Visiting North America’s only mainland Shinto shrine (not counting Hawaii) :
From the Burke Museum in Seattle :
What have you found?
I found these following gems while sorting through my phone-photography.
Early in the year it snowed. We went to the hills to see it up close. I love the feeling of being wrapped in wool when it’s snow-cold out. Only wool clothing is a suitable when you sit down in snow; this way, you can be peaceful and take your time.
At the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, I was surprised by what a beautiful effect the glass separating humans and non-humans has on the photographic lens. In these pictures you can see the telling reflection of the onlooking humans. The effect of a transparent barrier between species is uncannily significant.
Below: words of fascination and appealing design, Kinokuniya Bookstore in Seattle. The company is a specialty Japanese bookstore with only a few locations outside of Japan. It’s a favorite for language-learners such as myself.
Speaking of Japanese inspiration, I got to visit the Pokémon Company International headquarters in Bellevue, WA! Pokémon was one of the original “sparkles” of my childhood that set me on the path of wanting to learn about Japan.
Going for a walk in Seattle on a bright, early summer morning…
I wish all parts of the city were as clean and inviting as this neighborhood. Sadly, Seattle is having a lot of problems lately with chronic drug-induced homelessness, and the ripple effect of crime and filth is becoming a local crises that no one in the region can ignore. While there are several complicated reasons this is happening here, it still doesn’t change the unfortunate truth that I no longer wish to spend time in Seattle city proper unless it is really necessary. Beautiful moments like these pictured above seem to be less frequently found these days. People who have lived in the region much longer than me say it was never like this before. T and I now just want to stay further out, even past Redmond, closer to Issaquah and Sammamish where we currently live. We jokingly say of downtown Seattle, “There but for the grace of Kinokuniya go I.”
This gorgeous house in Seattle probably costs multiple millions of dollars. However, I and many others see that the cost of real estate alone is no where near solely responsible for the aforementioned local problems.
Above: sunrise captured from the balcony of a house on a hill in Bothell, WA. May the mountains watch over us.
Alert! These waters (Pine Lake in Sammamish) contain toxic invasive species you oughtta know about. This is one of those instances where species identification is the real deal, more than a naturalist’s pastime.
Hmmm, something isn’t quite right about this picture… ;3 A morbid sense of humor in a Tacoma neighborhood, anyone?
Now that’s what I call a true enthusiasm for the holidays, for flood prevention and for caution while kayaking: it’s only August, and already these good people are preparing for Halloween!
Perhaps the spirits of the river’s dead will be reborn as…
a kingfisher, kawasemi in Japanese. I love how the kanji for “kingfisher” looks like it’s smiling :)
The heart of religion is to stand in the presence of beauty. This is the experience of divine beauty, which is not confined to appearances but does sometimes communicate through the sense of sight.
Dream entries from years past:
July 2nd, 2016.
Looking west across rail tracks to San Francisco on the other side of the Coastal Mountains, my Grandfather appears. The City is quiet now. An earth quake is coming, and an inundating wave, and there will be blackness. Grandpa says I can follow him to where I will be safe, and I go to gather from our cabinets the fragments of my childhood. A strange light is breaking, dusky and blue. “We must go now, Sugarpie,” says Grandpa. “The mountains are calling, and I must go,” –these words that are loved. At the edge of the forest Grandpa makes a proper burial place for those who were soon going to die, so that they would not feel lonely or scared when crossing over. The loving dead do this for the living when we cross over, so that we will be comforted and at home.
Grandpa died in 2008. Yesterday I got word from my uncle Larry that Grandma fell and became blind.
October 11th, 2015.
There are too many empty houses. Many are newly built, but where are the people? So many are hollow inside.
March 19th, 2011.
Riding a horse to my old home, I knew that something evil was beginning to invade there. On the dining room table there was lain a horrible corpse, charred black as if by a fire, but not fully skeletal, yet 9 or 10 feet tall. This is wrong! This should not be here! This evil must be expelled! Who else can see this for the horror that it truly is?! But around me they were saying, “Oh, honey, it’s only natural.”
December 1st, 2010.
