Star Festival

The seventh night of the seventh month (July 7) is Tanabata, or the “Star Festival” in Japan. This festival originates with an ancient story imported from China in the eighth century. According to legend, the two lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by stars Altair and Vega, are separated by the Milky Way and can only meet once a year. 

Orihime, once a hardworking weaver, and Hikoboshi, once a hardworking cowherd, neglected their work altogether after falling in love and getting married. This so angered Orihime’s father that he banished them to separate sides of Amanogawa (Heaven’s River, the Milky Way) and forbade them to see one another. Distraught, Orihime pleaded with her father to let her be with her beloved husband again. Orihime’s father then allowed the two lovers to meet once a year on July 7. 

Thus July 7 came to symbolize the fulfillment of wishes, and nowadays during the Tanabata festival, people write their wishes on colorful strips of paper and hang them on bamboo branches. Wishes are usually written in prose, but there is also a tradition of writing them as poems. Following is my Tanabata poem-wish.

七夕・Star Festival

on the seventh of the seventh
i wish for a river raft
for my love and i to sail the starry skies
—not for a one night rendezvous
across a river three hundred and sixty four days wide—
rather i wish
each and every night be
a festival of dreams and of desires
dancing into light
and dawning
each and every new day

Journey

Where are you going, little one? Little home-carrying snail crossing my path? If not home itself, what destination or desire guides your way?

We all journey. Life itself, is movement. Unlike the birds, we don’t necessarily have to fly from here to there, but our inner worlds as much as our outer worlds, are never entirely still. And whether we are literal travelers of the world or content to stay put in one place, we all traverse worlds of imagination and experience. What is the world otherwise, anyway—if not for this ongoing interplay between inner worlds of imagination and outer worlds of experience? For essentially, the imaginary and the experienced, are one dance.

Where do you dance? And what music brings you to your feet? What inner fire guides your way?

In the introduction to my recently published collection of poetry and photography, Twelve Moons & The Sea ~ A Journey Home, I describe the nature of journeying, and how each poem is like one step along the path:

Some journeys embarked on in life begin with very clear and intentional destinations or goals, charts plotted out from the very start. Other journeys reveal themselves seemingly on their own accord, with an agenda unbeknownst to the journeyer. It is precisely these most surreptitious of journeys that awaken the soul, heal the heart, and bring the journeyer into entirely new and magical terrain. Upon arrival, one discovers that each moment of the journey itself had always been destination. Likewise, each poem along the journey's path is both point of arrival and of departure, containing its own particular locus of revelation and longing. 

How do you give expression to your life’s journey? What is your poetry; what is your dance? Indeed, what is the destination in your heart, awaiting discovery and arrival?

If you are interested in my book, Twelve Moons & The Sea ~ A Journey Home, please check the link below or on the publications page of this website.

Twelve Moons And The Sea

Twelve Moons A… A Journey Home By Michiru Adrienne

Photo book

Book Preview

a cloud is a cloud is a cloud

Or not? Like me, do you see a dragon in these clouds? If you don’t, does that mean that my dragon doesn’t exist despite my having seen it? Something in the clouds which you see is indeed seen by you, even if I can’t see it. Your perception is not dependent on my agreement. And likewise, my dragon doesn’t need to exist in your mind for it to exist in mine. So what is the reality of perception?

“Pareidolia” is the perception of recognizable things and/or patterns in random visual data. Seeing a rabbit on the moon (Japan), a face in a few lines and dots :- ) or faces in the clouds, are examples of common shared pareidolia. If it is not shared or collective, does that make it less real? Even the words which you read here are a system of agreed upon meaning imposed upon abstract form, but are not necessarily any more “real” in of themselves, than my dragon in the clouds.

In an article from Psyche digital magazine, a team of neuroscientists investigate the link between pareidolia and creativity, and by extension, the nature of perception and consciousness itself. They ask the questions, “Is all of perception an illusion? … How can we distinguish a complete illusion, or delusion, from a useful creative interpretation?” Does usefulness correlate with the degree to which the pareidolia or said perception is shared? Is meaning a matter of collectiveness and community, whereas delusion is a form of isolation? 

For example, every Japanese person can see a rabbit on the moon pounding mochi (rice cake), and mochi-pounding events are part of traditional autumn festivities related to celebrating the harvest moon. Thus, the collective pareidolia has had significant meaning and usefulness to an entire culture of people for millennia. Furthermore, a Japanese person who claimed to be unable to see a rabbit on the moon pounding mochi, I dare say, would be perceived as delusional in Japan. 

