Strong in the rain Strong in the wind Strong against the summer heat and snow He is healthy and robust Free from desire He never loses his temper Nor the quiet smile on his lips He eats four go of unpolished rice Miso and a few vegetables a day He does not consider himself In whatever occurs His understanding Comes from observation and experience And he never loses sight of things He lives in a little thatched-roof hut In a field in the shadows of a pine tree grove If there is a sick child in the east He goes there to nurse the child If there’s a tired mother in the west He goes to her and carries her sheaves If someone is near death in the south He goes and says, ‘Don’t be afraid’ If there are strife and lawsuits in the north He demands that the people put an end to their pettiness He weeps at the time of drought He plods about at a loss during the cold summer Everybody calls him Blockhead No one sings his praises Or takes him to heart... That is the sort of person I want to be Kenji Miyazawa
Gate C22 At gate C22 in the Portland airport a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed a woman arriving from Orange County. They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking, the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other like he'd just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island, like she'd been released at last from ICU, snapped out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.
Neither of them was young. His beard was gray. She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish kisses like the ocean in the early morning, the way it gathers and swells, sucking each rock under, swallowing it again and again. We were all watching-- passengers waiting for the delayed flight to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots, the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling sunglasses. We couldn't look away. We could taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.
But the best part was his face. When he drew back and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost as though he were a mother still open from giving birth, as your mother must have looked at you, no matter what happened after--if she beat you or left you or you're lonely now--you once lay there, the vernix not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth. The whole wing of the airport hushed, all of us trying to slip into that woman's middle-aged body, her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses, little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.
If I knew I would be dead by this time next year I believe I would spend the months from now till then writing thank-you notes to strangers and acquaintances, telling them, “You really were a great travel agent,” or “I never got the taste of your kisses out of my mouth.” or “Watching you walk across the room was part of my destination.” It would be the equivalent, I think, of leaving a chocolate wrapped in shiny foil on the pillow of a guest in a hotel– “Hotel of earth, where we resided for some years together,” I start to say, before I realize it is a terrible cliche, and stop, and then go on, forgiving myself in a mere split second because now that I’m dying, I just go forward like water, flowing around obstacles and second thoughts, not getting snagged, just continuing with my long list of thank-yous, which seems to naturally expand to include sunlight and wind, and the aspen trees which gleam and shimmer in the yard as if grateful for being soaked last night by the irrigation system invented by an individual to whom I am quietly grateful. Outside it is autumn, the philosophical season, when cold air sharpens the intellect; the hills are red and copper in their shaggy majesty. The clouds blow overhead like governments and years. It took me a long time to understand the phrase “distant regard,” but I am grateful for it now, and I am grateful for my heart, that turned out to be good, after all; and grateful for my mind, to which, in retrospect, I can see I have never been sufficiently kind.