Apr. 1st, 2019 07:21 am
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
Welcome to the new era in Japan: Reiwa.

During the modern period--that is, ever since the Meiji Restoration of 1868--the eras have corresponded to the reigns of the emperor. That is, the Meiji Period equated to the Meiji emperor's** reign, the Taisho period corresponded to the Taisho emperor's reign, the Shōwa period corresponded to the reign of the Shōwa emperor--better known to people outside Japan as Emperor Hirohito--and it has been the Heisei period ever since Akihito, Hirohito's son, became emperor. Akihito is going to abdicate on April 30, and today, a new era name was introduced, Reiwa: 令和. On a character level, "Rei" means "proclamation," "law," "order" and "Wa" means "harmony," "peace," and also "Japan." The first character makes some people uneasy--all that law'n'order-ness of it. But the source material from which the name was taken is an ancient poem from a flower-viewing party, and in that context, the "rei" refers to the month of the party and the "wa" to the peaceful breezes. On Twitter, Wakanomori quoted Edwin Cranston's translation of the relevant lines:
It is now the *choice* month 令月of early spring: the weather is fine, the wind is *soft* 風和ぐ。The plum blossoms open--powder before a mirror; the orchids exhale--fragrance after a sachet.

[Translation by Edwin Cranston, from The Gem-Glistening Cup, 1993]

In Japan, these era names are used *a lot*--on official forms, etc. So I know, for instance, what year of the Shōwa period I was born in as automatically as I know what year of the so-called Common Era I was born in. My kids all date to the Heisei era--this will be their first new era. My grandmother lived in all the eras from Meiji on--this is the first one she's not alive for.

Anyway, for those looking for a new start--here's one!

ETA: Funny addendum from Twitter, courtesy of Amy Stanley, a professor of Japanese History at Northwestern (link to first tweet here):
In some sense Reiwa is a perfect name for this era, because ordinary people look at it like, “huh, maybe this is a little authoritarian?” And then experts rush in with a very complicated reading and assure us it’s all fine and we misunderstood.

It is the “but actually” of era names.
asakiyume: (november birch)
I was looking at some of my earliest journal entries, trying to see what had me hopping with inspiration back almost thirteen years ago, and I discovered this:
Little Springtime, the Peaceful One, had to list things that happen with regularity in nature--just a few examples. She said, "I've already got things like 'Bears eat skunk cabbage in the spring...'--as if THAT'S the first regular seasonal thing you'd think of! I only just learned that about bears last week. It made me think, it would be fun to have a list of things that happen very regularly that people rarely think of (like the bears and skunk cabbages, frankly).

I thought, that idea dovetails nicely with Japanese microseasons, which Wakanomori introduced me to a few years ago. There are 72 of them. Right now, for instance, we're in 雉始雊 Kiji hajimete naku--pheasants start to call. (More broadly, we're in the period called 小寒 Shōkan, "small cold," which will be followed, from January 20 through February 3, by "greater cold." Just warning you.)

But it might be fun to get as particularistic about place as for time. If you can divide the year into 72 microseasons, how about microclimates? Of course years can vary so wildly in terms of what happens... it would take lots of observations to have microseasons that would really apply fairly regularly year after year.

These last few days, here, we've been in the microseason of thin wind--the kind that slips between all your layers and curls up right against your skin, trying to warm itself, a hungry ghost of a wind. I haven't heard any pheasants calling.


Oct. 9th, 2018 10:38 am
asakiyume: (autumn source)
For reasons that would make a good story, which I will tell any of you if I see you in person, but which I won't go into here, we made a journey to Canada yesterday.

That is a long trip for a day trip, may I just say, but anyway. We encountered some interesting people along the way.

The Leaf Lady

She was from England. We encountered her at a a rest stop and information center on the interstate in Vermont. She was here, apparently, for the foliage, which is looking pretty magnificent in northern Vermont right now, but my phone got itself in a tizzy trying to update operating systems, so NO PHOTOS.

Leaf Lady: Excuse me, where are the leaves?

Visitor Center Staff Person: There's a board out front that tracks the foliage. It's best in the Northeast Kingdom right now.

