Wednesday, January 23, 2008

“a conversation with ghost and ghost-to-be.”

February's National Geographic has a feature on Basho and his haibun (combined prose / haiku travelogue form)"Narrow Road to the Deep North." Like a 17th century deriveur, Basho, became a hyohakusha—“one who moves without direction," and wandered along a route of over a thousand miles. This kind of journey was completely different than a Europe Grand Tour. It reminds me more of some kind of Beat travel.

He was exhausted emotionally and said that he "felt the breezes from the afterlife cross his face.” His text documents a spiritual as well as a viscerally experienced physical journey.

The National Geographic has photographs from along Basho's path, evidently a route which has become popular for tourists.

I'd love to leave the casseroles, tax payments, and pile of student work to mark, and set off with a backpack to thatched-roofed huts in the distant country to wander without aim and only intuition and an openness to discovery. Of course, as the National Geographic quotes, I guess I'd be like Soryu, the famed calligrapher, who wrote in 1694, in an epilogue to the Narrow Road: “Once had my raincoat on, eager to go on a like journey, and then again content to sit imagining those rare sights. What a hoard of feelings, Kojin jewels, has his brush depicted! Such a journey!"

Really, I'd have to be open to a different kind of journey if I went on an actual wander, and not relive Basho's. Would it be like David W. McFadden's trips around the Great Lakes?

Once, when I was about 15, I wrote a children's story entitled 'The Adventures of a Pawn Off the Chessboard." I guess that's it. I'm looking for a journey without the usual checkered squares of daily life.







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