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November 19, 2012


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Back in Vancouver, in awake early but tired from the work week and travel ...

After travel

the rain lifted
morning caw sounds
eyes heavy

November 2009

Leaves to rake.

Elated by the spring breeze
My horse quickens its pace
In but one short day
Do I view of the peonies of Ch’ang-an.

Welcome home Steve!! How was your birthday in Paris-- 羨ましくて!
Can't wait to hear all about it in both poetry and status updates :)

And Don... welcome home to you too! No leaves to rake in Ulan Bataar I am guessing...here the northern wind was blowing so hard against the house that everything was shaking and rattling all day...Cold winds from Mongolia...

Speaking of the wind, this film above was an Australian documentary by Tim Slade I think. I saw it once on NHK TV here and loved it but cannot locate the DVD anywhere. It was such a great idea, I thought. Four Cities, Four violinists, Four Seasons...I guess it wasn't big enough for export...


The leaves, what few there are—we have mostly larch needles—have long since blown away. It was -24 °F / -31 °C here in Ulaan Baatar this morning. Twelve dead from Swine Flu so I am staying home, working my way through Tun-Huang . . . Must recommend most highly The Saddlebag by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, which I have just finished. I think you will appreciate this book.

"the tears of passing geese:" beautiful image...

A Tu Fu poem:

The Lone Goose

Never eating or drinking, the lone goose
Flies - thinking of its flock, calling out.
Who pities a flake of shadow lost beyond
Ten-thousand clouds? It stares far-off,

As if glimpses of them remained. Sorrows
Mount - it almost hears them again....
Wild crows, not a thread of thought anywhere,
Squawk and shriek, fighting each other off.


Du Fu has always been my favorite Tang poet-- and yet I never noticed this one... You know, it almost broke my heart so well did it capture season and everything else...

You know, the ancient Chinese calendar was adopted "as-is" in all of the surrounding countries of East Asia-- so that "the time of frost falls" was the "time of frost falls" even in tropical Vietnam! Maybe even in beyond frosty Mongolia too?

The calendar (like the bronzes) stood in as proof of the mandate of Heaven and you know it was hugely important. I believe, the 24 節句 (solar points) were set as far back as the northern-southern dynasty period... These 節句 are further divided into 72 候 (so every 節句 has 3 sub-divisions) making for a very precise calendar broken into 5 day periods....

It took them absolutely forever, but the Japanese eventually did alter the 候. Guess what they did?

Took out the Birds.

Like I said, it took them forever... a monk from Paekche brought the Chinese calendar to Japan in the early 5th century. And, it took them till the mid-17th century to boldly make their move! The most striking feature one finds in the Chinese calendar is the dominant place the sighting of birds plays. Of the 72 候, 23 are bird-related, making it the largest grouping of seasonal names in the calendar-- pointing to the particularly special place birds had in the hearts of the ancient Chinese. I've always wondered why they were so taken with birds...

Not surprising, the Japanese swapped many of these bird names for flowers and plants-- of course :)

Have you seen Winged Migration? Your daughter would love it...

The Heart's Counting Knows Only One
In Sung China,
two monks, friends for sixty years
watched the geese pass
Where are they going?
one tested the other, who couldn't say.

The moment's silence continues.

No one will study their friendship
in the koan books of insight.
No one will remember their names.

Almost swallowed by the vastness of the mountains
but not yet.

As the barely audible
geese are not yet swallowed;
as even we, my love, will not entirely be lost.
--Jane Hirshfield



The Lone Goose

Neither eating nor drinking, the lone goose
Flies - remembering its flock, it calls out
The others--Separated by a myriad of clouds--
No longer remember this lone shadow

It stares far-off, as if glimpses of them still remain
Sorrows mount - and it almost hears them again....
As wild ducks, unconsciously calling out
Squawk and shriek in confusion...

Hi Don,

That book looks right up my ally and am ordering the book immediately! Thank you! I noticed that her 2nd book looks even more fascinating-- though it is already out of print... I wonder what happened? It has one of my favorite paintings on the cover too...There was only one affordable used copy from a US site so I ordered it and had it sent to LA. I'll make a full report after I read it :)

I also look forward to hearing your report about Inoue's book. I am really enjoying your Turkish silk road posts... I am going to email you later about them... so stay tuned.

Oh, I guess the author is Baha'i. Did you ever visit the Bahai Lotus temple in Delhi? I wrote a bit about it at the bottom of this post here. I was really impressed with the architecture as well as the people I met there...

Anyway, more later-- and stay warm and well!

by my poetry I am a autumn person, eternally living in an indian summer of being a child in a strange grown up world... I will not drop my leaves despite the color to my soul proclaiming fullness of heart.

peace to you peony, you are a spring bulb still to bloom do not yearn too fast for fall colors when spring dress is soon to come

Casey, you are an angel... I am sure of it.

ironically for not being a Christian, I know quite a bit about angels

Because we don't have wings
yet we can help each other fly.

Here's one about a "lone loveduck" (mandarin duck, paired for life), by a woman left behind:

"送別" 魚玄機

"Farewell Poem" by Yú Xuánjī
Water takes the vessel's shape,
having none of its own,
Clouds emerge with no intent
and may return with ease.
Desolation in the spring breeze
on the river at dusk --
one lonely loveduck
whose flock has flown away.

When I lived in Denver there was a park near my apartment and some Canada Geese lived there year round. I would visit them several times a week. One Autumn evening, very cold, I was fortunate enough to see some of them take flight. After circling a while, they formed into a V formation and, honking loudly, flew in front of the low-hanging and large moon. That backlit image, so clear, is with me still.

Your comment above on hearing the migratory birds reminded me of a favorite Dōgen poem:

Coming and going
waterfowls leave no trace
and the need no guide

Also, your reference to the symbolism of the cardinal directions in placement of Genji's ladies' quarters, if they were abiding by the traditional Chinese schema: Southeast would be spring (East) on its way to summer (South); southwest would be summer (South) on its way to autumn (West); northwest would be autumn (West) on its way to winter (North); and northeast would be winter (North) on its way to spring (East). Would that add anything to the semiotics of the placement?


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