Destination Ningxia, China

Leaving Oz, on the Silk Road, destination Ningxia, Guyuan County, Northwestern China.

horse

Traveling by horse. It is autumn and a cavalryman pauses in crossing the Yellow River to allow his horse to drink. The sun has not yet set. The water is cold, the wind cuts like a sword. The horseman remembers another battle long ago beneath the Great Wall in Lingtao. The battle cries were spirited. His thoughts return to the present. The yellow earth stretches out before him. He thinks that the the yellow earth is nothing more than the blanched bones of soldiers who fell in other battles, now mixed in with the bitter sage.

A poem by Wang Changling, usually translated as Beneath the Fortress Wall. The destination of the rider is not given, but one can suppose he was headed north and crossing the Yellow River. Lintao, which is identified by Wang Changling, is far to the west, near the Tibetan Plateau.

塞下曲 A Song at the Pass
飲馬渡秋水
水寒風似刀
平沙日未沒
黯黯見臨洮
昔日長城戰
咸言意氣高
黃塵足今古
白骨亂蓬蒿
Drink, my horse, it is autumn and we cross the river
The river is cold and the wind cuts like a knife
The plain is flat, the sun has not set
Far, far away is distant Lintao
Where we battled day long at the Great Wall
Salty high spirits though we spoke hoarsely
What was then is now Yellow Dust
Bleached bones disturbed in bitter sagebrush

Some place, some day.

Thoughts on the movie La La Land – It was La La Land until there was Moonlight.

There are dreamers and doers and if I could be but one, I suppose I’d rather dream of things to be when I leave Oz. To go some day to some place I long to go, might just spoil the dream.

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Far away, there is a cabin on the lake I long to go. I will someday but will it be too late?

Loin, il y a une cabane sur le lac que j’ai envie d’y aller. Je vais un jour, mais sera-t-il trop tard?

Ein Baum spricht: Hermann Hesse

“[W]enn wir gelernt haben, die Bäume anzuhören, dann gewinnt gerade die Kürze und Schnelligkeit und Kinderhast unserer Gedanken eine Freudigkeit ohnegleichen.” Hermann Hesse

“[W]hen we have learned to listen to trees, the brevity, rapidity, and childishness of our thoughts gain unrivaled joy.”

Such a lovely thought by Hermann Hesse, I think, that a tree speaks, but of what?

beech-forest

A tree, as Hermann Hesse says, knows nothing of its ancestors and nothing of its progeny. It stands alone, a giant like Beethoven and Nietzsche, towering over the earth, its branches rustling in the wind, and its roots, intertwined, rooted in infinity.

There is a recent theory that that trees mysteriously communicate with each other, and, if that is right, then Hesse is wrong in thinking trees are solitary creatures whose selfish existence is solely lived for themselves. The theory goes that trees in the forest share with each other carbon and other elements. Diversity is therefore important for it allows one species to give to another species when it is in need. The forest is its brother’s keeper. The tree dependent on the health of the forest for its survival.

That too is a lovely thought.

Ein Baum spricht, a tree speaks, Hesse says.

There is an ancient Elm tree that stands alone in the city where I live. It is a remnant of the many grand trees that once lined the block. Its thick branches droop. When a great wind storm comes, old branches break off and fall to the ground. Each spring thousands of tiny flowers appear, then seeds which cover the sidewalks and street, and having nowhere to take root, are washed away.

Is it sad to be the last tree?

There is an oak tree in my back yard that is at least 100 years old. It is home to a family of squirrels that feed from the seed and peanuts I provide. The squirrels run and play on its grey bark. From time to time they just cling to the bark watching me watch them. The oak tree was here before my house was built. It has seen three families come. It will be here when I am gone.

Who has not gone into the woods to find an ancient tree whose bark is gnarled and face like, whose branches reach out to the sky in supplication to God above. A tree that has stood the test of time, the bitter cold and heat, the drought and rain, and through it all has not complained.

Was sagen die Bäume? 

This begs the question, of what does a tree think?

It stands and watches, much like God, of the comings and goings of life. It is home to the birds and squirrels that nest in its branches. It gives food to the deer that feed below. Its broken branches provide firewood for the traveler who wanders by and needs warmth. It is a repository of time.

Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Persevere, for who knows what tomorrow brings?

“[Und] wenn wir gelernt haben, die Bäume anzuhören, dann gewinnt gerade die Kürze und Schnelligkeit und Kinderhast unserer Gedanken eine Freudigkeit ohnegleichen.”

BÄUME von Hermann Hesse

About Trees, Hermann Hesse

Lost in a lovely silver rain.

south-africa-silver-2
a very soft and lovely silver rain

Now and then,
Every man finds himself lost
Surrounded by a very soft and lovely silver rain

The idea of an “every man” is a pseudonym, a connection of mankind in general and the individual in particular. It is of course a paradox. We are related and we are distinct. We see and experience the world through a unique set of eyes and experiences, yet there exists a commonality in our lives. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

I would say, not sad, but lonely, lost in a lovely silver rain.

