Wednesday, January 28, 2015






Kwotai Kogu no Tayu Toshinari (Fujiwara no Toshinari)

Within the world
No way of flight do I find.
I had thought to hide

In the mountains' farthest depths;
Yet even there the stag's cry sounds.


I walked alone 
to the green hills.
 It rained every day; 

my shoes were ruined.
I came to a shelter
able to walk

no farther.
There I found,
with a note --

"You will need these" --
a pair of dry boots
my size.


Fujiwara no Toshinari or Fujiwara no Shunzei, 1114-1204 C.E.,  a commoner, became chamberlain the dowager Empress and advanced, by the favor of the Emperor, to become an important Court poet, compiling the Senzai Wakashū. He was father of the compiler of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu. Taking Buddhist orders at 63, he lived to ninety. In this poem, he playfully seeks a place of quietude for contemplation but finds the world and its living beings are everywhere -- just as they should be.

The Old Nurse includes not only the bugling stag (and his mate) but rock-mushroom pickers and a farmer in the busy scene. Wherever the aging samurai and the person in the litter think they are going, there's little prospect of of escape from the world. And should there be?

Risa recalls a time when, bitterly disappointed in love, she went, ill-equipped, to the Appalachian Trail and walked for ten days in the rain in solitude. She ran out of food, and also there was no way to keep her feet dry. On the last evening above the clouds, she staggered into an Adirondack shelter wondering how she would be able to get down to the Nantahala River where she might be able to find food and a ride home. She was saved by a dry, dusty, cobwebbed pair of cowboy boots in her size, parked in a dark corner of the shelter, with a note to any person in need to take them.