Leaf Lady: All right. How far is it to Kingdom?

VCSP: You're entering it now.

Leaf Lady: And so I'll see leaves?

VCSP: Well, it's overcast today, so it may not seem as impressive, but yes.


We made up a story that one of her children, who likes mountain biking and free running and recaning old chairs and making cheese, came to the United States and married a Vermonter and wanted her to see this beautiful place, but the mom is very suburban and didn't really want to come and this is her passive-aggressive resistance.

That center had a school parent-teacher group raising money by offering fresh coffee and baked goods fro a donation. Excellent.

The anti-tourism border guard

We crossed into Canada at a very small crossing point. There were no other cars on the road, and only one border guard, a young woman in her twenties.

Border Guard: And what is the purpose of your trip to Canada today?

Thanks to Wakanomori's research, we had a good answer to this question.

Wakanomori: We're going to see the museum in Coaticook.

Or was it a good answer

Border Guard (incredulous): No one goes to see the museum in Coaticook!

Wakanomori (laughing): Uh, well, we are.

Me (piping up from the passenger's seat): It's a holiday in the United States.

Border Guard: It is here, too: Thanksgiving.

Me: Hmmm. I wonder if the museum will be open, then...

Border Guard: And where are you from again? Massachusetts? And you're coming up just to see the museum?

Wakanomori: It's a long story.

Border Guard: I have all day!

Wakanomori then told her the story of how he and the older kids had biked this route to Canada years ago, and how he'd noticed about the museum then, and....

Border Guard: I see--so you're retracing your steps! Well, enjoy yourself. Maybe you can get some honey or cheese!

Interestingly, we saw a place selling honey a little further along the road--so we could have!

The gas station attendants

These were boys who looked to me like maaaaybe they were 14 or so, but I guess they must have been older? They were full of life and smiles, and they were going to pump our gas! It wasn't a self-serve station. Going to Colombia has emboldened me in languages that I'm not fluent in, so I tried out my rusty, rusty French: "Avez vous une salle de bain?" And he answered me in French and pointed out where the bathroom was! 通じた!(This handy word means literally, it passed through and more accurately, I made myself understood. THE BEST FEELING)

The man at the museum
The museum had a definite shut vibe to it, though there were other people walking the grounds when we got there. We rang the doorbell, as requested by the sign. After a bit a man appeared and told us, politely and with a smile but at length, that he was desolé and that it was un dommage, but the museum was closed. We nodded and thanked him but he kept apologizing, and in that moment all I could think of for "we understand" was 分かりました and entendemos.

The fox spirit
On the grounds of the museum, the healing angel spied a fox. It ran under the museum porch, but then came out again and ran up some stone steps leading up a hill behind the museum. It was very tall for a fox, with long, graceful legs. It stood on the steps halfway up the hill and regarded us, very foxy. Then it ran the out of sight. It was a prince among foxes, a god, a spirit.

Annnd then we came on home, long drive back. Hope you all had a wonderful Indigenous People's Day/Thanksgiving/Monday.
asakiyume: (autumn source)
Thing One: Marathon
Over this past weekend, Wakanomori ran a marathon in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom (I love that name--what a name!), way up by the Canadian border. Even though the mountains there are not 14,000-foot crags like in the Rockies, there's a high, lonely, mountainous air to it--you feel Up There.

It was a very tiny, intimate marathon. Here is the group taking off--not just marathoners, but people running a 17-miler and a half-marathon as well. There were also bicyclists, but they took off from a different spot.

runners in early morning light

more about the marathon )

Thing Two: Jury Right/Duty

In the class I help out in, the students were reading about qualifications for serving on a jury. Someone asked when women started being allowed to serve. No one knew for sure. I thought it would be around the time women got the right to vote. WRONG.
As late as 1942 only twenty-eight state laws allowed women to serve as jurors, but these also gave them the right to claim exemption based on their sex. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 gave women the right to serve on federal juries, but not until 1973 could women serve on juries in all fifty states.

These little reminders of the lack of recognition of women's full rights and responsibilities as fellow humans freak me out.

