I read the poetry of hermits.
Pretending to be alone,
absent from this world
that is but a bowl filled with twirling dust.
Happiness is fleeting, love even more so.
Pursuing them, we trap ourselves
going around and around inside the bowl.
Better to just float about
and settle on a flower
just as its bloom retrieves into a bud-
returning to the origin.
I read the poetry of hermits.
I sit looking East
breathing as slowly as the sky changes colors.
Suddenly, a light shines from the West
creating a shadow of myself on the wooden floor.
It is the moon.
Appearing silver against a deep blue sky,
it enters the house through the back window,
shining its cold light as the sun rises.
Yin – Yang.
I remain still.
The wise Chinese poet Han Shan once wrote that in his secluded dwelling, he could be “a person beyond form.”
Away from the “dusty” world, he wrote about mountains peaks and clouds as his neighbors, the echo of the deep river and the flutter of butterflies. He saw trees bloom and turn red, and some die of old age. He felt the mist as it entered his cave, and felt sadness and joy “under his wisteria hat.”
He was away from the world but he felt it. He was on the side, alone, yet fully aware of its madness and beauty, enabling him to laugh and shed tears all at the same time.
Don’t you feel sometimes like Han Shan?
Inspiration: Han Shan 寒山, Chinese Tao and Zen Poet, ca.9th c. Han Shan means “Cold mountain.” I keep a volume of Han Shan’s poetry next to my bed.
White clouds become rain or snow.
White snow melts when Spring arrives.
White hair remains and multiplies.
No wind, no sun will make it go away.
So I will let my head gently turn into a white flower,
like the white chrysanthemum that blooms in the frost.
– Photo taken of a white chrysanthemum in the kitchen – Sept. 2018.
I walk in the town’s main square and look up at the deep blue sky. White and grey mingle in the clouds, immense as only tropical clouds can be.
Meanwhile people around me are busy talking and taking pictures of themselves.
A child eating sweet bread leaves a mount of crumbs. Joyous birds gather around him, then fly away as the mother starts to gesticulate.
Did anyone notice the majesty of the clouds? Did anyone notice the joy of the birds?
Enthralled by the sights of autumn, I walk unmindful of the crowd.
Often, I think I am in Ryōkan’s hut.
I see the sky through the window,
the wall next to it hiding the house across the street.
Birds come on the window sill chirping away
enthralled by the morning glory overflowing its small pot.
Cars pass intermittently
and I try to muffle their sound.
Rain falls gently on the roof
and I pretend it is thatched.
I sit like he did.
I push aside the woes of the world,
my mind at peace
I am not in Ryōkan’s hut.
I have to deal with the everyday:
the market and talking to strangers,
walking through filled streets,
thinking of tomorrow,
having a house in order and a wallet also.
I cannot create Ryōkan’s hut,
I can at most pretend that I am in it.
Some of you may not understand,
and as Ryōkan said
“Who can indeed content himself with this manner of life,
Unless he has seen himself altogether lost in the world.”
– Quote from one of Ryōkan’s (Japan, 1758-1831) Chinese poems.
Art: self-portrait by Ryōkan.
I let others argue and compete, and battle over ideas.
I remain still while each tries to prove one is right or strong or whatever moves their fancy.
At the end, we will all die and no one will remember what anyone was bickering about.
-Inspired by Han Shan (China, 7-8th c.)