Wednesday, January 28, 2009


This is a typical shinto shrine.  Did any of you ever have a little shrine growing up? Like a shelf or a dresser you put important, sacred things on? I put stones on a shelf, I remember.  And candles. I think I put my books on my shrine too. Most people(s) do this kind of altaring, elevating, designating certain things or areas as sacred.  (I mean, sure, all things are sacred because all things are equally Spirit, but bringing a little bit of that symbolic reality into the neighborhood for those who don't see it can be good, can be god, I imagine.  Better have a little mystery than none at all, I always say.  
Hanging shide "lighting rods for spirit" mark off (and attract/create) the sacred spaces. They are wrapped around trees and stones and sumo wrestlers.  In ancient times the Japanese believed that doing this would make the object more attractive for a god to occupy. The spirit would enter the space, take the being's form, and be readily availble for whatever ceremony.

Shide become slots into spirit, invitation into infinity, doors into godhead, and mirrors into meaningfulness. They catch the light. 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My trip to Kochi

Woke up early to take the train to Kochi, the City on the other side, the pacific side of my island. See the man down there burning stuff? And notice how many farms there are. Every usable space...most yards in Japan are small farms that provide food for the neighborhood. Yards in America are a big waste, in this regard. Just imagine if...

Everything was black and white.

Then wooshhhhh....the picture shattered into emerald green Inland Sea glowing beneath a radiant sky.
The train turned right and headed into the mountains. See the river down there? Once I arrived in Kochi city, Shotaro (with the mohawk, remember?) took me to the an old market, then the castle (omg so beautiful), then the river. Since I hadn't done my hatsumode, "first shrine visit of the year," we ventured to an old shinto shrine tucked into a holy corner of the forest. Westerners party for new years; the Japanese visit a shrine to honor their ancestors...

Then Shotaro's wife Rika met up with us and we visited their friend and national wood carving champion, Yamamoto-san. Below are pictures of his den. We ate dinner, then headed to the most amazing bath house I have ever been to. It was huge, and the indoor area was filled with steam. Nearly all the baths and surfaces were either wood or stone, and the outdoor area had a cave you could crawl naked into like Gullum. I`m definitely going back.

Jizo-san by the side of the mountain road. They are "protectors," found along highways and dangerous mountain roads, and one might wonder how can a stone statue protect me in places like that? The answer is that they, being buddhas, remind us to be mindful.
Early morning at the beach. That's Masa, Rika's 6-year-old nephew.
Hiking through a bamboo forest's gold dream glow to the waterfall.
I love traditional Japanese houses.

The wood sculptor (recently featured on a Japanese TV speacial) put some fish on the stove for us.

We visited Rika and Shotaro`s favorite spot, Todoro falls. Masa thought it was "Totoro" falls.
This was the old Shinto shrine by the river. Stunning purple curtain, dark, heavy wood...five spirit rattles, a huge shimenawa and a tiny red tassel hanging dead center...Japanese Shinto shrines are kind of like American churches in many important ways...they are numerous-each neighborhood has one. They have an alter in the center, bells to ring; they have worship services inside. In fact, looking at both cultures from outer space, it's amazing how similar the artifacts of religious life have developed.

Rika turning the fish at the woodworker's house.
"He uses a chainsaw."
Paper lightning bolts (shide (紙垂) are used to symbolize the sacred. You put them around trees and shrines to indicate they are "full of God." You can also use them as god invitations . Check out yorishiro if you are interested in this kind of stuff. "Do you suppose he feels as disconnected from himself as his shadow is from him?"-Rick Winfrey
Walking down the river, listening to ducks and Shotaro, I suddenly wanted a cigarette. Where is a good smoking spot, I wondered. There, under that bridge! I saw the EVE, and then the man already smoking there. I must have smelled his smoke from down the river.
Shotaro thinks he looks like a duck.
view from inside Kochi castle.

It was cold, but the "energy" or consciousness coming from the presence of the falls mixed with the sunlight's fresh heat made us take our clothes off. Light shines in the rainbows and snowdrops falling from the trees, invisible thunder roar and eagle calls crumble the air, sunshine, cold air finds every pore breathing the sunlight, crystal wind wipes the mind clean, a wet chill takes the breath away. We meaningfully put on our clothes and hiked back through the bamboo forest's gold dream glow, back up the mountainside, back to the car and the rest of our lives.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gift and Lift

Satoru sent me another box of natto and home made jam!  His hometown Ibaraki is famous for its natto. Beautiful packaging. I ate a stick of the sticky beans with wasabi for dinner. It was extraordinary.  Satoru rules. 
Here is an iphone photo of a new painting of that sacred tree-I can't get those roots out of my mind. It'd been a long time since I'd used watercolor, and a huge nostalgia opened a river of subtle bliss that fell out of my fingers and into the paint, I'm sure of it.  Watercolor is fun, quick, and, like Zen calligraphy, it is a physical expression of an inner state.  The freedom, and precision, mixed with the degree of creativity in the mark determines its depth and harmony. Watercolor is hard, too.  its transparent, and the reflected white light of the paper illuminates the painting from within. It's like everything is backwards and reversed. 