Thing Three: Catalogue

Sometimes the best guesses of algorithms are wrong. I have some ideas of how my name might have come up as a good candidate for a catalogue of Catholic church accoutrements; nevertheless, it's a faulty assumption. I will not be ordering any vestments, devotional statues, candle stands, or intinction sets.** I like that I *could*, though.

**I've learned from the catalogue that that's what you call the equipment that holds the stuff for the sacrament of the Eucharist. ETA: Or rather, that was my guess, but I found out from [personal profile] amaebi that actually it's the set-up for when you're going to dip the host in the wine.

bike ride

Jul. 4th, 2018 02:46 pm
asakiyume: (glowing grass)
Went on a bike ride with Waka in the sensual hot 'n' humid, where you really feel each patch of shade, like you're diving into cold water, and then into the heat again, and in all these places, so many smells--the smell of baking soil, of flowers and black raspberries and pine needles, also the smell of creosote by the train tracks, and the smell of swampy still water, and here and there the smell of garbage cooking in the sun.

We passed a father having a picnic with his daughter out the shaded door to their ground-floor apartment. There was a blanket: dad was sitting on this, very still--I thought he was meditating at first--and there were many small bowls of things to eat. On the threshold of the door was the daughter, three or four, with wild curly reddish brown hair, not quite ready maybe to be lured out.

This dramatic wildflower turns out to be butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). How pretty!

butterfly weed

And on the trip, there was some underpass art...

underpass on Northampton MA bike trail
underpass on Northampton MA bike trail
underpass on Northampton MA bike trail

The other side was a celebration of bees and beekeeping:

underpass on Northampton MA bike trail

Also on the ride, a trailside water tap, where you could get a drink of water, and air pump, in case your tires were low, courtesy of a car dealer; also a scrapyard with the cars almost lost in wildflowers and tall grass.

Song sparrows, catbirds, and swifts were all singing out. At the place we stopped to buy a drink and a bite to eat, the woman behind the counter had a tattoo of utility polls and the swooping wires strung between them, with birds on them.
asakiyume: (black crow on a red ground)

Somewhere in the archives of the Bibliotèque nationale de France is this collection of ever-blooming sound-flowers.

(Photo by Joseph Redon, originally posted on Twitter, and sent to me by Wakanomori)

And in the tower Great St. Mary's Church, in Cambridge, England, someone has stashed a collection of hangman's nooses! Or so it seems, but actually those are the bell pulls, for ringing the church bells. Still. Who knows what nefarious things may have happened in the tower while the bells were being rung?

(This photo courtesy of Wakanomori, who was there for a conference recently and climbed the tower.)

asakiyume: (miroku)
Wakanomori is providing me with all kinds of interesting items these days. For today, have some cat kanji. It looks made up, doesn't it? But it's a bone fide form of seal script--that is, stylized kanji used for signature seals. The source is 篆楷字典 (Tenkai Jiten), a dictionary of seal script (tensho) and kaisho, a very clear, blocky style used in inscriptions.

slow gin

Sep. 8th, 2017 12:29 pm
asakiyume: (nevermore)
Actually it's sloe gin, after the dark berries ("her eyes were sloe black") that flavor it, but I've always liked thinking of it as slow gin, moving so leisurely, like this phantasmagoric swan metamorphosing slowly, genie-from-a-bottle style, from? I guess? the still in which the gin was made?

Wakanomori brought this bottle back--full--from England, and I did drink it slowly, in tiny sake cups, but somehow now it's gone! Maybe that means the swan is now free, but I missed its triumphant departure.

pretty label

Image from Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies, this version at

But was it sloe gin, Zillah? And did you see the swan's broad wings and bandit mask? Swans are bastards, I'm told, but if you fling your arms around their long necks, they may still carry you places--especially you so tiny and they so big.
asakiyume: (man on wire)
Two posts in one day? Why not!

Wakanomori took me to Holyoke's secret stream, which runs beneath Interstate 91. There's a park there, but these boys preferred the actual stream (so did a chipmunk and an oriole I saw).

