In the Footsteps of Matsuo Basho
A mystery, whether my journey was a pilgrimage, coming of age or penance. 17th century Japan closed its borders to nurture its culture and likewise, I locked myself off to family, friends and the world in order to develop my mind. Regarding Matsuo Basho as an absent master, I was following in his footsteps. “Footsteps” being the ultimate word as I was determined to walk from his birthplace in Ueno and follow his route. Along the way I contemplated this supreme Japanese who abandoned his samurai life to develop poetry. Like Basho, I studied Zen philosophy and spent many hours meditating.
The meagre contents of my backpack emphasised that I had said goodbye for a time to Western dependence on commodities. A few changes of clothes, toiletries, bedding and cash intermingled with his books. In fact “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” was my prized possession. Like my Master, I wrote haiku about peonies, bees, frogs and nature. Sadly, I had not met any fellow poets, so there was no renga composed yet. Perhaps just as well locals shied away from my unkempt rugged appearance, as I had not perfected harmony, a Zen quality or simplistic comparisons in my haiku. Gazing at a perfectly formed peony, I was beginning to see the secretive promises in small things and interdependence of all life. Walking through ancient villages, I began to appreciate the sabi in his poetry, his love of the dimmed, inconspicuous and the hoary. Like my master, I wanted to live like a gentle spirit. Other than eating in simple restaurants, showering in lodges, I lived austerely. Now I was heading towards his Cottage of the Plantain, but unlike my Master, I could not totally retire from society.
Under a cherry blossom tree inhaling both its delicate fragrance and travelogue words, I hoped for spiritual enlightenment and reaffirmation of values. Deluding myself into believing that I was a meditative hermit-like poet. In reality, I knew that the 21st century would tear me back to the corporate world. But meanwhile-
Strong plain tender fragile mindful