They were not optional in our family, once a week, half an hour, that and at least 20 minutes daily, the youngest got the choice of times.
He quit after a year, his sister was three years in and went on another and I was eight years staring at the 88 keys, so many of which would never get used, useless as were the pedals I couldn’t reach at first and rarely needed later.
It was upright, as I was supposed to be, but only was in sight of my teacher, and I thought Bill Evans had it right, leaning over the keys insuring that they wouldn’t make an escape.
I stopped when my parents realized how much they had spent on what they would never enjoy and I would as soon forget.
There are no monsters in this lake I tell my granddaughter, answering her unasked question. There are bears in the woods around here and there used to be an owl which made an afternoon visit. There are deer, certainly and there could be a coyote or two. If you don’t believe me, ask the crows, everyone knows that they can never keep a secret.
First published in From the Finger Lakes: A Memoir Anthology, Cayuga Lake Books, 2021
It is the difference I always notice between small and large cities: the parks.
When you sit deeply within Boston Commons or Central Park you can feel the city always threatening to encroach and once again make you its prisoner, smell and hear the city, traffic and trucks rumbling, horns played in a cacophonous symphony.
In small cities you can sit in a park and wonder where downtown could be, distant, a whisper perhaps alwlays unseen, and you can get lost in dreams of childhood smell newly mown grass, and listen unimpeded to the stories the trees are all to willing to tell.
Life should be a like a mountain although truth be told, we prefer it more like a prairie or at best a gentle, rolling hill.
There is a challenge to climbing, hell maintaining a grip halfway up most mountains, and there are no maps, no well worn paths, you just go up until you cannot go up higher then you figure out how to come down.
Down is the hard part, and you don’t want it to go quickly for that is a prescription for the undertaker, and when you do finally get down, you want to say I did it all, there is nothig left that I still need to do.
If you stare at a large stone and call it a mountain the ant will agree with you. If you gaze on a mountain and call it a stone there can be no argument. If I call that tree a toothpick clean your teeth carefully.
A reflection on Case 112 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans
It is the Italian season in the southeast. This has nothing to do with the country, its food or language. Well a bit to do with food. It is hurricane season here, and when a storm arises, you can be certain most of us begin to scan the web for information, for weather can quickly become our nightmare. But NOAA and others know we are thristy for information, and perhaps that almost everyone loves Italian food, so they feed us ever changing, ever shifting spaghetti models. Pass the red sauce please.
In Asakusa amid the stalls of trinkets and swords why do the gaijin all speak German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish and English is reserved to a couple if Nisei.
In a small laundromat in Akasaka an old woman clucks and shuffles on wooden sandals pulling kimonos from the dryer. My t-shirts are still damp.
In Shibuya there is a small storefront pet shop, its windows full of cat ryokan some with beds others replete with toys, balls. In the largest a tiger striped Persian sleeps, her back to the passing crowds.
At Meiji Jingu I toss my coin and bow in prayer hopeful that the gods speak English.
On the Ginza line a young woman all in black carries a carefully wrapped poster of John Lennon. In thirty years she will look like Yoko Ono.
First published in Around the World: Landscapes & Cityscapes, Sweetycat Press, 2021