Holyoke's secret stream

kids playing in the secret stream

At one end of the present-day park is a closed roadway that leads up into an overgrown, abandoned park. If you climb up and up, you reach this tower that looks like it took its design cues from rude graffiti:

phallic tower

You can climb up a literally falling-apart concrete spiral staircase on the inside of the, uh, shaft, and up top there is a glorious view of the surrounding countryside. Which I didn't take a picture of! I was too busy recovering from the hair-raising ascent. Fortunately, Wakanomori took a picture. He also obliged me by taking pictures of the words of wisdom inscribed there, and of some of the community-created artwork at the base of the tower.

View of Mt. Tom in nearby Easthampton

Mt Tom (Wakanomori's photo)


wisdom (wakanomori's photo)


artwork (wakanomori's shot)
asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)

Last Thursday [ profile] wakanomori and I were in the town of Turner's Falls, and we saw this fabulous mural (photo is his).

So much story in there. I'm ready to like this lady of small creatures right away.

asakiyume: (cloud snow)

[ profile] wakanomori and I went on a New Year's walk yesterday, and we saw signs of beavers

And out in the lake was the beaver lodge:

"What do you think it's like on the inside of the beaver lodge?" Wakanomori asked last night, when we were heading to bed.

"Well, I'm sure there's a sewing machine," I said.

More broadly, something like this. Excuse the blurring on the left--I scanned this Pauline Baynes illustration from my copy of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Here, courtesy of the University of Vermont, is what it's more likely to look like:

(More pictures here.)

And here's a diagram from

... If people lived in beaver lodges, then C.S. Lewis's imagination would be perfect. But for beavers themselves, the lodge as it is is cozy and just right. Imagine beaver stories that conceive of humans as beaver-pomorphized creatures, still living in dry-land houses, yes, but with moats all around them so the humano-beavers can get in swimming, because what kind of life doesn't have swimming, and of course humano-beavers will eat like beaver-beavers, a diet of the soft bits of trees like willows and aspens, as well as water plants like cattails--but not fish. (Sorry, C.S. Lewis; beavers don't fish or eat fish.) Humano-beavers, like beaver-beavers, will, in beaver children's tales, mate for life, and both parents will devotedly raise their offspring.

asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
On Christmas, [ profile] wakanomori took me to see a decrepit old bridge over a rail trail, and I had the fun of walking across it on the sturdy steel beam (and clutching the steel sides). He posted photos, but his account is locked, so with his permission, I'm sharing some here (i.e., these are all his photos).

From underneath:

Walking across (see the hole behind me?):

But the bridge wasn't the only thing that was falling down. We also saw disconnected utility poles, with their beautiful insulator caps still in place, and a HUGE barn (this, interestingly, being restored: it was in the process of being set in place on a new foundation), but saddest, a homestead from the 1700s, complete with a historic marker, and still owned by the original family, but falling apart:

The marker says,
New Scotland
Historical Association

Probably the family itself doesn't have the funds to restore the building, and maybe public monies aren't available. Probably there's some grant out there somewhere that could be applied for, but it would take someone willing to make that effort, and the family being willing to accept it.

Searching for more information, I found text from a tour of historic buildings in the area, which says that the land was deeded to John McCoughtry by Stephen van Rensselaer. As you may know (Bob), New York State was originally a colony of the Dutch. The van Rensselaer family were important landowners from those days.
asakiyume: (squirrel eye star)
[ profile] wakanomori announced last night that we had to watch a particular episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called "Darmok." It had come up in a discussion of Japanese poetry translation--relevant, because part of what makes translation of Japanese poetry difficult is its reliance on shared cultural references and metaphors to convey meaning, and the episode is about the Enterprise's encounter with the Children of Tama, an alien people that the Federation has never been able to communicate successfully with. The universal translator is no good, because the Children of Tama communicate entirely in cultural references and metaphors, and these are unknown to the Federation.1

The aliens beam Captain Picard and their own captain, Dathon, down to the planet El-Adrel, where Dathon assiduously repeats pertinent cultural phrases ("Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra," "Temba, his arms open," "Shaka, when the walls fell"), trying to make Picard understand.