But does that mean there actually are rabbits on the moon—pounding mochi? Does it matter?

Buddhism and the sages of India have long declared that everything is maya, or illusion. A notion similarly and somewhat humorously expressed in “western” terms by British psychologist Richard Gregory: “It seems to be profoundly true that all perceptions are loosely controlled hallucinations.” 

Perhaps reality is not a matter of collective versus individual perception. And if not perception itself nor the thing in of itself, like Gertude Stein’s a rose is a rose is a rose, then what is it? Is it the cloud or the dragon, both or neither? After all, both cloud and dragon do not exist outside the realm of my experiential perception.

Could it be that reality is essentially a matter of belief? And that when it comes to understanding the world in which we live, the heart is a more powerful instrument of perception than the brain? Afterall, if I don’t believe in my dragon in the clouds, how can he bring me gifts of rainbows and messages from the gods? Perhaps reality—the world and our experience of it—is simply a poem in the making… nothing more or less than a beautiful song or a delicate dance… an ongoing creative work of art.

What is your art? and the nature of your craft?

Who are you?

Though we seem to be sleeping, there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are.  
—Rumi

Who are you? Not what is your name, job title, or societal roles… which are but outer expressions of the self. But who are you, actually? Surely there is an inner self with which you came into this world before family and culture could mold you; and with which you will eventually depart this world, shed of all its trappings. Who is this self?

Another way to contemplate the same question might be to ask, “What brings you joy?” Naturally, we will generally reply with references to people in our lives, our partners or children, for example. Or our favorite activities and things or accomplishments. It is true that dancing and chocolate cake bring me joy, as well as roses, poetry, and my loved ones. But why? How is it that for me joy arises while dancing but not while running, while eating chocolate but not licorice? The self that derives joy from dancing but not from running, is indeed the very same self. So underneath the particularities of the whats is something more fundamental—joy itself. 

Or perhaps we might be startled back to the truth of who we are by considering our raison d’être. Why are you here? For what reason do you exist? Surely joy is intimately intertwined with one’s own raison d’être. But like joy, it is not exactly the particular whats that is of most significance, not necessarily the raison but the d’être that is more fundamental. 

Être. Just being. What arises when you sit quietly, listening to your heartbeat? What do you feel? In the characteristic excitement and chaos of life, we may feel an entire spectrum of emotions… sadness, delight, fear, worry, happiness, melancholy, anger, and so on. But if we keep listening, keep paying attention and being present, we will eventually discern something fundamental underneath it all.
When all the clouds in the sky have passed by, what remains? Light.
When the monsters of fear step out of the shadows and into the light, what is revealed? Love. 

Can it be that the dance of our likes and dislikes, our preferences and particularities, our biases themselves, are the garden in which love grows to discover itself? The garden in which the fundamental joy of being is the light which startles us back to nothing other than the truth of who we are? To nothing other than Love its self. 

Walk In Beauty

Many years ago I was on a road trip through the American southwest and in a bookstore somewhere, stumbled across a small square book titled: Navajo, Walking in Beauty. It was then that I was first introduced to the Navajo word hózhó. Roughly translated into English as “beauty”, hózhó encompasses the concepts of harmony, balance, and reciprocal relations. Instantly, I fell in love. I was deeply moved by the possibility that beauty is an expression of harmony and profound spiritual realization—a perception that understands beauty to be both embodied aesthetic expression, as well as ineffable and transcendent sensibility.

Hózhó is realized by aligning one’s self with the forces of nature. It is a dynamic and ongoing process of harmonizing the self with the world and the entirety of the universe and existence. To “walk in beauty” is in essence, to live a life of harmony and peace.  

Following is the concluding refrain from a Navajo ceremonial song:

Beauty before me, I walk with.
Beauty behind me, I walk with.
Beauty above me, I walk with.
Beauty below me, I walk with.
Beauty all around me, I walk with.
In old age, the beautiful trail, I walk with.
It is I, I walk with.

