in touch with the world

When a poet brainstorms, writing somewhat stream of consciousness for an essay, it turns into an essay-poem or a poem-essay! What genre is this?! It is, a meditation on touch. 

in touch with the world 

touch, is the fundamental sense
the connective tissue between inner and outer worlds
bringing the faraway full moon into spectacular view
and the sweet sound of a loved one singing
straight into the heart
waves and particles crashing and colliding
connecting
childhood memories to the smell
of chocolate chip cookies baking, and 
fourth of July sparklers burning, bright

like the sea to coral reefs, or 
the sky to rainbows 
touch is the universe materialized 
made sensate and knowable, tangible 
to the heart and mind alike
to fingers, toes, and taste buds

the abyss
is touch deprivation
soundless, sightless, without taste or smell
senseless
love itself
an unknowable abstract intangible
void

in touch with the world
we are caressed by the flight of butterfly wings
the dance of sunlight
the soft fragrance of roses
the song of the ocean 
the sugar of honey

in touch with the world
our hearts are moved 
by kind words and thoughtful gestures
by the bravery and boldness
to connect
to other hearts

in touch with the world
with your hand on my heart
mine on yours
together 
we are healed

in touch with the world
together 
with one another
we discover our selves
beautiful
holy
 

dancing for the dead

Dancing for the dead is not macabre.
Dancing for the dead, we celebrate continuity, community, and life itself. 

In Japan, Obon is a traditional celebration in which the ancestors are remembered and honored. Family altars are cleaned and special offerings are placed in front of photos of the departed. Those living in far away cities return to their hometowns and to their families. Indeed, it is said that our ancestors too, return to our homes during Obon. For the living, there are gatherings at local festivals with music, folk dances, and stalls selling food and games. Bon-odori, folk dances performed during Obon, are usually done in a circle and the movements are simple and repetitive so that everyone can enjoy dancing together. In the commemoration of “the dead”, we join together as a community and culture—vibrant and sustained.

The stars do not cease to exist during the day simply because we cannot see them. Likewise, the souls of those who have come before us do not suddenly cease to exist at the end of their days. Rather, death is like night—a passage of time between skies full of light. And like the stars, our ancestors dance among us.

do not be afraid

do not be afraid
in the quiet blanket of nighttime 
do not be afraid
dreams come alive and 
love shines in candlelit cascades of whispers 
and caresses
it is darkness which makes the stars visible
guiding us home 
unveiled and holy
do not be afraid
to cross deserts windswept wildflower fields seas and 
mountain rains
the open blue of day welcomes you
warm outstretched and
just around golden pink corners

(photo taken six years ago at an Obon festival)

may peace prevail

After atrocity, the only thing that makes any sense is peace. Survivors of the August 6, 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima have spent their lives dedicated to the abolishment of nuclear weapons, to educating succeeding generations about the horrors of war, to peace movements around the world. We do not hear of survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) advocating a retaliation against the U.S. “Never Again” is the widespread mantra among survivors of atrocities worldwide: the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Nanjing massacre, to name a few. 

Likewise, on a more individual level, the expression, “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy” is used by those who have endured some form of extreme pain or hardship. It could be surviving an excruciating illness or a traumatic act of violence. Having experienced something so painful, the natural human response is compassion. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. We don’t go about scheming how to inflict similar suffering upon others simply because we’ve suffered ourselves. On the contrary, we seek to prevent similar experiences of suffering. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, March For Our Lives, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, to name a few. 

The only thing that makes any sense, is peace. 

Many women, and #MeToo, have survived some form of domestic violence. Over my dead body, would I wish anyone the same experience—including the very man who committed the violence, including any perpetrator of violence, including, everyone. It never occurred to me to try to make the one who assaulted me suffer in some way. To respect my boundaries, my choices, my freedom—yes, to be held accountable—yes; but to inflict harm upon him—never. It simply is not worth it. What we do to others, we do to ourselves. 

The only thing that makes sense is peace. 

So what propels some of us to commit acts of violence? The answer ultimately is fear—its irrationality and ignorance. No wise sage ever, said, “Let’s bomb the @#¥%&! out of those weird people!” 

For comfort, fear seeks control; for control, fear hordes power. The power and brilliance of the sun, hijacked and desecrated, by the hands of men gone mad. In a single blinding flash at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, a fifteen meter per second firestorm in the thousands of degrees celsius ripped through Hiroshima incinerating some one hundred and forty thousand lives. Three days later on August 9, at 11:02 a.m., repeat.
Why? Why, why… why… how…..   

After atrocity, the only thing that makes any sense is peace.

Americans were scared of the “Japs”, and the Japanese were scared of the “foriegn devils”. In wartime, humans cease to be humane, seeing in one another only danger, forces of evil, and one’s own demise. Fear raises its monstrous head and slaughters everyone—indiscriminately. Everyone, every single one of us. 

My American grandfather, in WWII frenzy, derided those Japs, his future family and his own descendants—his cute granddaughters who giggled in delight when sitting in his chair anticipating being lifted out by their doting grandfather who never tired of playing the same game.

Children, in their innocence, are wiser.

