June 22, 2006

Small Things

As the advent of the second test term dawns upon Koyo High School and Junior School, I find myself once again running short of classes, and thus running to the Family Mart for mid-morning treats. Today a cool, drizzly rain has started to fall on Wakayama, and while I passed Nichizengu, the local shinto shrine in the Ota/Akizuki neighborhood, I found myself recollecting last year's tsuyu. An image surfaced, of waiting in line to receive Noh tickets with a special someone, the warm rain collecting in small droplets on the pine needles. Revisiting this scene today, I have the sensation of having passed a whole year within the span of one breath. A year, what a short period of time. It is usually our standard meausuring stick for human life--five years, ten years, fifty years, a lifetime. All that has happened in the past year does not come to mind right now, but I do have a sense of something immeasurably small containing the immeasurable.

The rainfall does not only recall but also presages another small event--the firefly season, which is most likely briefer and even less spectacular than the cherry blossom season. During my first year, I went to see the fireflies, or hotaru, with a friend of mine from Wakayama City. Out on the Kishi River, we wandered through groves of willows and various shrubs to a rivulet where the frieflies floated around beaming their soft light. It is a strange, wonderful memory, its greatness lying in the fact that it was nothing that special. A hot, sticky night out on a river with bugs that glow.

This weekend looks to be the best weekend for firefly viewing, now that the rain has come. I heard that fireflies are believed to be the souls of the dead. That means that they are like the experience of poetry--something insignificantly beautiful, hinting to us with a wink from the other shore of some sublime mystery. Call it the "trivial sublime," or whatever you will, but the small, greenish yellow flickering of the frieflies can easily demonstrate how something inexpressible can be contained in the brief span of an hour, a week, a year, a life.

All of this may bore you, the repetition of ideas that are romantically, if not tragically, attached to a past long gone, to nature as an indicator of our emotional and spiritual life; to a feeling of life being full of, as E.E. Cummings put it "intense fragility." More than what I am going to do, what I should do, or what I am doing, I find myself always hovering around the banks of this pool of fragility like a firefly around an evening pond. Keats called it the "vale of soul making," and Robert Duncan called it a "place of first permission." We can call it the imagination, the locus of abstract and emotional thought within the human brain, but whatever name you give to it--poetic or scientific--it is something small, intense, and very, very, fragile. It is that brilliant idea on the tip of the tongue, whose utterance is perpetually postponed. It is the next note after the song fades out, the soil with which our roots mingle and take life in. I am babbling on about this mysterious thing, the imagination, the soul, our being, but not to babble would mean capitulation to a notion of things set in an unchangeable scientific order. That order, of course, we all know, is slightly beyond imagining.

Hoping I will see the fireflies this year...


Blogger Nikku said...

I wish great luck with your gig this weekend. I am so sorry to be missing it, I would love to be there. We have guests coming from Osaka for the weekend, though it looks like our canoe plans might get cancelled by another tsuyu weekend.

If it is any consolation, Kyoko and I planning on coming up for your last gig in August. I hope to able to meet up with you another time before then. You can come down for July 15th, right?

Great to hear that we can meet up in Monterey as well to catch Peter Apfelbaum.

10:53 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home