Know place phore zen

“All questioning is a way of avoiding the real answer, which as Zen tells us, is already known.  Every person is enlightened but wishes he or she was not.” 
R. H. Blythe

I do not know what others think about the Zen related publications by Blythe. He also did a series of books on haiku; I do not know what others think about those either.

A monk asked Gensha, “The Supreme Doctrine—is there any explanation of it recently?’ Gensha said, “We don’t hear such a thing often.”

I am fortunate to live near Alameda Creek where I can often walk along the levee, This was last week; one thing I like  about where I live is the weather.


Mumon wrote:
If you understand the first word of Zen
You understand the last;
But these two words 
Are not one word.
Mumonkan    CaseXIII   The Verse (Blyth translation0


Blyth’s Mumonkan was the third complete translation into English, but the first one which was accompanied by extensive interpretive commentaries on each case.


They can be enjoyed for their place in time . . .every year it is different.

alamedaCreek0827_24%ppi100D800.jpgEveryday I walk, it seems my own commitments are all I ever have, Do they have any meaning,? Why get up in the morning, “These songs of freedom , they’re all I ever have,  Redemption Songs.” (Bob Marley).


When I take myself too _________________ (insert word), I remember that one reason I am here is because my neighbor does not kill me, and I do not kill my neighbor.


I will go unbounded standing outside at your door.
(words taken from a song by Eric Anderson)


This belonged in the series in the previous post but I did not know it when I made it. You will see what I mean if when you get to the end of this post you continue to scroll to the previous one.


On the wall in the Shibuya station there were eight continuous digital screens, each 10 feet wide, maybe 8 ft high.  In this image you see two screens with four vertical images, total twenty feet long.


sometimes a single image would appear across all on eight screens, about 80 feet . . .this probably shows almost three screens of a building against the sky, a single image  which extended across ten screens.


Different 8 foot screens would have different images. Perhaps as in the first example two vertical images per screen, or any combination as you like it, even to make a story  unfold to someone as they are  walking  past. What an interesting medium to work in!


Margaret Tafoya used bear paws, the kiva step, mountain, clear sky and buffalo horns as designs on her pottery. While many “great artists” get exhibitions in museums, you have to go there, pay, stand up, and you look at something and try to figure  out what it means— I find it  kind of a bother. But design of our everyday functional things, its just a part of our life. In Japan “good design”  is part of the everyday life people.

What you do, who you are, in your working life makes a difference in this world. Integrity and ethics matter.


In the western world there is fashion, not that Japanese  do not have fashion, but its within design.  In the west  fashion is or may be, outside of design and success is not about the meaning  of design but generated by money—purchases in the market  by people with little sense of design and too often find their “design appreciation” in the publicly exposed  label.

For most people the daily stuff they interact with often lacks meaning, whether it costs a lot or a little, whether its high fashion or common fashion.


A block from Yasukuni Shrine, surrounded by tall buildings . . .


Torii at entrance to Yasukuni Shrine. Torii, the gate people walk under at the entrance of a Shinto shrine, and smaller torii at entrances to smaller shrines within the grounds. They are generally red or concrete.


Yasukuni Shrine is politically controversial, however it is more of an international political issue than a domestic one.  Shinto and even more so this shrine, are connected to traditional feelings of national unity and sovereignty.


Last week there was an article in the newspaper on “to who does art belong,” my gut response was What is Art?  First you have to know what Art is before you can determine to who it beings.

. . . Then I remembered my thought on this question from about eight years ago . . .


Know foe tow too, day

As a child in the 1950s  my family visited Mackinac Island, there was no bridge then , you tooth ferry from the mainland to the island, We drove up there, camped out, woke up at 3AM to get in an automobile line to get on the ferry. Sometime this line of cars on the road could be very long, no cars were  allowed on the island but I cannot remember where cars were parked or why they would even on be the ferry. Maybe there was a parking lot where people left their cars  and then got on the ferry.

People would start lining their cars up about 3AM, often with thermoses of coffee and  maybe something to eat, there might even be people with  the ability to cook—there were not enough motels for the tourist season, it was not an urban area and there were campgrounds—tourist time would be summer, and in the hours between sun rise and opening of the ferry service, people would put their car in line, turn off the ignition, get out  of the car with coffee, maybe a donut or something home cooked and stand around and talk to each other. As the ferry opening time approached while  talking with others they would be increasingly  sneaking glances watching for some tell tale movement in the line—having conversations where  the story you tell cannot be too long as it might not be finished.

But this image was in Cambridge, MA, 1971


Someone made pottery  with their hands and fired it, some one attached it to the wall, straight, somewhere SOMA in San Francisco


Memorial Day Parade, 1970, Marshall MN. When I was young there would a parade, usually local  groups involved in community affairs and/or representing some local interest  would have a contingent  walking in the parade. At the end  would be kids with their bikes decorated with  colored crepe paper.


