№ 290 (Untethered)

This post originally appeared on a previous personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date.


There is a large park near my apartment of which I am particularly fond. From the day I first discovered it, within weeks of moving to Tokyo, it was a place where I was automatically comfortable. It’s a place where I can go to be surrounded by big trees, hear some legitimate (if somewhat limited) sounds of nature, and occasionally meet a friendly stray cat. There’s a murder of crows that hangs out in the forest canopy above the fenced-off area where Shakujii castle stood eight hundred years ago, adjacent to Shakujiihikawa Shrine. A beautiful place given a spooky edge by the history of the place set against the eerie calls of the crows (and Japanese crows are decidedly spookier-sounding than their North American brethren). There are ample cherry blossoms in the spring and big toads in the underbrush on warm summer nights. When it rains, alien-looking flatworms emerge from the topsoil, bright yellow and strange.

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№ 289 (Somewhere in Between)

This post originally appeared on a previous personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date.


I’ve tended to delete the dating apps after about three weeks, on average, then reinstall them roughly a week after that. It makes for a month-long cycle of being a sad guy, a lonely guy who’s somewhat motivated to try to meet people, a disillusioned guy who is pretty sure the whole thing is rigged (this is when the apps get deleted), and then a guy whose frustration with still being single overpowers the frustration with app-based dating and so it all begins again.

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№ 288 (To Muse on a Name)

Behind me, from left to right: Candy, Sarah, and Maggie.

This post originally appeared on a previous personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date.


From late 2010 through early 2012, I lived in Taiwan and taught English in the Hsiaogang district of Kaohsiung. One particular day a few months into my job there, a little girl was introduced to my class, knowing no English and having no English name. In English class in some places, it is customary for a student to go by an English name, just as I went by Pedro in Spanish class throughout high school despite being named David in real life (this choice of name having to do with a comic in the back of Boy’s Life magazine in the ’80s). In any case, I was asked to give her an appropriate English name.

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№ 287 (Expat Memory)


This post originally appeared on a previous personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date.


Early one morning in Korea, deep in a strange winter, wandering after a night out drinking. I was walking a friend home, and took her up a road she’d never been down before. We stopped halfway up a hill that was halfway a mountain, and on the hill was a temple. Set back from the road, shrouded in densely falling snow,  windows lit with a dim yellow light smoldering through the darkness, the darkness amplifying the sound of the chanting monks inside.

Sutra spreading outwards, like ripples in still water. As when a single berry falls in a quiet pond, in a silent forest. And there, in darkened morning, the words shook the snowflakes, writing the chants invisibly, on the ground where we stood, scrawled in cursive in the snow that piled around our ankles.

Months later, I stood in stillness, alone in the forest behind the temple and further up the hill, listening to a gentle rain filtering through the pine boughs and watching low clouds through a gap in the trees.

Following that flowing fog, witnessing it enveloping hills, swallowing whole neighborhoods. The contents of the valley dissolving, dematerializing as I stood inert while wondering if I, too, might so dissolve.

I remembered the monks chanting through the snow. I could feel the vibration, still resonating in the rocks and trees. The words had taken residence there. How many times had those sounds flowed through here? What knowledge had the trees come to possess? Had they the means, what could the bedrock tell me?

№ 286 (In Loving Memory)

Lura Emily “Pat” Smith

June 17, 1920—May 14, 2015

Today, my mother’s mother passed.I found out this morning, but in the night I woke up suddenly and felt that something had changed. I knew that she was gone. So when the news came this morning, it was hard to read but not a surprise. When we lost my grandfather (her husband) in my senior year of high school, I had a dream about him just before he died.

When both of my grandfathers died, I was a pallbearer and helped carry their caskets. When both of my grandmothers died, I was in another corner of the world, too far away to help. These are the only times I’ve ever truly felt far from home. I would like to have been able to carry them, too, if only to say goodbye and thank you.

When a woman is born, she is born with all of the egg cells she will carry. So when Lura Emily Smith gave birth to my mother, in some sense my sister and I were there as well, at least in part. I loved all of my grandparents very much. They were all wonderful people who helped me become who I am. I miss them all. Still, there’s something different this time. My mother’s mother was the last to go, and maybe the hardest to take.

She will be missed every bit as much as she was loved.

№ 285 (Horizons, Time, and Death)

In Yamanashi prefecture, Japan

This post originally appeared on a previous incarnation of a personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date. 


Yesterday morning I woke at about 8:00 AM to the sound of a hundred children cheering in unison, singing a chant I did not understand but found wonderful to hear. The closest thing I can relate it to is being woken by a cat that loves you and nuzzles your face when it can’t stand your being asleep any longer.

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№ 284 (In the Wind)

This post originally appeared on a previous personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date.


Long ago I pried open the shutters
And simply let the hinges rust
Allowed them to corrode in the salt spray
Declining shelter in favor of honesty

When the wind blows in
The wind blows clean through
Sometimes a slacking breeze
Sometimes a howling gale

Carefully I watch the instruments
Thermometers and anemometers
Hygrometers and barometers
Doing my best to anticipate each storm

I have no choice but to weather each one, regardless
Awareness doesn’t lesson the impact
But mindfulness calibrates the response
And informs the nature of the experience

№ 283 (A Tiny Gear With Wings)

This post originally appeared on a previous personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date. 


On the morning of March thirty-first, I and five bags containing the bulk of my relevant possessions boarded Delta flight DL296 from Shanghai to Tokyo. This was long overdue, as anyone who has known me for any amount of time would tell you, and in ways a very fulfilling experience. However, it came at an extremely difficult time and was not the wholly positive experience I had always hoped it would be. It was, for example, a transition that signaled the failure of a five-year relationship, despite my best efforts. Also evident was the realization of what not having had the confidence to pursue what was truly important to me had cost me.

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№ 282 (Of One Who Came and Went)

This post originally appeared on a previous personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date.

This is a poem written for a woman who I fell in love with at the worst possible time, but who made me remember who I was after nearly a decade in toxic relationships that slowly poisoned me and made me a stranger to myself. She’s long gone now, but she’ll always be someone I remember in a special way. She gave me a wonderful gift. She gave me back my Self. 

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№ 281

This post originally appeared on a previous personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date. 


Suppressing the fear of death makes it all the stronger. The point is only to know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that “I” and all other “things” now present will vanish, until this knowledge compels you to release them – to know it now as surely as if you had just fallen off the rim of the Grand Canyon. Indeed you were kicked off the edge of a precipice when you were born, and it’s no help to cling to the rocks falling with you. If you are afraid of death, be afraid. The point is to get with it, to let it take over – fear, ghosts, pains, transience, dissolution, and all. And then comes the hitherto unbelievable surprise; you don’t die because you were never born. You had just forgotten who you are.

Alan W. Watts, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

We are vapors and fine gray ash, riding the currents of our own spirit, rising to meet and mix with the clouds of our dreams, both joyful and ghastly. It’s all ephemeral. Marvel at it as it roils and flows, no shape remaining for long. Just as no man can stand in the same river twice, we cannot exist in the same universe twice. It is ever-changing and so are we. The greatest mistake we can make is to cling to it, to try to hold on. That is, of couse, unless you enjoy the feeling of loss as it all slips through your fingers. Better to let go and relax, see where the currents take you. Breathe deep, loosen your grip, and remember that impermanence is a gift. Grasping at the ethereal is un-faith in your own existence.

So let go, already. Realize what you are and aren’t and that neither idea amounts to much. Accept it. Accept that we are all lost. Accept that nobody around you knows what the hell they’re doing and that’s OK. We’re all on the same beautuiful sinking ship, and that includes the sea.