May 5, 2015KR BlogBlogReadingRemembrancesShort Takes/Mixed TapeUncategorized

Bashōand my Grandmother: Reflections of Travel, 1689 & 1968, Part 2

Last week I wrote about my grandmother Kitty’s travel journal from 1968 alongside Bashō’s travel journal from 1689. While journeying to foreign coasts, the two forty-somethings kept time by scribbling about practical beds, sublime mountains, and soft or searing matters of the heart. After miles on the road, they drink sake or wash their hair and fall quietly into nights. What follows are a few more journal pairs, arranged to emphasize echoes between humans whose voices share the present in the presence of the page. Much like Kitty’s coffee stain, the born effect is time subtracted: it’s as though the lives lived beyond each other, may for a moment, draw close.

Note: All Bashō translations are by Cid Corman and Kamaike Susumu, from Back Roads to Far Towns.


After countless displays of rivers and mountains, land and sea, for eyes, the heart’s inch-space now bounded towards Kisakata. From sand, some ten li, sun falling, sea wind swirling, grit, gusty rain hid Mt. Chōkai. Groping through darkness, maybe rain “an enchantment” anyhow and later clearing like a charm, maybe, and so squeezed into a fisherman’s shanty to wait till the wet let up.


10:10 A.M. Passed a cowboy mending a fence along here, didn’t have a horse tho, was using a truck. There is no speed limit in Nevada so must watch our p’s and q’s. Getting into a lot of sandy stretches now, how does anything grow here? Some of the sandy stretches along here are so white, it looks like snow from a distance. Boulder city coming up.


Next morning, sky utterly clear, sun miraculous, dazzling, boated about Kisakata. First headed for Nōin Island, prayed at what of his three years’ retreat remains, then over to opposite shore and found the old cherry tree— “over whose blossoms [fishermen] row” —memorializing Saigyō-Hoshi. At water’s edge an imperial tomb said to be Jingu Kogu’s. Temple there known as Kanmanjuji. Never heard of Empress visiting it. How come?


This is a lovely town, goods and homes well kept and everything so green. Coming to Boulder Dam, the water is sky blue from up here in the Mt. I’m running out of adjectives to describe the things we are seeing. Boulder Dam is huge breathtaking and awesome. I took pictures. Went through the “Strip” in Las Vegas, neither of us was impressed. Things a little high class, no parking place, some celebrities playing in the clubs (Jimmy Durante, Mitzi Gaynor).


Afterwards off to the Sesshōseki on horse sent by the kandai. Man leading it by halter asked for a tanzaku. Beautiful he wanted one:

across the  meadow

horse take your lead now from the


The Sesshōseki in mountain shadow where hot springs flow. Noxious fumes of the rock not yet abated and such a pile of dead butterflies, bees and other bugs sand underneath hard to see.


June 6, —409568 — Up at 6, got ready, packed, had breakfast, got thermos filled, and on our way at 7:30, headed for Chicago. It is going to be another hot day, we are driving into the sun. I can feel the freckles popping out. Just passed Lincoln Nebraska, this is a very large city. Traffic slowed up here, two dogs on the highway, one German Shepherd, the other a Bassett. Surprising tho on our whole trip, have seen only one dead dog, lots of rabbits, chipmunks, skunks, birds, raccoons, opossum, and one badger.


…Asked the way of a fellow mowing nearby who, plain as he was, wasn’t without courtesy. “Let me see,” he says, “you know this here field cuts off different ways and if you don’t know which is which, worse luck, easy to get lost, so better let the horse there take you far as he can and when he stops, just send him back,” and he lent us the horse…


San Bernardino May, Thurs, 22—Up at 7:15—Showered, packed. Had breakfast at Sambo’s (very nice), I had left my head scarf there the night before & they returned it to me this morning. I find the people here very nice and friendly as puppies.


Buried in the vicinity of Unganji the spot Butchō-sho lived in mountain retreat.

less than five-foot square

thatched abode

a pity to put up at all

but there is rain

is what he wrote with pine-charcoal point on rock—how long ago was that told? To see what remains led our walking-sticks to Unganji and some kindly beckoning to others to come along too…Dense, a long way through the valley, pine and cedar thick massed, moss oozing, Uzuki sky chilly.


Monday, May 27 Up at 7:00 AM. Dad, Evi and I took off for the Sequoia Forest. Grandpa stayed home to rest. Took pictures on this trip. Went way up in the Sierra Mts. 7235 ft. above sea level, makes your ears pop. Saw Mt. Whitney, the huge redwood trees are unbelievable, some are 3000 years old, and some would take 30 men holding hands around to span.


Only a few fishermen’s huts along beach and bedraggled Hokke temple nearby. Here drank tea, hot sake, much moved by the pervading sense of isolatedness at nightfall.


Went to a little tiny diner within walking distance of the motel, had hamb. steak, French fries, rolls & coffee. Had to drive about 7 blocks to a drugstore for postcards and film. Red Skeleton is on T.V. now. Dad is in bed already. I washed my hair.


Zensenshi, Keikō father and sons, as well as other friends, day and night, kindly called, as if encountering someone restored to life, showing their pleasure and warm affection. Before fully recovering from the exhaustion and exertion of the long journey, on the sixth day of Nagatsuki, decided to visit the ceremonial rebuilding at Ise, back in the boat again,

the hamaguri

                        shell and innards in parting

departing fall so.


(38615 mi) Friday May 31—Up at 7:00, bathed, had breakfast, packed the car. Left for Vallejo at 9:00 A.M. These good-byes leave me limp, I just choke up and can’t say all the things I should say. We were treated so nice, and saw and did so many things. I’m really glad we made the trip.


In the final entries arranged here, Bashō and Kitty speak to exhaustion, the bodily sense of li or miles accumulated, whether by foot, horse, or car. They speak to the moment when cessation of travel starts to burn on the horizon like the ultimate destination. In the last day or two of her trip, Kitty begins to list every town they pass, the names flying off like ribbons that flutter in their wake. She’s had her late breakfast of a sandwich and chocolate milk. She can feel her freckles emerging in the sun. Does she miss her children, her own bed, the concrete back steps where she’ll sit to smoke a cigarette, or pin her hair again? For now, she’s tired of recording the emotions under the facts. And Bashō, in his own way, takes a pause too, to ride us out of his pages:


Reluctantly left Sakata, days piling up, seeing clouds above the Hokuroku district. Mind aches, the distance, hearing it’s a hundred and thirty li to Kaga City. Crossed the Nezu Barrier, starting fresh into Echigo, reached the Ichiburi Barrier in Etchu. During this stretch of nine days putting up with heat and rain, spirit sore afflicted, taken ill, no way to keep writing.

On the sixth day of

even this month’s poetry’s

night unusual

rough as the sea is

reaching over to Sado

the Heaven’s star stream


Stopped at 10 A.M. Had sand. & chocolate milk. It is getting warmer by the minute. 11 A.M. crossed border from Indiana into Ohio. Had to pay 2.45 toll. We are now on the Ohio turnpike. Beginning to see more & more Pa. plates here. Passed Toledo, Ohio, next big town Cleveland. It is 12:15, crossing Sandusky River, 18 mi. to Cleveland. 2:35, 21 mi. to the Penna. line, getting anxious to get home. 3:00 crossed the line from Ohio to Pa., won’t be long now. Leaving Zelienople 4:00 this is the last of the trip. I’m tired.