Cambridge Wall circa 1972, probably somewhere between Harvard  and Central  Squares


James 1970, Haymarket, one afternoon


James before or after beard,


James 2015


James in San Francisco, 2015


Myles, 1973,  photograph by James. I have had this image for many years . . . to me  it feels like the 1960, or maybe what they could have been or graciously were not.  it usually hangs on a wall somewhere in my house, though not now—when we installed a new floo, everything got packed into boxes and moved to the garage, stuff had been accumulating for 20+ years and it is coming back in slowly, sparingly and cautiously.


Brooklyn,  photograph by James. He walked around, met people and made a photograph. jamed002_800

Last week  on national news there was a crime event reported which occurred in  Strong, or Farmington ME and  also mentioned Franklin County,   I forgot, nor could I find it on one google search,  but its the same time of the year as this image, County Fair,  circa 1970.


The busy street, late afternoon shadows from tall buildings,  and people strangers to each other but sharing a reason  to be in the same area at the same time—here no one is attacking or abusing  an other person.


They were discussing money outside her place of employment, or maybe she owned it, there was not enough time  to assess the situation and while it probably  was none of my business they were speaking loud enough to make it my business  . . .


The new Sales Force building attracts  people,  three young women and a baby  but if you are walking around, and listen, you ar  just as likely to hear three women walking and talking about business  strategies . . .


One afternoon, the end of my day walk , somewhere down on Market street near a BART station entrance  this man was texting himself, or thats what he told me, I did not look at the screens . . .   the arrows point up, the sign says “from above” but he is  not seeking something from above.


“A potter should start with an intuitive concept—he/she  thinks of a combination of shape, pattern, and color which will answer a given need futility and beauty at one and the same time.”

 Beyond East & West   Bernard Leach

Maybe it applies to whatever you do, including making mannequins for store window displays. Personally  I  prefer A Potter’s Handbook  to his memoirs.


Mom lived in a memory care facility  for a few years,  after lunch we would sometimes retire to her room, sit and talk . . . the wall hanging is from South Africa, the design uses simple contrasts to express  the visual experience— 7 sheep, three trees,  four houses with one house bigger and lighter contrast to 3 smaller, but the same shape and color, and the mountains contrast pointy and round.


Zen mined out, left for dead

When I was  in graduate school studying Sociology, late 1960s, I did some photography for the Model Cities project.  I made this photograph, for some reason reticulated the film in development, made a few prints, and lost the negative, so this image  awas made from a scan of a reticulated print, digitized, the image bought into a page layout program, printed  to a PDF which was opened  in photoshop,  saved as a digital image optimized for 800 pixels at 72ppi.

It was middle afternoon, they had just arrived, no money, close to no gas  hungry, 800 miles from a rural home in an old worn-out car  full of possessions— so young to be so poor and looking for  hope.


San Francisco— Faces, jackets, hands, legs and shoes, all  in two step.


Feet feat, fate fete, what weights  fore me. . .


I meet people for a few minutes, talk, I remember my parents, my father worked for the same company all his life, had a comfortable retirement, passed away,  left my mom provided for. She was never lonely, never hungry, always had place to sleep and never walked the streets alone hoping for a conversation. Actually I do not know what this man’s life was really like. We talked for about 15 minutes.


Feels like Eastern Europe or something in a fairy tale  but its San Francisco, North Beach area late  one Sunday afternoon.


Part of the history of Zen are the stories of the transmission  of the Buddha-Mind, beginning in India with Shaka Buddha holding the flower and  Kasyapa smiling, through 28 Indian patriarchs to Bodhitara who took the  name Bodhidharma when he  took Dhyana to China becoming the First Patriarch of Chan, on through to the Sixth Patriarch, and for a few centuries chan became diversified.

About 1200 Dogen, from Japan, visited China and stole Zen to , establish Eiheiji and Soto Zen in  Japan.


When you farm and someone dies, may be their children went to college and sought careers  else where leaving no-one to pass the farm on to,  an auction where the audience is other local farmers, perhaps friends perhaps not, but all bidders on the last possessions of their fellow farmer. What are they thinking as they stand there for hours, waiting for the piece of equipment they need and cannot get a loan to buy new.

After they buy a piece or two of equipment and later when using it in the field or in the barn  do they remember the auction, do they think  of their fellow farmer no longer here, or is there always  just work to be done,


Wine glasses in a San Francisco window .. . . one thing about a photograph  is that when a person sees it, they do not expect it to be perfect. Exposure? No, that should be perfect; Printing,  No that should be perfect; —. these are skills of  hand,  the measure of the artist.

But somehow in a photograph, regarding inclusion or non-inclusion of “things,” there is always something that will be out of human control, something  preventing the design from being perfect. Perhaps the difference between a snapshot and photograph is that while both may include something  “not seen”  before composing the image, in the photograph it some how naturally belongs.

