Thursday, April 29, 2010

On the Turntable

Back to sharing a living room with my LPs, I've found myself listening to a lot of vinyl again. There is nothing like the hiss as the needle finds the groove; the unselfconscious pop that irregularly marks time; the clunk of the returning tone arm amplified through the speakers. I've long forgotten how short the sides are. None of these packaged-by-the-hour tunes of compact discs. None of the 'bop 'til the batteries drop' of mp3s. Instead, every 20 minutes you have to get up, walk across the room, and flip the album over. I'm surprised at how much I've missed this manual labor.

On the turntable: "Lester Young" (Giants of Jazz series)
On the nighttable: Joan Halifax, " The Fruitful Darkness"

Monday, April 26, 2010

And Regrets? I've Had a Few...

These days, one of my favorite activities seems to cause me great pain. Every time I watch a Japanese film, I begin to badly long for Japan. No matter the film -- "Lady of Musashino," "Okuribito," or "Zen!" (exclamation point mine, due to all the drama)-- it causes me to doubt my decision to return back here. Now, I'm adult enough to realize that this is due to the fact that I have yet to establish any routine to ground me. Instead, I've passed my days in errands, tasks, and the simple act of waiting for life to begin. There is great peace for be found in meditating and gardening at Upaya, and on the yoga mat. But in 3 months, the only single fun thing I've done for myself was wandering the Tsankawi mesa. On that day, I was thrilled to be here. Most other days, I play the what if game.

Would another year in Kyoto have been so bad? Near the end, I was finally finding acceptance with the yoga world as it is marketed in Kansai. I could've gone back to simple teaching, forgoing the excess of workshops, and trying to ignore all the nonsense. I would've thrown myself more into translation. I would've spent less time in the hills and more time with friends in cafes or alone, strolling the city's narrow streets. I most definitely would've given greater priority to my training in Takeuchi and with the Omine Shugenja. These last two lost chances really sting when recalled, and serve as major sources of regret. Yet, that mantra of 'one more year, one more year' is self-perpetuating and can lead to an entrapment strongly bound by the laws of inertia.

Those who've followed me this far know of my great love for New Mexico, a love I expect will return. But for now it feels like revisiting an old flame who, though still a beauty, has lost some of her charm. And the mind naturally turns to the form of another, who, in times of better and worse, long warmed the bed.

On the turntable: '"Collector's History of Classic Jazz"
On the nighttable: W. Sometset Maugham, "The Gentleman in the Parlour"

Monday, April 19, 2010


We sit on the edge of a cliff, watching the storm drift past. Once again I find myself atop a mesa on sacred native land, just out of reach of rain and lightning and thunder. Three of the four of us share Irish blood, so naturally our conversation leads us to that Emerald Isle, moving from there to Tibet, from the Bronx to Piedmont, CA. Across the ravine are the concrete towers of Los Alamos labs, birthplace of the bomb that flattened the city where my wife's people come from. I follow her eye line over there. Someday, we'll need to bridge this gap and complete the pilgrimage.

I later find myself alone, off-trail across this mesa topped out with scrub. It narrows to a dull, rounded edge, like the prow of a ship cutting across this ancient seabed. I sit awhile on a disembodied boulder, wondering what to call those peaks over there, still snow-capped this late in Spring. Brother raven flies over to check me out, squawking a greeting. The rain eventually drives me from this aerie, and I scramble down the rock face, leaping the last few feet onto the next shelf. There's far less wind on this eastern face. I follow a narrow white band as trail, passing beneath petroglyphs and yellow splashes of lichen. I find a cave and climb in, to meditate on the crystaline sand floor and dip into Nanao. I come across this:

Underground deep
fossil cave dark

you sit down
might be midday

someone comes in
you can't see him, hear him, touch him

still someone with you for sure;
is he friend or devil?

you don't care
all the same

you smile
he looks blank
I burst into laughter

no body
wave after wave

On the turntable: Julian Cope, "Rite Now"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Early Days in Santa Fe

...First month at Upaya. One night, I'm listening to The Beatles' "Revolution #9," and I'm amazed how the structure of the song is like the structure of thought. The constant background babble and chatter is the active monkey mind, while the repetitive chant of "Number 9. Number 9," is the meditator's attempt to harness these random, out of control thoughts...

...In Albuquerque's Nob Hill, crossing the street to the Satellite Cafe, I look in the wrong direction, right to left as in Japan, and nearly wind up impaled on the spokes of a bicycle that is attached to the front of a city bus...

...on the job hunt, filling out applications to Whole Foods and REI online, finding it dehumanizing and insulting...

...overheard at the Aztec Cafe, a remark about a cougar "sight/site" and feeling not entirely sure if it is about a place in the hills notorious for dangerous cats, or a bar filled with older women on the prowl...

...feeling early on that life in the States had me caught in that vice grip between what I wanted to do and what I had to do...

...first Sushi at Kohnami. Surprised by not getting oshibori or hashioke. Having to pay for tea. The owner's reaction to my Nihongo, seemingly put off. I found the latter to be a constant in my time here, most of the Japanese I met refusing to speak to me in anything but English, despite my persistence in their native tongue. At the least the owner of Kohnami had an excuse, the front plate of his jeep bearing the
Taegukgi. "반말, dude"...

On the turntable: Gomez, "Split the Difference"