the river's soft skin slows wild rapids of my heart running to the sea
if today i die may beauty be my only footprints in the sand
Ikigai, raison d’être, purpose, legacy… What is it, ultimately, that propels you forward in life? That keeps your fires burning at night and wakens you from your morning slumber? That enables you to rise again and once again, after each and every stumble or fall? That heals your grieving heart after loss? That brings you to your feet when life has brought you to your knees? That causes you to smile, once again?
Now and then life brings these questions to me, and inevitably, in one way or the other, I always come back to hózhó. Hózhó is the Navajo word for “beauty,” however, it is not limited to notions of aesthetic beauty but encapsulates a profound paradigmatic lens of beauty as composite expression of harmony, peace, balance, and reciprocity. Hózhó is my north star and my raison d’être.
And what is yours?
They say that each of us has come here for a reason, to fulfill some particular longing of the soul. Perhaps it is to experience joy, or love. Perhaps it is to be joy, or love, or beauty. Perhaps it is to learn how to rise again and smile, against all odds. Perhaps it is to acquire a soft heart after hardship. Or to discover light at the end of the tunnel, or to become that light. And it could simply be to discover whatever it actually is—that, that seemingly eternal chimera.
Whatever yours is, may it propel you ever forward on your path. May you walk in beauty. May you journey well. May your dreams be fulfilled.
Kyoto Coffee flowers startle white in the black night caffeine-steeped
and camouflaged in e l e g a n c e i awaken all enchanted the wild blossoms are singing light into new day .
I wrote the original version of this poem about three years ago, after enjoying coffee in an elegant cup at a café in Kyoto. After a long talk with a good friend, the night was late and I cycled back to my small, secluded-away in a quiet and dimly-lit neighborhood near ancient temple grounds in Higashiyama, house. Along the way, I was startled to encounter these white flowers glowing out of the darkness—similar to the white flower on my black coffee cup just a short while earlier. What magic potion had I just consumed, I pondered, in the guise of an elegant Kyoto cup of coffee? Little did I know then, just how truly magical and extraordinary our worlds can be. And I was entirely guileless as to the adventure I’d unknowingly embarked upon. But here I am now, three years later, still traversing these caffeine-steeped nights of enchantment. And what has emerged? Worlds of poetry, beauty, magic, and a precious love—like no other.
So what it the moral of the story?
Surrender to the irrational demands of your heart and of beauty, to this wild world far too vast to be contained within the narrow confines of our minds. And something more magical than you could have ever dreamed of will welcome you, on the other side of night.
This is a simple story.
The other day I went for a walk and found a small park with a bench and a very large tree. Sitting there, I took in the surrounding quiet, light, and pleasure of watching a mother and child playing together. And even still, the light weight of an infinite digital universe in my palm took me out of the quiet, the light, and the simple joy. With so much to “do”—I disappeared altogether from the park.
Then, for some reason, some beckoning from a mysterious somewhere calls and… I looked up. Spinning through the air through the blue through the soft light there, came these two leaves together on one stem. In the park once again. Awake again. My heart beating, once again. I promise to put my phone away and walk over to where the spinning lovers landed. My journey is not solitary. And I collect this little treasure and thank the voices from beyond and my heart is filled again, with quiet with light and with joy.
two leaves on one stem suddenly across the sky spin love into flight
One of the loveliest things about strolling along the beach is finding seashells. Some of them call out to you, with a little coy glimmer or a slight beckoning and irresistible sigh. “Come, take me home with you, let me adorn your shelves, let me remind you of the sea and its beauty every day” they whisper. And others even more beguiling, “For you, I have made the arduous journey and stranded myself upon this shore! Do not leave here without me.” Alas, what heartless soul does not succumb to the romance of seashells?
Like seashells, poems too find their own ways of surfacing into our meandering minds and our wanderlust—just at the very precise moment we need them. Our wayfaring souls are steered by poetry and seashells alike.
Here is a poem by Khalil Gribran which articulates an inevitable journey to the sea, to the ocean of becoming. And on the eve of 2022, and of all the unknown ahead, I pause on its sandy shore and watch the waves rolling in. Shall I walk back now to the familiar comforts of my faraway motherland, or shall I plunge into this ocean, this unknowable depth with a million and one shades of blue—unabashed, without reserve, naked, and wholeheartedly?
Fear It is said that before entering the sea a river trembles with fear. She looks back at the path she has traveled, from the peaks of the mountains, the long winding road crossing forests and villages. And in front of her, she sees an ocean so vast, that to enter there seems nothing more than to disappear forever. But there is no other way. The river can not go back. Nobody can go back. To go back is impossible in existence. The river needs to take the risk of entering the ocean because only then will fear disappear, because that’s where the river will know it’s not about disappearing into the ocean, but of becoming the ocean. Khalil Gibran
t um blin g at the edge of the world i fall down tumbling with the awkward grace of a dancer unhinged unfettered unbridled and entirely undone free free now and cascading freely down and over the edge and at last tumbling tumbling down t um blin g down and and into the l i g h t
between worlds i fly with stars sun and moon dancing my heart wide open
One of the precious things about friends is that they do little things for you which they know will mean a lot. The above photo is a painting of an ancient Japanese dancer holding a branch of tsubaki (camellia) flowers. To me, the painting expresses a unity of nature and dancer, freedom of movement within tradition and continuity, as well as love and sheer joy. Grace and surrender. Ecstasy. It is everything I’d wish to express myself, in my own dancing body.
Knowing that I would love this painting, my friend who happened upon it by chance, took a photo and sent it to me. And for this alone, I will treasure our friendship forever. There are these threads which we do not see, and yet they are there nonetheless—somewhere and somehow, weaving together our gestures and our footsteps into criss-cross patterns in the unfathomable sky.
We are dancing this mysterious journey, together, across seas of tumultuous unknowns… across space with no dimension and time with no border. Dancing, without destination nor particular goal. We dance, for love. For joy. We dance to dance the dance.
It is a prayer in the dark; and sacred offering in the light.
I will be there dancing, always.
To dance for you. To dance with you.
To dance the dance.
*仲間 nakama means friends or partners in the same group, often those you have a long-term relationship with and shared experiences. This mini-essay was written for my traditional Japanese dance nakama, to whom I am infinitely grateful.
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 A… A Journey Home By Michiru Adrienne