Not only is one blessed to walk in a world of beauty, but in the end one becomes beauty itself. Hózhó. It is with this understanding of beauty by which I am most inspired to express myself in the world. Through my writing, photography, dance and poetry, I hope to invoke this world of hózhó. Whether on this website and blog, my social media pages or publications, I hope you will find inspiration and hózhó for your own journey through life. May you walk in beauty.

if today i die
may beauty be my only 
footprints in the sand

Dance & Art

Dance, like sunlight, is a fundamental art. Who has never danced? The world of nature and the worlds of art coexist to create expressive ecologies in which the stories of our human lives play out on the world stage. Nature, of which we are a part, is intelligent design—an ever unfolding artistic expression. When we recognize nature itself as artist, it may become easier to access and express our own inherent creative life force and expression. 

So go ahead and throw open wide, the windows of your heart and soul—dance with the sun and stars, sing with the wind and waves.

舞 dance

after passing so many moons
my feet
reunited with tabi and tatami
delight, in mosslike spring of steps
while the folds of my kimono
breathe, together with this dancing body
and obi’s embrace
yields floating spaces
in the light orbits of wrists
elbows and hip creases,
and knees lowering to the floor

i raise my mai-ohgi skywards
leaving trails of sparkles twinkling
in this room full of twilight
i am dancing my love
into prayer
my heart into song
my soul
into a poem
for this weary world,
and for my beloved
who, among the stars dances 
with me 

*tabi: a kind of Japanese sock with a split between the big toes and other toes
*tatami: traditional Japanese flooring made of straw
*kimono: traditional Japanese clothing
*obi: the belt-like sash worn to secure kimono in place
*mai-ohgi: dance fan (a close-up is pictured in the photo above)

Voice

Everything in nature expresses itself naturally. Water flows to the sea, winds wail through crevices in the canyon, flowers unfurl to the sun, and rocks sing into the night under a canopy of stars. Humans, in our at times unnatural self-consciousness, often have a conflicted relationship with self-expression, with the simple and natural expression of being. With our own voice.

Some sectors of society would silence the voice of others, as seen in recent arrests of Myanmar celebrities speaking out against the military coup. Freedom of expression is a hotly contested concept in democracies and dictatorships alike. Liberation itself is often linked to the capacity to voice one’s opinions, to author one’s own stories, to represent one’s own realities through self-expression. 

Taboos too, societal conventions and norms, often suppress an otherwise free-flowing form of selfhood. Boys should not cry and girls should not dictate. For example. But who would tell the moon not to wax and wane, the sun not to shine?  
How do you flow and what is the nature of your voice? What is the consequence of inhibition? And of freedom?

Many years ago I studied Aikido, a form of Japanese martial arts developed in the 20th century by Ueshiba Morihei. One of the exercises I practiced was “kiai”, which is to shout when delivering a strike. For a girl turned woman who had been taught to never “raise her voice”, learning how to shout was extremely difficult. It felt as though I’d been told to sing underwater without drowning, or to open a sealed iron vault without touching it. Psychosomatically, I could not yell. But eventually, my small whimper of a kiai turned into a proper, loud, strongly voiced shout. I would like all women to preserve the raw, naked, life-affirming and powerful cry they came into the world with. Voicelessness, at times, is deadly. 

This is my voice. Writing and poetry. A dance, and survival. Like fire, I want my body to burn bright. To shine in the darkness. 

Grace

released by the wind
sakura petals flutter
alive in a dance 

Grace derives its irresistible gravity from surrender. Just as water acquiesces to the form of its container and flows around boulders and bends on its way home to the sea, surrender to the pull of gravity facilitates movement and harmonizes effort. Gravity is not merely a downwards weight; it is dynamic attraction in any direction. Birds in flight, and the clouds too, have their own gravity. Sakura blossoms unfurl to the gravity of spring, opening into floating clouds of delicate pink light. And the gravity of sakura themselves, draws out an entire nation of people into festivity.

In Japan, national news forecasts the blossoming of sakura as it generally starts in the southwestern parts of Japan and spreads gradually across the country to northeastern regions. Suddenly there are flocks of people out in the parks and along the river banks, toting massive cameras, obento, beer, blankets, sometimes a portable karaoke set, and more beer. Even unseasonably cold weather and rain will not deter the Japanese from indulging in sakura beauty. We are a diehard hanami people. 

Children “fish” for floating sakura petals in the river, lovers sit in their pink bubbles of oblivion, co-workers drink and party together sharing the otherwise unsharable, families lunch and laugh while university students karaoke late into the night, and old couples stroll slowly by… And the poet? She becomes sakura. Surrendered to drunken beauty she dances, swirling in the midst of all the wind and water and petals, light and pink. Alive. 

Grace too, has its own gravity – like sakura in spring.