I loved the spindle in my hand. It was in a strange town in another time, but it was a beautiful village, with roses. A double-steepled church was in the middle of this town which was pressed into a hillside. The sight of the church. Turning back to my spinning, I could see no longer. A long brown dress with a shawl for my garment, a circle of comforting wool. Towards the hills and to the left there was a room, and the day began to grow dark, and someone was coming for me, calling my name. I was ordered to a certain meeting unknown to me. When I entered there were many people, and women in particular. They asked why I was still wearing my brown, why my spindle was still in my hand when, don’t I see? The veil has been lifted. And what did they mean, I asked, as they moved in a circle around me. They turned toward a wall with a huge painting of a demon and fire on it. They said to me, “That is where we are going to send you this Sunday, instead.”
December 8th, 2010.
Over a dark lake I flew with my cloak as my wings, navigating toward the sparkling lights of the shore. Halfway to home there was a raftsman with his own warm house of light floating out on this dark lake and I flew down and landed here. The man, a friendly ghost, held a lantern. He offered to feed me, knowing how I hungered. A variety of delicious dishes were available upon the instant of magic. Immortal fish and fellow water beasts provided their bodies as food to me. With fondness and gratitude I finished my meal. I thanked the friendly lantern ghost and continued toward the far shore.
A journal from 7.18.2016
Sixteen years ago I was here. In summertime in Fresno, California, there is River Camp on the San Joaquin River. The air heats up quickly here, but by the river it is not so bad. The water and the trees make it cooler. This way you can go down to the river at Woodward Park some extremely hot dry valley day –try it in the afternoon, sometime– because you will find water there. You will find beauty you didn’t see before. When you go, be yourself caught in the river’s sienna acorn luminance with cheerful pale green leaves, where living water flows from the Sierra Nevadas. It was on a day like this I was ten years old and Grandma was driving me to this our beautiful river. There would be wonderings I could never forget, owl pellets and river rocks and the feel of the golden silt-sand underneath my bare feet in the shallows of the shimmer-green river. Now I am here visiting without a car, this day as an adult, and it is difficult to get around these parts without a car. Without a car you have to walk to the river because the places where the people live aren’t built like they used to be, how people used to be able to expect to get to the rivers on their own two feet.
This morning I walk the streets of my desert city and I meet an abundance of purple wine grapes planted for the joy of the public on the side of the road, at Blackstone and Shaw. In handfuls, they give themselves to me. The energy of this climate is condensed into these tiny clusters of grapes, a land and air so akin to the Mediterranean, and so the climate is called. These grapes are care-taken by some kind human who comes by to see that they are robust, but mostly the sun does his work and the valley soil does hers, even in the middle of the city. Firm and gleaming, a pale dust settles pleasingly on the ripe curve of each grape, making the backs of my jaws water by the look of them.
Margaret Hudson is a famous sculpture artist from here in Fresno. I went to visit her studio in the month of June earlier this year. It’s very hot in June in Fresno. Margaret wasn’t home because she is very old now and living elsewhere, but her art is still lively and all her sculpted creatures are still smiling who are created by day, by kiln, by the work of her hands. They are formed out of mud and earth and some deep joyful material. It must be the same joy that knows about making a desert a paradise, because the bringer of good words, the great one who forms faces from clay, is in all places in need of good water.
Every time I come back here I love this land more and more. When I was a teenager dreaming of other places, it wasn’t from a lack of love for this place. I wanted to take the pink blossoms of The Blossom Trail with me so they, too, could live in cleaner air by the sea in San Francisco. But that city didn’t really open to me, and I was never at home there, a traveller there for two years. But I always feel at home in Fresno, close to my Sierras, especially in the north by the San Joaquin River, or in the east near Clovis where in spring the Blossom Trail blooms.
I think again of this poem I wrote, Heat Time Dawn
Heat time sunrise Fresno California
roses hum cricket’s continuous singing–
mourning dove’s soft hoot on the terrace
is perched at the edge of the sky
My desert is alive with the spirits of pine needle,
cottontail bounding in sage, to San Joaquin river
white live oak offering incense,
a hanging pot floats magic carpet to red roof
In the lush breeze of July dawn in the valley
listen for Worldmaker sauntering in the garden,
with Coyote and prickly pear he goes in the garden–
run out to meet him in dew drops on adobe
Photography © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.
