10,000 origami cranes floated down over Tokyo each bearing the soul of one gone in nature’s recent fury. Each crane cried freely the tears flowing into the Sumida forming a wave that washes back to the sea, replenishing its loss. We, too, shed our tears and look skyward sad in the knowledge that with each passing day still more cranes will fill the sky more tears seep back to the still angry sea.
It should be easy, my friend said, to imagine yourself a character in a novel you particularly like, like I’ve found myself in any number of Tom Clancy novels, since I can easily become a CIA agent, it fits me.
I know I’d shoot myself in the foot or worse, and I’d keep no secrets if you even threatened to torture me, and the odds of me finding my own Doctor Watson are slim, harder still since I abhor even the thought of opium, and I gave up my pipe years ago when the girls found it odd or disgusting, not the cool I sought.
So I’m left with being a young Japanese woman negotiating life in modern Tokyo, or the countryside, but I’m nit sure Banana Yoshimoto would buy me as her protagonist, so I suppose I could do a quick deep dive into ballet and try and pass for Shimamura, but I know I’d opt for Yoko and that wouldn’t suit Kawabata at all
Come to think of it, I have a hard enough time being myself, and even as my own author, I find that I would never accept myself as my protagonist, so that role is still available if you would care to audition.
Tonight, if all goes well, I will be a monk in a good-sized Buddhist temple. I am hoping it will be in Nara, at Todai-ji perhaps, or Asakusa at Senso-ji, or better still somewhere in Kyoto, although it might well be in the Myanmar jungle or somewhere deep within the Laotian highlands.
One problem with that world is that I have no control over it, which, come to think of it, leaves it like the waking world which has never hewn to my direction.
I’ve had this desire for weeks on end, and I suspect tonight will be no different, and I will spend eight hours sorting files, writing cease and desist letters and trying to convince myself that even that is a form of mindful meditation and abiding kensho will arrive in the next rapid eye movement.
The Japanese invented haiku certain that a painting of great beauty could be completed with only a few strokes of the brush.
The Japanese have no word for what we claim is higher order poetry, academic and pedantic are two other English words which easily apply. And the Japanese are hard put to comprehend so much of what we deem experimental, the result, a friend named Yoshi said, of what seems the odd scraps of a dictionary torn apart by an unexpected tornado.
In Tokyo every tree knows that at least four poems lie within it, each awaiting the appropriate season.
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 shoots, 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 a road just outside San Juan, near the beach with surfable waves, the woman stood bent in the heat over a 50 gallon drum turn stove, cooking the pork tucking it into the dough and placing it in the fryer, smiling through her few remaining teeth, offering pies that we dared not resist, knowing the sea would soon enough be our napkin. This morning, as I took my slow walk to the coffee shop, a jay sitting on a resting fence stared at me for a bit, not unnerving, persistent, and I imagine him the king of Taro, rice and fresh pies.
In the hills that rise gently from the concrete valley two hawks play childlike, rising, falling in gentle circles, grazing the redwoods that reach up to stroke their breasts. To a visitor from the East New York, Tokyo there is awe at the hawks’ grace, slicing the sky into cloudy ribbons but there is no wonder in the eyes of the field mouse and squirrel, only the flapping of the executioner’s blade and the deep eyes of death.
Origami cranes lumber into flight and lift into the sky over the small, back street Temple somewhere on the periphery of Shinjuku. They know their flight will be only temporary, that their wings will grow quickly tired, that the rustling sound of two thousand wings will soon fall silent as the breeze bids them a peaceful night, and the Temple bell announces the evening zazen.
It was inside Nara that it finally slipped away. Its tether had grown ever weaker, the first slip was decades before, a book, brief meetings an answerless question. It stretched further in Tokyo, basin incense under the watchful third eye and hung perilously by fewer and fewer threads until, with the monks’ gentle bow, it broke and I found home.