 If you look at the wine glasses there is symmetry; if you look at the reflections in the wine glasses there is uniqueness, not all questions need to be answered.


Kuro-Oribe guinomi and bizen tokkuri. Oribe has a long history, centuries, when you  see an Oribe bowl from 400 years ago, or yesterday you know by  feel it is Oribe and still you will feel the individuality of the potter.

Bizen is spoken in tone, texture, and form. You feel Bizen with the touch of your  hand.


Ikea—I am emotionally  moved with anticipation  whenever I think about  “going to Ikea,”  I only give in about once every four or five years,  Get there, searching around in the multi floored parking garage—Did I say we usually end up going on a weekend”always crowded, ” find the first floor, go up the escalator, and start the walk through the store from top to bottom. I used to like the mac &cheese but usually the cafeteria is so full by the time I arrive at my turn to order I have talked myself out of the calories.

There is a lot of fun stuff to visually experience, but  I find myself ready  to leave before I have reached the end but  still I do not know where is  my wife.

I made this image, its a piece of someone else’s design, but only some of it and I have taken  these elements from the design  of another to make an other design,

Is it fair to say a design of my own? Did I steal from this designer?

Perhaps its just me making an image of an experience I had and the judgement is whether it communicates the visual experience I intended, which was at best just a moment of fun.


Japantown, San Jose, a Saturday afternoon on a corner in sight of San Jose Tofu when San Jose Tofu was still making the best tofu in the Bay Area— Daruma maintained by tax payer money.psd2260X_650.jpg

Ed and Angie, A good enough reason to keep your love going for ever. Ed suffered from old age memory loss, maybe Alzheimer’s,  I got to know him because my mother was in the same memory care facility.

Ed would spend the day looking for Angie and  she came every day, this was a halloween event, but other wise every day she looking  beautiful for Ed.


This year it seems there will be no persimmons on our tree, We had peaches, there are always too many to eat in too short a time, we give some away . .


but this year its a second year to wait until September persimmons.


You may think its a little weird,  taking a photograph of myself in  my underwear, but I take many photographs of myself,  very few are me in my underwear, at  74 years old, for me they are all the same, its just me but others have  a different feeling about them.


Below I am about 22 years old, maybe a 52 years difference—“I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” NikonF, Tri-X  film, developed in DiaFine to be  fixed, washed and hung in my bathroom.


Or I might make images of my shado, I  can never let myself get too serious about the image, its just a fleeting moment , maybe 1/125 of a second  in a life of 74 years.

1 year = 365.2425 days = (365.2425 days) × (24 hours/day) × (3600 seconds/hour) = 31556952 seconds, or (31556952 seconds  x74 year),  and so 1÷125 of a sec   = 0.008

0.008 ÷ 2335114448 seconds—

I would have to do it by hand  but as you can this photograph  which I have had for at least 52 years is just a tiny  tiny  piece of my life  Any photograph  is just a tiny piece of anyone’s life and yet it may be that that photograph touches a memory for all ones life— a wedding photograph for example.


or maybe there is no more meaning,  nor will there ever  be anymore meaning than to  just make a design on the paper—maybe we bring  our own meaning to the image anyway.


One movie  I have on DVD  and enjoy watching  is The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice by Ozu— here is cha-dō one afternoon in a  small  corner of a shopping center, another moment of my life.

Sometimes at the end of a meal in Japan someone will pour their tea into what is left  in their rice bowl to eat/drink at the same time.


Vladimir with koi


Sometimes for me simple, quick  moments have meaning— my feet reflected in a car door with complementary colors.


And sometimes 1/125 sec was a million years in life.




Before know heart, after no mind, after no heart, before know mind

It has been written that Mahakasyapa  was not Buddha’s  “favorite,”  still when Buddha held up the flower, out of all the Arhats, Biksus and bodhisatvas  it was Kasyapa who smiled and Ananda who waited


Would I find this me  less worthy to transmit it to my self?


Its easier to get lost in simple . . .


something more complex may be too confusing  . . .


Whimsical moves me  . . .


Anytime you can get 3 things grouped 1 and 2 and  visually experience it  as two things  before you can make a sentence you can get it.






The answer is in the question, Why does it end? or Why does it begin? even When does it end? When does it begin? What is it that ends? What is it that begins?


And if you need help don’t hesitate to call out, I might be just around the corner plotting a return to sanity.


Still I might be waiting with know answers for any question you might have.


I believe Ki-Seto (yellow Seto) was the first high fire kiln for Japanese folk pottery as differed from sophisticated Kyoto style which used porcelain and high fire.

This is a father and son, tokkuri and guinomi, or shuki. When firing Ki-Seto the potter needed to pull it out at the correct time so they made small pieces , set them near the entrance to the kiln and pulled them occasionally to see if the firing was finished.


They pulled out the test piece, put it into water and it turned black, they liked it and called it Seto-Guro.