Looking through old notes I had saved from my time in Anake Outdoor School (September 2012-May 2013), I found a half-finished poem I scribbled at the campfire when our tribe stopped in Del Valle, California, in early February 2013 on our way further south to the Transverse Mountains and the Los Padres forest region of Quail Springs. Here’s the polished poem to better convey that sense of joy.
Night over the fire, coming down from
the Great North far now
from the land of Sitka and Birch
into Del Valle, hills green and brown
in the early spring evening.
Circle fire somewhere in the latitudes of
big open stars. Song of the clicking insects,
their language. Brother Coyote has arrived
and Sister Crow sets the table,
plates made for the ancestors,
communion of food chains all the way back.
Circle round for stories and songs.
Some are anointed with new names.
Others that were old are new-born.
Skin smells of bow-drill smoke, says
“I will tell you someday”.
Bright color is the work of the sun,
but everything is spilled into
shimmering darkness there
in the Milky Way overhead.
Blessed are you,
Lord God of creation,
who does not guard us
from the work of your hands.
It is good that we are supple
It is good that we are fragile
adaptable and strange
that we may continue
to be always remade.
For You have forged in white fire
the red of eyelids,
the cave of the earthquake;
You have set hominid-kind
among the vastness,
stoneground in waters
in alluvium loam
The body capable
like a canyon–
Night in the kitchen,
me sitting on a stool by the sink
while you wash up the last dust
of the light
Miles later, end of spring,
remembering the bed we have shared
and the air is warm and damp with rain
a pre-waking flood,
Turn in toward
the path of the arrow
that you, with shields of
protection, will let
the old wounds
of the warrior’s sting,
the nettle’s good venom
letting medicine in
the wingbeats of Sophia
whisper to the ground;
Her wisdom in the Aves’ taxa
knows no vertigo,
Her course unbound
Every small moment in worship
through some willing element of matter,
a word, a stolen kiss, a skirt of gold,
a bird diving or falling
from the vault of the firmament.
You could not have learned
any other way
the road between
here and another.
the eyes of the telescope
the mirror of the wonderer
the bowl of celestial milk spilling–
whatever comes out of my wondering
is the same as the prophets’ own.
Pristine spilt milk is so light,
let it fall like a flood
every ten thousand years
the great void percolating
into my living room,
to coalesce with a big bang
this second, somewhere
Holy fire settles
the continents in magma–
shifting nerves of Hades
Rosehips of the Nootka Rose,
the names of creatures, created order–
stars on the forest floor
Now it is time
to go from here
to leave and leave behind
the bundle, setting down the weight
of your years, time to put away graves
who are at peace in the ground
and what the long road
white bark pine,
I go visit in my time,
poetry by Gentle J. Pine compiled 7/31/2017. Written all over the place 2012–2017.
I have dreamt the mountains are so close to my house in the city, the whole long range spanning the Cascades down to the Sierras, huge and magnified, their icy caps leaning over small neighborhoods in primeval protection. American Cordillera. In my dreams, the mountains spell the nearness of God. They are the mother mountains where clean waters come down and angels go to live in animal bodies a while. From the car driving by the foothills it looks sometimes like you can jump out of the car and run up there to catch fish in clear waters. Glitter white-gold sand, burnt-sienna Ponderosa pine needle trails, my California; wet Western Redcedar mossy deep green curling ferns, my Cascadia– I turn to the great land and the land turns in closer to me. A banner of turquoise in lakes, Milky Way trail of spirits –Inland Pacific! Lands of my birth! And the Range of Light is always at the edge of my mind, moving mountains in dreams.
image: Creative Commons CC0
Sloshing through puddles
blustery sky overhead–
I’m a troubadour
last time you came
to visit my house
it was snowing
where snow rarely falls
on my moss
Let me tell you about the quest for fulfillment.
I held out my hand under a dripping ice ball,
and a drop hit me in the wrist.
I moved my hand.
It got me right in the palm
like I wanted.
At the end of the wetland
we travel a trail through a patchwork
of Salmonberry, Indian Plum, Oregon Grape.
Mud of the Salix, willow, is all
that remains of the annual stream,
black and cool in the summer shadow
of cottonwoods, shimmer–heart leaves,
tracks of Raccoon.
The trail breaks
through the fence.
has smoke of the tree
where it comes from
on a summer afternoon
barefoot cool dirt,
river rock naming birds
gift of flight, good words,
sun sleep, sun skirt.
wander in the green.
well dirty, real clean.
