BANNER
koi sidebar
koi sidebar

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 4, December 2014

line


Giselle Maya & Patricia Prime
St. Martin de Castillon, France & Te Atatu South, Auckland, New Zealand


Power Spots

Odin's spring
where the gods once drank
from nowhere
a breeze stirs the ferns
I bathe my face in clear water

Long ago I often walked with my mother in the forests of the Neckar valley near Heidelberg and Eberbach. We walked in silence, listening to beech and pine trees, picking berries—then we spoke of legends. Mother often mentioned Odin, the mighty Nordic god inhabiting these forests. These mountains I was told were the domain of magical beings, imbued with ancient elf wisdom and we can sense it now when sitting on a tree stump, following narrow trails, listening to the spring. We tasted wild strawberries, the boletus mushrooms we found wrapped in paper were taken home to be sautéed and shared with our family.

mighty
'lord of the forest'
pushes hard
against mother earth
arms stretched to heaven

Tāne Mahuta is one of the oldest and largest trees in the world and stands in the great Waipoua kauri forest that is home to three quarters of New Zealand's kauri trees. We visited the forest as a family on our first holiday in New Zealand. The tree was so huge our four children, hand-in-hand, couldn't reach around its girth. Revered by Māori for centuries as a kind of god or king, the tree is now protected by iron railings and people can only admire it or take photos or 'selfies' from a distance. It creaks and groans like a deserted city where the wind howls, seeds tremble and bird calls echo among its branches.

prehistoric caves
near Lascaux animated
by ancient paintings
a horned deer leaps freely
with horses from limestone walls

A memorable first visit to Lascaux. The animals painted thousands of years ago are alive, through the spontaneous brushstrokes of painters who worked with tiny oil lamps in pitch-dark caves where ground ochre and manganese pigments were mixed with animal fat and applied to uneven limestone surfaces with fine brushes. This was a sacred act, done by women and men as the handprints in the caves indicate. There are also enigmatic symbols, series of dots, arrows, human stick figures. The animals—bison, mammoth, tiger, horses, and deer—are minutely observed.

a bell tolls
in an empty alleyway
echo of muffled voices
as old women with birch brooms
sweep the roads and verges

In green uniforms, soldiers skim over the frozen ice of Lake Kunming. The lake was man-made and is part of the imperial gardens. It was designed to represent the traditional Chinese gardening practice of 'one pond, three hills'. Light in the Beijing winter morning is blue and children are being pulled along with sticks, whirling and spinning, circling and weaving, arms out-stretched. A bedlam of bodies. Our Chinese guide holds our hands and encourages us to step onto the ice. We skate tentatively round the edge of the lake to the majestic Marble Boat built by the Emperor Qianlong for his Empress as a summer retreat. Here one may see young women searching for a partner as it is the perfect place for romance to blossom. The magic of this beautiful setting remains with us to this day.

we arrive on foot
in Kyoto's northern mountains
a hamlet hidden
among wind-singing cryptomeria
the artist is boiling bark and berries

Dipped into the cauldron thick washi paper is stained amber; Akeiji Sumiyoshi has gathered plants which he boils in water to color the handmade papers on which he paints calligraphies: Kinuta (fulling block), Monkey Spirit, Hagoromo and other kanji relating to ancient legends and the mystical setting of his wooden dwelling. This mountain has become a power spot, a sanctuary for those few who visit and live in this tiny community Himuro. Akeji meditates on the kanji (character) he will paint on the thick paper, wax-resist is his medium. A stunning effect is obtained from the subtle colors of plants that grow here—spontaneous large brushstrokes seem to fly off the rectangular shape of paper, the art is imbued by the mountain's spirit.

a big smile
a white muslin khata
the clasp of hands
prayer and welcome . . .
the monk's gifts to us

By the time farmers collect milk from their yaks, we are climbing the thousand steep steps that lead to the roof of the Potala Palace, stopping regularly because of the altitude. It is an outstanding building with whitewashed walls, woodwork painted bright scarlet and decorations on the roof of gilded deities. This was the winter palace of the Dalai Lama from the 7th century. From the roof we can see fields, the Himalayan Mountains and the city of Lhasa spread before us. We wander into a ground-floor room where an ornate giant golden Buddha lies on his side along one wall, surrounded by gifts of fruit, flowers and candles. In a large gloomy basement room, lit only by beams of sunshine, small boys, youths and monks chant from Tibetan Buddhist scriptures. A huge kitchen cavern is busy with nuns preparing the mid-day meal of fruit, boiled vegetables, tsampa and yak butter tea on open fires fuelled with dry yak dung and twigs. They beckon us inside and present us with a glass of yak butter tea. One of the nuns speaks to us in English—she had been to university in London!


Authors' Notes: Kimuta: an ancient 'fulling block' for beating cloth, the sound could be heard far away. Kanji are characters used in Japanese writing together with hiragana and katakana.

line

end

| contents page | next tanka prose |

koi sidebar r
koi sidebar r
contents