A friend gave me a book he thought I would like. It was Sam Hamill’s translation of “Narrow road inland” by Matsuo To hito, Japan’s most revered haiku poet. I had read it many years ago, but was glad to open it again.
Basho’s aesthetic of simplicity and appreciation of the worn and humble appealed to me when I was a graduate student in philosophy and Japanese language and culture.
Hamill’s edition includes the transliterated haiku in our alphabet, so I could actually follow the original, especially since the poems are so short. I found myself speaking the words of a long-dead poet in his own language.
I met a young friend for lunch at one of Austin’s food trucks. We arrived early and waited in the shade of the junipers. I shared some haiku I had written and gave him the Penguin edition of Basho.
Recently, I consciously tried to make young friends. Matthew has a mind like diamonds and a tender heart like clover. He’s between jobs now – he once helped produce Richard Linklater’s film ‘Apollo 10 1/2’ and the video series ‘Fact.” My wife teaches summer camp, so Matt and I had free time during the week.
We decided to go to Santa Fe, where my cousin Bob lives. We were packing sleeping bags and crashing on the floor of his one-room apartment like two Buddhist Beatniks.
We listened to an audiobook on consciousness and the split brain along the way, but by Iain McGilchrist the prose only served to give Matthew a long period of unconsciousness.
The following days, we went on a road trip. One was from chimayowhere we visited healing sanctuary. In a chapel, dirt would have restorative powers. It’s easy to scoff at this, but the little side chapel dedicated to prayers for sick and dying children was poignant. The walls were covered with pictures of children, some with birth and death dates. The ceiling was festooned with small shoes.
We have also seen smoke from fires on the other side of the Sangre de Cristo range. Intense fires create their own local climate, and we watched in fascination from a distance.
A very pleasant middle-aged Native American woman engaged us in conversation. She told us she was a Navajo storyteller, had been an extra in several movies, and the ice cream she ate was good, but not as good as in Italy.
Matthew introduced me to his friend James, a writer for the Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return immersive arts cooperative. It’s a complex installation with a backstory, hidden passages and amazing technology.
I was fascinated by the laser harp. In a dark room filled with light fog, I created music with three rows of red laser lights. I could have spent a lot more time there.
James is a wonderful young man, intelligent, full of vitality and enthusiastic. we went to eat pizza in a place full of beautiful people. We hit it off immediately.
I made another new young writer friend. On my way home, I visited old poet friends in Albuquerque.
Just like Basho would have done.
– Frank T. Pool is an award-winning columnist and poet who grew up on Maple Street in Longview and graduated from Longview High School. He is a semi-retired teacher living in Austin. [email protected] .