Monday, October 25, 2010

Leaves Scattering - Finding One's Way

In 1162 Saigyō prepared to depart for a distant pilgrimage to Shikoku, a journey he would embark upon alone. Disheartened, he sought a return to solitude, far away from the frenzy of the capital.

When the Shirakawa Major Counselor heard of the wandering monk’s eminent departure, he sent Saigyō this note:

tree leaves on the peak,
swept by storms

where in your driftings
will your heart lead you?

Saigyō replied:

At random
fall the tree leaves
in the blowing wind.

How is one to know
where they will scatter?

Often times I too have felt as Saigyō.

One bright summer in August 2005 I too was in search of solace. For my journey I would hike up through a very steep ravine in the Olympic wilderness. From the bottom of the ravine I would gain a high rocky ridge then, scrambling up the ridge, further gain a summit peak known as Tyler Peak.

Well….I did summit the mountain's peak – on top it was so tranquil; the scenery was of unparalleled beauty.

Finally though I had to leave, retrace my steps, descend back into the ravine, and return home.

Retrace my steps? Now which path had I taken? All paths looked the same and they were radiating in all directions. The terrain was so steep and the sun was now going down quickly, too quickly.

I could go on describing my harrowing return from the wilderness area, but I’ll only add that I returned home at 3 AM the next day, totally exhausted, severely dehydrated, and just a little wiser.

I came to embrace the importance of knowing exactly where the leaves will scatter.

Waka translations made by Gustav Heldt in “Saigyō’s Traveling Tale – A Translation of Saigyō Monogatari”.