The way in which understanding finally dawns, and what happens after that, is very effective and moving and involves Picard reading from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Picard remarks at one point, "In my experience, communication is a matter of patience, imagination. I would like to believe that these are qualities that we have in sufficient measure." Those words of hope and confidence filled me with pathos, thinking of where the world is today.

Anyway. It's a good episode. I recommend it.

1 As the tall one observed, "They talk entirely in memes." Unsurprising, then, that the episode has generated memes of its own--like this one, featuring Winnie the Pooh and Piglet.

asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)

[ profile] wakanomori ran a marathon this past weekend, in Portland, Maine (and did very well!) While he was running, I was admiring the salt marshes in the bay. When I started walking, the tide was out, and I was feasting my eyes on all the colors, and on the wave-tufts of the semi-flattened grasses:

grass crests and tufts

autumn salt marsh

I liked looking at all the treasures in the tideline:


feathers and a crab )

But what was most mesmerizing and enchanting was when the tide started coming in--insistent ripples pushing in on the grass:

egret and incoming tide

And the grass and ripples were like calligraphy--words written on water:

calligraphy of grass and ripples

asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
Today Matt, of Where the Hell [now toned down to Heck] Is Matt fame (videos here and here), came to dance in South Amherst.

I was one of the first people to arrive, but gradually more and more people came, until we had a small crowd. There was a woman whose name was Forest--not Forest Something, or Something Forest, just Forest. She's a dancer. There was a young meteorologist, and an acquaintance of mine who does shape-note singing, and a pastor who is going to let me go up into her belfry to take pictures of her bell and who has a little daughter. There was a woman with her two grandchildren. So many people, happy to dance!

He came with just a smartphone to film with! And asked for a stepladder and a chair, and people found those things--and then for someone willing to film, and guess who was willing: [ profile] wakanomori!

Here he is consulting with Matt (forgive the crummy photo; I didn't bring my camera (crazy), so this is taken with my cell phone)

Here are two pictures of the crowd that [ profile] wakanomori took from his vantage point on the ladder (you can click through to see bigger) (Also, the pastor's church is over on the right as you look at the picture):

Here's the front row, where the kids were (my cell phone picture again):

After it was over, one guy called out, "You've been all over the world--what's one thing you've learned?" Matt thought about it a minute and said, "That people want to be helpful."

It's true--you could see it in action right there. A sunshiny thought.

Matt collects way more video footage than he uses in his final video, and what he got today may not make it in--but it'll be up on his website, eventually. When it is, I'll link.

Last of all, a posed shot together :-)

[Edit, from 2018. I'm going through carefully putting photos that were only available on Livejournal into my Dreamwidth photo storage, so that when I cease to pay for an LJ account, the photos will continue to be visible. As I do, I'm revisiting the past from the future. In this case, I know now, which I didn't then, that this Matt video would be lackluster compared to the early ones; that you can't go to places based on popular demand and have as interesting and diverse a video, and that the enthusiasm of the earlier years can't be maintained for ever and ever. Matt deserves to--and ought to--move on to a new project. Hopefully now he is/has.]

asakiyume: (misty trees)

Work's been intense, but I took a break and met [ profile] wakanomori for lunch, and we read a little from this book, The Old Ways, by Robert MacFarlane, and there was this passage:

The way-marking of old paths is an esoteric lore of its own, involving cairns, grey wethers, sarsens, hoarstones, longstones, milestones, cromlechs and other guide-signs. On boggy ares of Dartmoor, fragments of white china clay were placed to show safe paths at twilight, like Hansel and Gretel's pebble trail. (p. 15, italics mine)

May you find your glimmering twilight path.

Dartmoor (Source: Dartmoor Hail and Sunbeams,

asakiyume: (Em reading)

best pasta
My favorite shape of pasta is long fusilli.

One supermarket I go to has it (the one with the Lenten ideas, actually), but the near supermarket doesn't. I bought lots of packages last time I was at the one supermarket, and last night we had some. I love-love-love the feel in my mouth.

Do you have a favorite shape of pasta?