ONE

Look into my eyes,
and you will see a shadow of Hiroshima.
You will see a dark room, illuminated by its single stream of
WHITE light
flowing from the humming projector as it reels GREY, WHITE, BLACK 
images onto a screen.
You will see ten silent rows of seated people,
formless figures in the darkness.
And you will hear the rusty recording,
as it comments on BLACK, WHITE, GREY
images thrown onto the cold square screen:

Atomic bomb “Little Boy” explodes at 8:15 a.m. August 6, 1945… Epicenter reaches several million degrees centigrade… ground temperature reaches 3,000 – 4,000 degrees centigrade… thirteen square kilometers completely destroyed… three hour firestorm with velocity of 15 meters per second… over one hundred and forty thousand deaths caused by “Little Boy”… 
(etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) 

b u t
the ears of a small girl have forgotten sound
listening only to naked terror run over the screen
h e l l 
Her eyes stare wide open in innocence tainted with blood, 
as the screen throws daggers into her eyes. 
Daggers of broken, burnt and twisted bodies lay strewn across an old wooden floor.

LOOK! 

s i l e n c e

Pale white light reflects from the screen
softly illuminates her tired eyes, her confusion, her small clenched fists. 
She tries with one fist, to grasp that “Little Boy” that Daddy’s country dropped, and she tries with the other fist, to grasp that firestorm that burned in Mommy’s country.
But a life of six short years knew only how to reach 
One hand to hold her mother’s
One hand to hold her father’s.

After atrocity, the only thing that makes any sense is peace.
The only thing that ever makes any sense, is peace.

Reclaim your innocence, like my grandfather did. 
Chose love. 
Be peace. 
Peace, is a verb.
Peace.

May peace prevail on earth.
May peace prevail.

hope

purified, clear light
everywhere in darkness shines
music for the deaf
vision for eyes wanting sight
and for my heart, the road home
(waka poem: 5-7-5-7-7)

What is hope, other than a beacon of clear light in the darkness? Wind behind sails crossing unknown seas. The moon in a sky of desolation. And, a heartbeat in the chamber of silence and stillness.

When we struggle, when we fall and despair, are utterly broken and feel lost, hope is the very thing that sees us through. 

How does hope come to you—in your darkness? What is your moon, and from where do the winds blow? What sound causes your heart to beat?

Even if we cannot see it, hope is that eternally rising sun on the eastern horizon—bringing with it, daylight into the night. Whether we like it or not, are ready or not, whether we open our eyes—or not… hope rises, again and again. For sometimes there is a certain comfort in the blanket of darkness, in being unseen and seeing not. We would rather evade, than wake up to our own hearts’ desires and truth. 

But hope, in its benevolence and persistence, will inevitably pierce that shell of illusive security and cast all shadows into the light. So go ahead already—shine. It is your birthright, and your destiny.

禊 Purification

Since ancient times, summer has been the season for purification in Japan. And according to the 79th Grand Master of Yamakage Shinto, Motohisa Yamakage, the earliest forms of ceremonial purification, or misogi 禊, most likely took place in the ocean—particularly where the river flowed into the sea. The two waters, conceived as masculine and feminine, symbolize in their merging, creation and rebirth. In this way, we can see that purification is intimately linked with the union of the feminine and the masculine, and the ensuing worlds of creation and growth.

Like death in the cycle of life, misogi is essential to the act of creation, and to growth. The goal of misogi is to cultivate a balanced self (body, mind, heart, spirit) that is pure and bright. This may be similar to some meditation and spiritual practices that speak of “raising one’s vibration” so as to merge with expanded levels of consciousness. However, misogi is not simply a mental exercise, it is embodied practice which resonates into every aspect of being and life.  

Misogi is the central tenet of Japanese Shinto, the indigenous, nature-based spiritual culture predating Buddhism in Japan. As such, misogi expresses itself in a myriad of ways both sacred and secular, in the daily life of contemporary Japan. At the entrance of every Shinto shrine, you will find a place to rinse your hands and mouth before entering. The physical act of cleaning one’s body is a ritual act of purification of the heart, mind, and spirit as well. Before entering a home, one removes one’s shoes at the door to prevent tracking in dirt from the outside. Japanese school children help clean their school buildings every day, and one often sees the elderly sweeping the streets outside their homes. Maintaining physical cleanliness is an all-pervasive feature of Japanese culture. It is the outer manifestation of an inner pure and bright self. 

In summer, we often long to go to the sea—as a place to rest and recuperate, to have fun and play, to release stress and to heal. We instinctively feel the purifying and healing energy in the salty air and water. It is a kind of home-coming to our ancient selves, birthed eons ago in those same waters. Reunited, refreshed, and replenished, we experience renewal. Rebirth. We can go forth, at peace with our selves and at peace with the worlds around us. We can be, a pure and bright light. 

"purification"

can i collapse
avalanche-like
into light
into wild windswept skies
and fly,
finally?

every shard of my sweet self
crumbled
and dissolved 
refined white sugar-like
into crystalline waters
transparent 
and pure,
holy

flowing and flowing
flowing finally,
to
into the open arms of 
my sea

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?

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