Where were the records kept
in the days before writing
when we spoke aloud to each other
our dreams in the morning
at the breakfast fire
Building a weir
with a gabion handmade–
what is willow
in another tongue?
Black locust has thorns
to remind you
of the holding
With you I have walked
this trail before;
And you, I will miss you
most of all
when I go.
A gathering beside the sea, the vastness of the ocean immense, even we land-dwellers aware of the creatures who lived deep down in it, from time to time coming up to the world of sky and land to breathe the upper air. This sand reaching down to the water iss clean in my eyes. It was beige-speckled but also clear with tales of the imminent.
Our gathering is near to the ocean but a short walk back inland. The area is grassy and hilly. There are few trees, but the grass is an extreme hue. Many friends are gathered in mourning. The dead body of a beloved friend is near us, laid in her coffin. Her face, lips especially, are purple and grotesquely bloated. She is already far along the stages of decay. Why is she laid in an open coffin? We have her coffin exhumed because her recent burial was not correct. She had been laid into the earth without love. We knew she had wanted her arms folded across her chest, her body in fetal position, as the ancestors were known to be buried. Her spirit is restless. Did she die in the ocean? But I am stricken by this night, by how the sight and nearness of her decaying corpse does not frighten me. I feel only tremendous compassion and a comforting love. In this way a great peace of relief comes over me, for in seeing her laid here I am not afraid of death. There is no terrible unknown to scare me; the dead love us and watch over us. It is by God and their love for us that we are cradled in the earth. My exhumed dead friend is an ancestor to be honored. For this was her body brought up from the ground again, to remind us.
I meet Saint Anthony, “Saint Antonio”, I heard him called by some –a handsome, medieval dragon-slayer (who says the saints are boring?). He had come traveling through the centuries to aid our dark electrical city where purple-lit skyscrapers shrink into shadow when the demon dragon appears, a titanous reptile with terrible eyes, come to crush and devour all. Magnificent but terrifying when I know it has seen me, though I am so small and shrouded in darkness. The monster, leagues away, already knows I am one of Saint Anthony’s exorcists. I flee to my saint and companions. He leads us to quickly camouflage in the greenery, which itself has come alive to aid our hiding in the earth. Creation, our ally. Saint Anthony, who in this dream of an apocalyptic time is shown to have a handsome face, is all the more poignant because of what homely, even unattractive physical characteristics he had in his earthly life, though his spirit glowed for the Creator. Now the trickster’s veil of his prior dullness was rolled away to reveal a physical beauty that signified the brightness of his soul. It was his time now to be resurrected and return to us, to help us fight the great demon, whom he has battled before.
Written for the closing week of Anake Outdoor School, 2013.
On Linne Doran land, the Otter-Pond,
beside Cottonwoods with heart-shaped leaves,
water-wood, and Cedars somber with
their overhanging eaves. “Look at the light
on the Cottonwoods,” the dancing-fire trees,
you speak from where we sit at sunset
smoking on the porch. Night breeze.
This is plenty seeing you like a human,
talking quiet, no pretense, no display.
“Did you see the Lagomorph
who went that way?” The same hand gesturing
toward the ferocious green of vernal mire
that instructs, that holds my bee-stung arm
in tender reassurance. “I have the gift
of tears,” I say. “My heart is tired.”
Someday, I’ll be sitting in full sun
and remembering that blanket of dusk:
the unnamable places, initiation,
re-welcoming, the whole in-between world
we could not have expected.
Animal voices from beyond the woodshed
and ravine, laughter down the path to where
we gather in Malalo for magic, wrapping the bundle,
burning, being seen.
I know you love this time of night,
the silhouettes of trees, the ones that tip their tops,
that spread their branches out like praise,
their differences of ways discernible from a distance,
one more lesson in vision, but there is
black sleep creeping in now,
flowers are closing, ferns keep unfurling
as they should, as is right in time,
in Nature’s time. But this is natural.
This cannot be planned. Active hearts are tired hearts,
dirt-time for elderhood. The way of the Scout
is to take no credit even where credit is due.
Respect, Honor and Love. The veil lifts.
Something more than what we signed up for
Image © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.