Knife throwee or lion's mouth?

A cafe in a nearby town has old board games for patrons to play. We didn't play any, but one that I noticed was called something like "Which would you rather?" where I guess you must have to choose between various alternatives. The one featured on the box was, "Which would you rather be, the person in the circus that the knife thrower throws knives at, or the one who puts their head in the lion's mouth?" [ profile] wakanomori and I chose opposite, but we both had good reasons. How about you?

Owl in Love

I'm reading this fun YA book that was first published in 1993. It's told by 14-year-old Owl, who is a girl by day and an owl by night. Her narrative voice is fabulous, like when she describes her human parents, who are hedge witches.

My parents are very, very honest. The would never sell a charm, no, not even the merest good-luck piece, if they did not believe it gave good value for money. On the other hand, they are both blessed with an optimistic and uncritical nature, so they are able to offer quite a large line of goods with a clear conscience.

Letter L
My keyboard isn't responding well to my attempt to press the L key. I keep on having to go back and type it harder.

Did you know it's harder to balance on one foot if you have your eyes closed? It is.

... I think that'll do for now.... I'll be back; I have to go pick up a pizza.

asakiyume: (turnip lantern)
Some time ago I posted about creating a matching game with quotes from Warriors of the Wind, a mangled dubbing of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind which we have an affection for in my family. I didn't have it quite done for New Year's, and then it became hard to find a time when the whole family was gathered, but tonight, on the occasion of a family birthday, we all gathered and played. True, the healing angel was ill (he's been sick with a virus now for more than 10 days...), and the ninja girl had to play with us via Facetime from Japan, but we did it! All six of us played, and everyone laughed and had fun. Even the cat got in on the game, temporarily sprawling himself on the pile of matches and then watching with big eyes as we grabbed the cards and shouted out the lines.

asakiyume: (turnip lantern)
The night before I left for Sirens, [ profile] wakanomori had the pleasant job of introducing a Japanese storyteller who was performing at the local university. She does traditional rakugo storytelling, plus original stories, in English. I asked Wakanomori what they were like, and he told me one of the traditional ones she'd told. It was so entertaining I thought I'd share it here. I listened to a couple of Japanese versions of the story, so what you're getting is Motoko-Wakanomori transmission, influenced by those two linked storytellers.

The Cat's Bowl

wherein a farmer has the best of a canny merchant )

Image from this website
asakiyume: (autumn source)
Tomorrow, in the small hours in the morning--the 3:00 am hour, to be precise, I get in the car and drive two hours to the airport, on my way to the Sirens Conference, which this year is on the theme of spies and revolutionaries (awesome). I have some excellent roommates, and will be meeting some LJ friends in person for the first time and other old friends whom I haven't seen since summer--very excited for that.

... I've been even more scarce than I thought I would be, these days. I've gotten notification of entries posted, and been unable to take the time to read them, because Wakanomori's family is here, and I've been kept busy with that. I apologize. When I come back from Sirens, I'll catch up somewhat, though probably not entirely. But I've thought of you all each day.

One thing Waka's mother had been really eager to do was see Old Sturbridge Village, so I took them there. I didn't go in myself, but I took these photos on the outside.

Iris seeds

Iris seeds

They look like blackberries, but they are hard and seedy. A man from Mississippi was marveling at them, and we got to talking. He told me about when Hurricane Katrina came through and knocked down a tree of his, how he planted a replacement tree, and it sent a branch or runner, I can't remember which, scooting along the ground, and then lifted up one blossom, like cupped hands. I loved that.

Dark wood, bright window, red impatiens, lantern


Doesn't it seem very serious, almost foreboding? And yet the flowers. Like a grim old minister who then smiles, like an ogre who lifts a baby bird gently and sets it back in a nest.

Grasshoppers and Butterflies

grasshopper weathervane


They seem metaphoric but the metaphors keep changing, and meanwhile they're real in themselves.



Autumnal abundance, a garden of peace and plenty.

Feel free to just look at the photos without commenting. I may get a chance to answer a comment or two this evening, but then I'm back to silence until Monday at the earliest.


asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)

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