm.
We were walking the trail, beginning to feel, maybe even understand, their loneliness when—don’t you see her, there on the left? No? Now do you see how she feels? Look again.
We gathered around. Shizuoka Duo had me count in. The Duo played, and we all joined in.
Here and there we went, singing to each and every Chabo we found.
We did the best we could. I was proud of our effort.
And I think we did cheer them up a bit. But as soon as we finished singing and headed back down, I began to worry. They were so young. If we think no worse of them than they do of themselves, they might pass for excellent men—or women. Were they too young to know what that implied?
Well, as the older statesman of the Hearty Hikers, I know what it implies. Most of the time, you don’t have to worry if “they” are thinking worse of you than you think of yourself, because most of the time “they” are not thinking about you very much at all. (I added the “very much” later, so as to not seem too pessimistic or misanthropic or whatever.)
But they need to know that. They need to understand that. Jeez, most of the time, they’re up there all by themselves. Most of the time, we’re all up there by ourselves.
Yeah, if they’re so danged hung up on the self esteem thing, the first thing they’ve got to realize is that they are, with very few exceptions, the only ones doing the esteeming.
But it was a good day for me. When you’re searching the ground for Chabo, you really look, and when you really look, you really notice all sorts of things that you might not have otherwise.
Or as Shizuoka Duo sing in another song, I think it may be a song they call “Hangnail”—
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.
And that’s what I did. Saw what I could see.
Hey, what’s that?
Oh, an apple mushroom!
And a toad lily! (A close relative of Chabo’s.)
And who’s this squirmy wormy guy?
And what subterranean magic kingdom did this fashion king spring up from?
Once my eyes combed the ground with such intensity that I could see down, down, down . . .
. . . to the bottom of the sea, where all the colorful coral grows.
Thank you, everyone. A special thanks to you, Shizuoka Duo. And a special, special thanks to you, Chabo. I feel really good about today. I hope you do, too.