In Search of Beauty

I awakened in Japan this morning to learn of the terrorist outrage in lower Manhattan.  It’s not the news any of us want to see wherever we are.  We live in times that can easily be called disheartening.  I have felt the encroaching darkness  for several months for reasons that don’t require illumination. Anyone with a functioning sensory mechanism has most likely felt a similar reaction to the political turmoil.

I looked forward to my Japanese visit as a way to reassure myself that there is still some semblance of decency and sanity remaining in the world.  One doesn’t need to come to Japan to find it, of course, but for me, it makes it easier.

Appreciation of nature’s  beauty is built into this culture and readily accessible. I am far from alone in my quest for distraction and sustenance.  In the popular gardens, hundreds of tourists armed with phones and cameras clog the pathways, searching for their own moments of inspiration.  Mostly, they seem preoccupied with taking selfies in front of a photogenic backdrop. I determine in the future  to avoid these congregations as much as possible and focus my attention on the less obvious, making a vow to avoid these over popular spots.

Yesterday, we went to Arashiyama, to show our house guest the Western foothills of Kyoto.  We visited Tenryuji, a world heritage site, and then wandered the bamboo forest, encountering some exuberant schoolgirls and many tourists along the way. Continue reading “In Search of Beauty”

rain dance

Before I moved to CA where the sun shines most of the time (Neil Diamond circa 1971) and the ground is green for a brief few months a year, I generally thought of rain as a spoiler.  I grew up with the children’s refrain “rain rain go away,” and never found a lot to appreciate in a rainy day.  Until I moved to CA where the arrival of rain became a reason to celebrate.

How times change. Now in CA the hills are euphemistically called golden, but are in reality a dull brown.  So if I travel and encounter rain, the usual nemesis of the tourist, I no longer gripe, but watch it in wonder and with pleasure.  I’ve equipped myself with a colorful umbrella and a sturdy pair of waterproof sneakers so that I can easily navigate the puddles and the overflow I encounter.  I breathe in deeply enjoying all those reputed negative ions.

The remnants of a typhoon are passing over Kyoto today.  The skies are steel grey and a steady rain is falling. Yesterday, I bought autumnal flowers from my favorite flower store for our apartment and happily arranged them in what I determined were artistically satisfying arrangements now gracing our living space.  Our interior is warm and pleasant although outdoors it’s a major contrast. Continue reading “rain dance”

Back in Business

There is something about coming back to Japan that resets my clock. Backwards. In a good way.

Each time I arrive here I have the same feeling I’d get as a child when I’d go to NYC. On high alert,  senses stimulated, fatigue banished.

I quickly transform from a place of “been there, done that” to a place of discovery.  My brain cells get scrambled just enough so that I recover my sense of wonder, exhilaration  and inspiration.

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The Mother of all sushi bars.

A sushi bar dinner becomes an exalted dining experience under the capable hands of highly trained sushi chefs who are dedicated to letting us know where each piece of fish is from as well as which part of the fish we are eating?  Feeling full?  Let me present you with a smaller size of sea urchin.   Continue reading “Back in Business”

Morning Blessings Received Years Ago, Not Forgotten

(This is a recently found account of a tour to a morning service at a Zen temple in Kyoto.)

It was still a dark and cold early spring morning when we arrived a bit nervously at the impressive Zen temple in Kyoto. A young monk greeted us pleasantly. His obvious assignment was to instruct us on the proper way to walk, sit and light incense during our planned participation in the upcoming morning service. A more important but less obvious charge was to make certain that we did not exhibit any offensive behavior and that no one in our tourist group strayed to parts unknown. We were not allowed to disgrace ourselves.

We were quickly taught and mastered three hand positions for use during the service.

  1. Palms together, fingertips as high as the nose, elbows out from our sides and hands about a fist’s distance from the face. To be used when walking to light incense. I liked this position best.
  2. Fold left thumb inwards and loosely wrap the fingers of the left hand over the thumb. Cover left fist with right hand. To be used when walking into the service. This position hurt my arthritic thumb. I did not complain.
  3. While sitting in zazen, make cup shape with left hand on lap. Line up fingers of right hand under fingers of left hand. Tips of thumbs should be touching, creating an oval shape. Imagine the light of Buddha in this space. This is the classic,” I not only feel holy, but look holy too”position.

With those instructions under our belts, a loud reverberating gong resonated through every cell in my body, announcing the time for the service to begin. A solemn procession of 200 shaved headed monks filed into the temple, two by two. The senior monks, wearing slightly more elaborate robes, were at the front of line with the novitiates at the end. They took places, in perfect rows on either side of the altar. Continue reading “Morning Blessings Received Years Ago, Not Forgotten”

Guess who? inexperienced, bombastic, moron, #@%*#@g moron, impulsive, mentally ill, narcissist, bully, undignified, etc.

 

Watching the take-over of our country by the politicians currently in power is a bit like watching someone you’ve known and respected all your life suddenly become stinking drunk, unrecognizable and out of control.tchi You might watch in disbelief.  You might leave the room.  Both are choices.  There’s a litany of words written daily to describe the madman, now becoming all too familiar.  They do not inspire confidence:   inexperienced, bombastic, moron, #@%*#@g moron, impulsive, narcissist, bully, undignified.  And so it goes, month following month, week following week, day following day.  At the moment I’ve mostly chosen to look away,  or have left the room.  It’s just too painful and causes too much distress.

A few days ago, I thought my husband had a peculiar look on his face.  When I inquired what was the matter, his  voice was flat as he related the awful news of the Las Vegas massacre. I felt frozen in place.

Early on in our new dangerous political game, I found myself slightly amused by #45.  He just seemed like a bad joke, who would soon be forgotten.  Now, he’s toxic. Nothing remotely funny here.

Trump’s in person response to hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico? Toss them a roll of paper towels.  How to deal with this disgusting behavior NOW as a responsible citizen?  The mid terms feel decades away right now.

I was numb when I learned of  the recent massacre  in Las Vegas.  I’ve been beaten down by the daily outrages.  Numbness is not a helpful response to a friggin’ massacre.   It’s come because I know too well we probably haven’t reached the ultimate low point that might cause enough outrage to get significant gun control legislation passed. It’s come because I no longer recognize what tries to pass for leadership in my country of birth.   What’s happened to our country? Are we past the point of no return?  Is the only answer at the moment to give the stage to the lunatics and hope at some point they’ll wear themselves out?  Can they ever recognize that their votes and support for Trump et al have raised a threatening tide for everyone?

I cringe when I read about our president lying with impunity, annointing himself daily with the gold dust he requires to polish his egomania.

I’ve started to live in fear that we might be on the edge of a nuclear war with Korea.

Our environment, so dependent on humanity to set it right, is at the tipping point.

Whales are dying.  Just read that two days ago.

North Korea is flying rockets over Japan, my much-loved second home.

China is filling in the blanks at the openings our loss of leadership has provided.

I don’t want to listen to the smug talking heads on cable news assess the crisis du jour, although, when I do tune in, I foolishly hope that I might learn something from one of them. Hasn’t happened yet.

It might be time to stick my head in the sand, cover my ears and scream loudly to block out the all-pervasive irritants.  It might be time to make more art.  It might be time to plant a garden, read a book, or write a more positive blog.

Forgive me, if I’ve brought you down.

I remind myself that I’ve lived through challenging times at other points in my life, but previous experience did not prepare me for today’s threatening reality. I am capable of focusing on the good and the hopeful. I can breathe deeply. The man is just too dangerous to try to ignore, I’m afraid.

“This too shall pass,” I tell myself a little too often.

May it pass quickly!  and peacefully.  May I learn some new coping skills.