As I painted I watched the new Lost, which I think is really good so far-wonderful use of time travel. I also heard myself thinking/ re-minding a list of watercolor rules collected from all my teachers past. Their meaning is altered when set in the context of spirituality. ( I do that a lot, see art rules as metaphors for spiritual insights). Begin light to dark.  Leave light. Paint with the water. The clearer the water, the brighter the color. Don't be afraid to lift. Never lift. Lift the whole thing. Mask it. Leave it. Plan ahead. Don't plan ahead. Play. Stay controlled. stay spontaneous. Flow. Move the eyes around. Build up detail. Build up islands of complexity.  So many rules. Wyeth was the greatest watercolorist, for sure. He has some good quotes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

If there is light

If there is light in the soul
There will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person
There will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation
There will be peace in the world.

Chinese Proverb

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Andrew Wyeth, I bow down low.

Andrew Wyeth died yesterday. He was 91.
"I don't think that there is anything that is really magical unless is has a terrifying quality."

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape-the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show."

"If one could only catch that true color of nature - the very thought of it drives me mad."

We know this man is relaxing because he took off his hook! Wizard!
Raw shock, loose hand, ordinary landscape, extraordinary understanding. "God, I've frozen my ass off painting snow scenes!"
cold eyes. hair raising. "terrifying." He was a master drawer, no doubt. Which is to say, he was a master feeler. I love this quote: "I think one's art goes as far and as deep as one's love goes."

Magic. Witchcraft. Wind From The Sea.
This one, Man and the Moon, lives at the Kemper Museum in Kansas City. Lucky us!
When I was little I used to copy his work. My parents took me to an exhibition and I was shocked out of my mind. He was a master watercolorist.
He could render the aged surface of a wall into an abstract masterpiece. This treatment changed the way I looked at walls. And I used to consume his narratives, enter his worlds, for they were windows, often literally, into a mysterious, but also ordinary, uncomfortably real aspect of our reality. Wyeth worked with morbid themes, and erotic themes, taboos, which I loved.
This man is on his death bed, and look at that quilt! master watercolorist.
"I don't think that there is anything that is really magical unless is has a terrifying quality."
Clear here for more.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I'm so proud of my friend Michael Garfield; he's prolific, and talented, and experimental. This is the cover of his new album Scapegoat, available for free download here. Just have a quick listen. I liked it immediately; the acoustic guitar speaks! It hums and laughs and enters into shamanic fits...but it also weaves together a blanket of the familiar:  campfire folk music. Immediately with the first sound on the first song, not only am I sitting by the crackling campfire listening to my old college friend's hypnotic, 
rolling acoustic guitar tuck me tightly into the stars, I'm also trying to 
wrap my head 
around the crazy samples and belligerent beats making 
their debut on the stage 
of my neurosystem. This artifact contains UFO's from the future, 
twangy guitars from the past, 
spontaneous jazz from the present--this music comes at me from all angels.  
angles. Whatever... both/and. I've never heard a finger snap and guitar sound like this before. Word up. 
This is the Announcement. 
And when the angels sang, 
We heard music. 

Saturday, January 03, 2009

new years

Paul, Satoru, and Eli, on a sunny day in Lawrence, Kansas. 
Molly invited me over to make art with her mom and brother.  In Kansas we have a lot of art parties. 
New Years.  

Kaw River. 

Three of the most beautiful girls I know, 
in the same room, making music. you know what I mean? 

Chris, Satoru, and Eli playing at the river. 

Everyone, this is Eli, 
Chris, and Satoru. sunlight on my face. 

The plane took off for Osaka, and I wrapped myself up in a blanket of sadness.   Day after day, moment after moment, I had run into love and light, care and caress, family and friends, i had been flooded in a constant current of care.  Leaving Kansas City was not as fun as it had been.  MYA.  It's good to know I have something extraordinary to fall back on. 
baby david.  Here I am. Who am I?  
a pen drawing for Cat. 
My last night in Kansas was spent with Leaf, Cat, Satoru, and Chris. We stayed up all night, total delight.  too much.  

I ran into Kristofer on the street; too much to handle. He and I were good friends back in college. it'd been so long.  He looked beautiful. 
Too much. 
Satoru was the greatest guest.  He never complained, and was always smiling and laughing.  
Drew, Leigh, and Satoru in front of the Anatsui at the Nelson Museum. That was an amazing day.  
Wonderful new years party as Shannon's. 
Stopped by Leigh's on our way home. Molly, Satoru, Leena, and Leigh, all together?  no. 
And this. One reason Satoru and I met was because he reminded me of my good friend Josh, and Here they are together, smiling for the camera.  You should have seen them;  they loved each other immediately.  too much. 

May all beings be Free and in Love.

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