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.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

will I look upon your ragged estate / and see my own beloved?

if you arrive
with the winter blues
and stand at the door
of no returns
and say your name to me
will I know who you are?

will I look upon your ragged estate
and see my own beloved?
when you come with the swift leap
into my arms
will you forever be here to stay?
will this reunion be permanent?

in the desert of snow and ice
everyone looks the same
and bitterness wears
an acid lane
in the memory
who will you be to me

when you arrive with the words of grace?
here is the wind blowing the leaves of our remaining hours
and here is the shrink wrap of the ice
applied to the body of life
here is the door shutting now
forever on all we loved   and so

let us keep going 
with our grief
that is like a weight in our arms
let us go to the funeral
of our dreams
let us sleep in our living beds of nightmares

let us hope for what is impossible
(or so it now seems)
let us walk hand in hand
like prayers being laid
in the cemetery in piles
of lilies and freesia

that say your name
to all who come
to the last rites
let us say that you were honorable
that you were proof of a devotion that was good
let us say then that all we love    will endure in memory in some way

let us say a few words
for all we have lost
let us be faithful to
all that forever leaves us
let us give ourselves
to the transience that is all about us

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