Saturday, June 11, 2011





Kisen Hoshi (monk)

A lowly hut have I,
Southeast from the capital,
Where I have chosen to dwell –

And the world in which I live
Men have named "Mount of Gloom."


I lived two years
in a mountain's mists.
No one came to visit

the abandoned quarry.
I had fish every day,
and short summer's

sun seemed brighter
than ever it did
in town.


Not much is known about Kisen Hoshi, active in the 800s. He was a monk whose hermitage was on a mountain near Kyoto known as Mount Sorrow or Mount Gloom. There is now a Buddhist temple on the site. The word is similar to that for "deer," which might be why Hokusai shows hunters about to shoot deer (sadly enough for the deer) in his illustration -- which otherwise seems to have little connection to the poem.

Risa once worked as a member of a forestry cooperative, and lived in a tiny house built on the back of an old flatbed truck. Most of the work was in the winters, and she spent two summers parked in an abandoned quarry in Oregon's Coast Range. Her income would not have permitted a permanent address such as an apartment or even a rooming house. A stream at the foot of the quarry road provided trout, and foraged greens, along with a sack of potatoes, formed the rest of her diet. Sunrises, sunsets, and good books were her companions. Some might have thought her unhappy there -- she would have disagreed with a slow smile.