Monday, August 3, 2009

A blog by the side of the road

I was pleased to hear from a new reader yesterday. That doesn't happen real often. This blog is like a little hut by the side of a road with no sign, nothing to mark it. It is surrounded by Las Vegas, flashing lights and screens, free entertainments featuring tigers and hypnotists and extravagant music and invitations to enjoy the illicit. Everywhere barkers shout, "Free! Fun!"

Hardly anyone even sees a small hut down amidst all that, hardly anyone stops to say hello. I think of the childhood storybook that fascinated me, about a little house - the city grew all around it. At last, it is moved I think to the country, where it can breathe again. It was one of those resonant metaphors; you can't really attach a meaning to it, so it continues to reverberate.

I also think of the story of a monk or Teacher in Japan who in old age just made sandals and set them by the side of the road. Perhaps he could make one pair each day. The traditional straw sandals wore out quickly. Pilgrims and wandering monks would see them there and understand that they were a timely gift, and take them. I see how this was a nice illustration of how to live a quietly useful life.

You want to know something ironic? Just now I searched for an image of a Japanese hut. What I got? Dozens of images of succulent overstuffed pizzas from Pizza Hut. The more I looked for a photo of a simple, authentic hut of the type a hermit monk would build and stay in, the more laughable it got. Huge palaces called The Hermitage. A castle in Japan's Disneyland. Hotels, so-called "mountain huts," for travelers to stay in. Everything's for sale, including our symbols.

And it's time for me to dress and leave for acupuncture, so I'll post this with no image. Maybe you can find one, a picture of the little house you would really like to live in (if it had indoor plumbing, of course).


  1. I have two huts in my mind, or rather a hut and a cabin, and both are imaginary because they come from books I read. Before going to Alaska I read a book from the library called “North of the Sun” by Fred Hatfield. He lived in a cabin in the middle of wild Alaska from falls to winters, all alone, amongst bears, and loved it. The other is a book I picked up in Koh Samui, Thailand in 2001, it’s called “Phra Farang – An English Monk in Thailand” by Phra Peter Pannapadipo, and he lived in a real hut. The jacket says “This is a delightful little book that should be read by anyone with interest in Buddhism. Both Thai and Western readers will gain insights into some of the problems faced by Westerners ordained as Buddhist monks.” I need to re-read it; it was delightful (and funny.)

  2. Plastic is a real problem but many things are manufactured now from recycled plastic – more in Europe than here, but it will get better. My husband always looks under the plastic container, and in the middle is a diamond shape where there will be a number, if it is 1 or, gosh I don’t remember, maybe also a 5, then it can be recycled. You know those little strawberry, blueberry baskets? They are no. 1. If the shampoo/conditioner bottles are almost full I give them to the Kidney Foundation. Another thing I was going to do is to find the houses where abused women take shelter, or unwed mothers. Charities will give them food and clothing but rarely things like shampoo, lipstick and other makeup. I enjoy reading your post.

  3. I came across your blog from another blog, and read ALL your posts. Just didn't have time to comment, and nothing to say really, or add. But just to let you know.. you are read, the hut by the side of the road.