A sombre event
Dark glasses to hide the tears
Thinking of Japan
Chit chat chitter chat
Rosellas on the power lines
With a whirr they’re gone
Dawn has just broken
The street trees turned into gold
Old moon in the east
My friend Rupert holds great reverence for all things Japanese. It was Rupert who re-introduced me to Basho (how could I have left him covered in dust for all those years?) and, too, to the sounds of the traditional wind instrument shakahachi and stringed instrument, koto.
Rupert, Lisa Roberts (she of the lyrical krill and coccolithophors) and I met in Christchurch at the Imagining Antarctica conference hosted by Gateway Antarctica in --- heavens, when was it --- 2007? The Ant. conference happened to fall during the same week as Christchurch Writers' Week, so the city was a-buzz with creative zealots. I'd heard - though not really listened to - a shakuhachi a handful of times before.
At the end of our day's meetings, a group of us walked into town to a restaurant beside the Avon River - 'Sticky Fingers' was on what's known as 'The Strip' on Oxford Terrace. We had a delicious meal with Central Otago red wine and wide-roaming conversation. Penelope was with us; I vividly recall her recounting the dream she'd had a few nights before - the dream that ultimately gave rise to her inspiring e-publishing company, Rosa Mira Books - yes! Reality is born of dreams.). After dinner, Rupert unsheathed his shakuhachi, walked over to a darkened corner of the restaurant and played a piece of ancient Japanese music for us.
The shakuhachi is an instrument that's all about 'the breath.' It's played in an attitude of mindfulness - i.e, meditatively and with the intention of humility and 'offering' rather than one of performance. I find its sound haunting - it puts me in mind of words like 'origin' and 'ancient', 'sacred', 'source', 'pure' and 'distillation.'
In the relatively short time I've known Rupert, he has written a great many haikus. These days, he generally writes between one and three haikus and/or senryus a week. In the recent e- that carried the three poems above, Rupert wrote, "Three haikus - actually, one senryu and two haikus - this week. On Saturday I went to a memorial event in the Japanese gardens near here for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Japan's ambassador was there and one of my shakuhachi-playing friends played Tamuke, a traditional piece often played at funerals. It means prayer for a safe passage and is very beautiful. . . "
Last month, Rupert - who lives in Canberra - played his shakuhachi every lunchtime to raise money for the Red Cross earthquake fund in Christchurch. The month before that, he played for the flood-affected people of Victoria; this coming month, he will again be busking for the people of Christchurch this time donating his earnings to MANY AS ONE. Thank you for this beautiful gesture, Rupert.
Rupert busking in Canberra - April 2011