In traditional Japanese writing, haiku is written in a single vertical line. Each Japanese character falling softly like the gentle rain upon the listener’s ear.

Now
and
then,
Every
man
finds
himself
lost
Surrounded
by
a
very
soft
and
lovely
silver
rain

 

 

Haiku should be brief. Often, it contains a symbol that is kigo, a reference to ths seasons and a reminder that we are connected to nature and that time is fleeting. The haiku must contain a kireji, a word that indicates emotion such as wonder. In English verse one might write it as single line.

I am lost in a very soft and lovely silver rain.

blade-of-grass-bw

Ice Storm

Alert. There is an ice storm warning across the Land of Oz today.

Ice Storm
Ice encircles each branch and leaf
And for the moment
Time is frozen

Which leads to this thought?

Give me shelter
From the ice storm
But where do the birds go?

And this…

When, in an ice storm
Even the squirrels know to hide
Inside the tree

It is 32 degrees outside, O degrees celsius. Equilibrium. What is so magical about water that at that exact temperature, atoms stop their random association and like good soldiers on the field line up in perfect precision, waiting for one degree of heat to give the order to dismiss?

Life is a blur

girl-blue-2

This is as political as I want to get. For me, I hate getting caught up in the moment. You forget where you were when you started, and where you are going to, and now you are wondering why you are here, nothing else matters.

Calvin and Hobbs are atop Lookout Mountain with a red wagon. Calvin says to Hobbs, “I call it ‘Lookout’ because that’s what you yell when we go down.”

Racing down the hill, Calvin says, “We are so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us, that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”

There are trees and rocks to the right and left of them. They pick up speed.

“Days go by and we hardly notice them. Life is a blur.”

Calvin then observes that sometimes it takes a calamity to notice where we are, like falling off a hill. We wake up and see our mistake, but it is too late.

wagon-red-3

Bill Watterson’s original Calvin and Hobbs cartoon.

Final thoughts

blue summer dreams
dragonflies in the sun
my page is empty

© Lize Bard writes a blog which I follow @ https://wandererhaiku.wordpress.com/

dragonfly-2

That is a sad parting thought for 2016. I would prefer:

dreams of golden summer days
iridescent dragonflies fluttering in the air
my notebook is empty
until I pick up my pen again

Of course, that is not strictly Haiku, and it is wordy. Haiku should be a poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, evoking an emotional image of the natural world.

golden summer days
iridescent butterflies
my mind is empty

Matsuo Basho is the recognized Japanese master of the haiku and here is his poem to a frog jumping into an old pond:

古池
蛙飛び込む
水の音

Fu-ru (old) i-ke (pond) ya,
ka-wa-zu (frog) to-bi-ko-mu (jumping into)
mi-zu (water) no o-to (sound)

Many are the English translations, so let me throw my hat into the ring:

In an ancient pond
A frog plunges in – kerplop
One hears water’s sound

Sometimes it is nice to be a frog sitting on the bank and a dragonfly comes by, gulp, that’s a snack, and you want to jump in the water so you don’t have to share.

 

 

Boxing Day

Boxing Day is still celebrated in England. It is the day after Christmas (St. Stephen’s Day), when servants and tradesmen traditionally receive gifts known as a “Christmas box” from their masters and employers. As far back as 1668, Samuel Pepys complained in his diary: “Called up by drums & trumpets; these things & boxes having cost me much money this Christmas.”

present-box-1280

To ye Gentlemen and Ladies:
The day after Christmas is not one to celebrate
Unless, one is a tradesman or a servant
Who waits patiently at the back gate

Listening politely to the laughter
Inside his or her benefactor’s stately home
Stamping well-worn shoes
Rubbing white cheeks and wiping a red nose
While the snow blows about
Earnestly, hat in hand or head bowed, waiting for a box

And ready to reply,
If I may, I am, dear sir or madam, with zeal most fervent,
Your much indebted, humble servant.

“Nay,” Robert Burns would say,
A gentleman or gentle lady is not a poor man’s friend
Who waits until the end of the year
To give one a box
On St. Stephen’s Day
Better yet,
Feed a man with work
Treat a lady with dignity
And warm a heart with kindness
Every day and not just once.

Three thoughts

Three thoughts came to me – a poem, some verse, and an axiom.

oxen

Is it possible?
I ask
To step outside one’s self
Sans eyes, ears, touch, mouth
And be someone or something else
A leaf fluttering high above in a tree
Water flowing below over a rock
A bird in flight
Looking down at me
I ask myself,
But who then is there to reply?

To exist is nothing. To be happy we must struggle against the odds – to “pull our cart out of the mud,” and move forward while others remain impassively stuck and railing against the mindless elements that have placed them where they are. Move on. For it is only from a distance that we can see truly who we are. The only remaining question is whether we shall do this with the help of friends or by ourselves.

No matter how bad it is it can always be worse, said the cynic. And Pandora replied, you dope, there is always hope.

1-water-falls
Crabtree Falls, North Carolina at off mile marker 339 on the Blue Ridge Parkway