The key to a simple meal is to cook the rice until each grain sits comfortably next to its neighbor without touch or embrace. On this, pour a bit of miso diluted by water of a stream or pulled from deep within the earth. Top it all with finally cut vegetables, carefully strewn as you would seeds of grass for a deep, even lawn, but here with sufficient space that the once white, now gently beige surface is dotted with color, so many islands in a slightly muddy stream. When you are done eating the last grain of rice from the bowl consider how many grains have you have eaten and give thanks to the farmer for each one.
He said, “I survived the war, was up to my armpits in water wading through the night through the rice plants that would never bear grain once we called in the orange. I walk through minefields, the noise a deafening silence since the only sound that mattered was the click that shouted death You think Ii have issues now and in your mind I certainly do but you my issues didn’t go away like Jamie’s, he heard that click and a moment later his issues were gone, and the moon was painted blood red that night and it inhabits my dreams still.
In Hawaii I could stare for hours at a taro field, the bent back of a farmer, and the same a gentle fold of spine I saw from the Shinkansen, Tokyo to Osaka amid the fields of yellow, later rice in some bowl perhaps even mine, or in Antwerp as the chef patiently picked over the trays of mussels in the market knowing just which would suit his needs, all having a remarkable sameness to my eye and nose. On the road just outside San Juan, near the beach with surf-able waves, the woman stood bent in the heat over a 50 gallon drum turned stove, cooking the pork tucking it into the dough and placing it in the fryer oil smiling through her few remaining teeth, offering pies that we dared not resist, knowing the sea would soon enough be our willing napkin. This morning, as I took my slow walk to the coffee shop, a jay sitting on a rusting fence stared at me for a bit, not unnerving, persistent, and I imagine him thinking of taro, rice and fresh cooked pies.
At first it was a checkerboard of ponds neatly arrayed, reflecting the sun, the work of man, for God so rarely plays geometrician with creation, less often still using right angles. Soon enough green blades reach up through the shirred surface, random, reaching for a sun they can never touch. It is a field soon, the water pooling at the roots is lost in the emerald sea its waves now generated by the wind from the distant mountain. It is marigold yellow now, fading day by day to curry, the spikelet slowly letting go their grip on the grains that will soon lie on the bamboo mats, drinking the last of the sun they will know.
She said I should be thankful that I am not a rice farmer. She said that I should be thankful that I am not over seven feet tall, and not less than four feet eight inches, although she concedes that four feet nine would not be cause for celebration. She says I should be thankful I was not dropped on my head as a baby. I am thankful for all of these things, and for her, for she saves me countless hours remember things for which I probably should be thankful.
She said I should be thankful that I am not a rice farmer. She said that I should be thankful that I am not over seven feet tall, and not less than four feet eight inches, although she concedes that four feet nine would not be cause for celebration. She says I should be thankful I was not dropped on my head as a baby. I am thankful for all of these things, and for her, for she saves me countless hours remembering things for which I probably should be thankful.
Walking down this road I would like to see a rice field golden in the morning sun with a great mountain rising behind it just around the next bend. I would settle for a town its lone Temple quiet, awaiting the morning bell, the call to sit, with maybe a cat at the base of a statue the Bodhisattva. I am ready to bow deeply to the first monk I see this day, but my reverie is broken by the barely dodged wave thrown up by city bus running late and fast down the crowded street of this upstate New York city.
Looking out the window of the Osaka bound train at the great snow-covered mountain I saw, for just a moment my face on its slopes. Staring down at the train hurtling across the fields, the great Fuji smiled briefly before returning to its stony stare.