From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan by Andy Couturier

From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan" by Andy Couturier

Pages 264-265

“Sooo..” I begin to ask him, a bit apprehensive, not wanting to be insulting, “Gufu-san, why write all this stuff down?”

Unperturbed, he replies simply, “To make a record. If you don’t record things, you start to lose your sense of the place. It’s also interesting when you talk to other people, or when I want to look up something later. But it’s mostly just to make a record, even if I don’t use the information.”

“Yes, but how do you decide which things to write down?”

“Whatever is possible to write down, I write. How much the bus cost. How much the movie was, or how much the hotel was.”

“But why?” I ask.

“I didn’t have any purpose in doing it.”

No purpose? Perhaps I’ve been too attached to all my own actions being done for a reason. Utilitarianism is so deep in my culture I don’t even notice it. Listening to Gufu it occurs to me that it may not be so good to be always reaching ahead in time. Sitting here with my friend in a farmhouse in the mountains of Japan, I find my way of seeing the world start to deepen and change. All these little, unlooked-at details create the fabric of memory. By writing them down, we are refusing to let the experiences of our lives get subsumed in the tsunami of time, the onrush of the next, and the next, and the next. I think of so many travelers (myself included) zipping from one location to the next, taking photos of scenery or a building. Have I been missing the beautiful in the obvious?

Gufu is showing me--not that he’s trying to show me anything--that the whole world can come alive with these tiny details, ephemera, you might call them. But not just a generalized “world,” but a specific world, an India of a particular time, and, as it happens, an India that is disappearing every day.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

so do not think you are alone

here is the river of darkness
and you stand there
with your small burdens of hell

the boat arrives
with the callers from the shore 
that is so far away
you climb on board and then

the callers take you up
into their arms
you recognize their faces
and their words of loving kindness

the boat pulls away from the shore
and a thousand flickering candles bloom
on the land
where they all say their farewells to the small hero of the day 

the song they sing is all about courage
and love
which is what we are about
when we live

and when we die
the sounds are whispers now
the sea rises up
the callers take you away

the door closes
and you are away
but between that world and this
is the imagination

and so
remember him
as he was
in his fierce devotion

say his name to ward off the evil eye
that is everywhere in Alberta
for he was generous to the very end
and gave you the freedom

that would let you do your work
which is also       the work of all of us
take up arms against the enemy that refuses
to respect the people of Alberta

do what you can to endure
for the future he never saw
will come one day to Alberta
and magic will come back then

as he was when he was here
wait patiently       for he is not gone from us 
in winter he rushes through the freshly blown snow
and in summer he will leap through the tall grasses before you

when spring comes
the robins will say his name
and the blue jay in the forest in the fall
will mutter   magic  magic magic  so that you will see him plain

you must not think he is dead
or that you are also slain
we are two    and then we take Stewart into our
magic circle      and we are three

others will come 
to be part of the magic circle
of protection
around Jessica Ernst

so do not think you are alone
we will stand with you
as magic did and guard you from harm
and so he still lives!

look upon his face
and see that he is steadfast still
as are your comrades
in Alberta

Jessica Ernst

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