Something special happened to painting in Italy in the 15th Century and to music in America and England in the middle of the last century. Something also must have happened to poetry in Japan around the turn of the 20th Century because I have been intermittently reading the Penguin Book of Japanese Verse with subtle pleasure until I came across something new in that era.
The first 171 pages of the book were different from what I found on the 172nd. The earlier poems were beautiful, mainly nature poems and love poems, but there was a formality to them all that was obliterated by the bedraggled ostrich of Kōtarō Takamura.
What fun to keep an ostrich!
In its thirty-odd square feet of mud at the zoo,
Aren’t its legs too straddling?
Isn’t its neck too long?
In a land where snow falls, wouldn’t its feathers get bedraggled?
Famished, no doubt it would gobble up even hard tack.
But aren’t ostrich’s eyes for ever looking only into the distance?
They blaze as if body and world were non-existent.
Isn’t it waiting desperately for an emerald wind to blow?
Isn’t it infinite dreams that twist back that puny, artless head?
Isn’t it no longer and ostrich –
More a man?
Oh, pack it in! That sort of talk gets you nowhere.
The day after Thanksgiving I had a little to smoke and sat down at the piano to fiddle about. This song came out. In the instinctive way that mothers look out for their children, it wasn’t long before the mother of us all, nature, provided a nice visual backdrop to the piece.
I might develop this further and add more instrumentation, possibly even lyrics, but I wanted to put a sketch together while the snow is still falling. Snowfall is one of Mother Nature’s greatest displays of her beauty.
Today marks my 43rd anniversary as a vegetarian. Turkey Day was the perfect day to reject an idea that had literally been spoon-fed to me but had worn out its welcome in my conscience: it is OK (delicious even) to kill animals.
My nickname in college was “Veggie” because there were so few of us around that I was a bit of a novelty. I was the only one in our dorm. If it seems like we are less of a rarity these days, there is some data to back it up. According to a Gallup poll taken last year only 2% of Americans over 55 (that’s my group) are vegetarians. Among those aged 35-54, the figure is 7%, and for 18-34 year olds it’s up to 8%.
Vegetarianism has brought many benefits into my life. I believe I am healthier than I would be if I had been eating meat all these years. Although my health played zero part in my decision to stop eating animals it is a nice unintended consequence. I never found meat tempting once I stopped seeing animals as food.
The greatest benefit though was this important lesson that I was fortunate to learn at such an impressionable age: People don’t need to see things the way I do for me to like, love, or even admire them. It is a lesson that we need sorely to learn in these polarized times. Virtually all of my dearest friends and family – then and now – are carnivores. Even though I believe that eating meat is immoral, I don’t believe that people who eat meat are behaving immorally. Their morality is different from mine, neither superior nor inferior.
Today I give thanks for that piece of wisdom.
I think that at some point in the future, probably a few centuries from now, people will look at eating the flesh and wearing the skin of animals the way we look at slavery now and the way we are finally starting to look at white supremacy and patriarchy.
If my little blog was human she would be in the first grade now. They grow up so fast.
Bob Dylan said, “he not busy being born is busy dying,” but my experience of life is a little different. I think we start dying at the moment of conception and even as we draw our last breath we are being born. Life and death are not opposites but inextricable parts of the same eternal force.
There aren’t many forces like the one that makes up life and death. I have only found two others on that level: love and music. As much as I enjoy and am intrigued by the possibilities of writing fiction and poetry, it is not as much fun, even in the moment of inspiration, as making music.
Virtually every writer I know would rather be a musician
Two months ago, I played my first show in over six years and the only one I ever played made up entirely of my own music. It is an experience I am still digesting.
As the end of the year comes creeping up behind us it is a good time to think of what lies ahead in 2020 and beyond. I hope to be spending more time on those eternal forces of love and music and will keep posting the results of my inspiration here and anywhere else that will have me. Thanks for coming along for the ride…