Book Break: Flowers of a Moment

I like Zen poetry. I don’t really know what that phrase means for sure—Zen poetry—but I totally dig haiku, and have thoroughly enjoyed Korean Zen poet Ko Un‘s Flowers of a Moment in fits and starts since I found it on the Bargain Books rack at the U bookstore.

My rhythmic rhyming friend Jinglebob would not call this poetry. It’s form is formlessness, I suppose. Spacing, punctuation, subject matter—unpredictable. The poet finds unexpected hints of universal truths and shared emotion in mundane occurrences and natural surroundings. Beauty in simplicity—a sentence or turn of phrase set apart from its surroundings to make you see in a new way.

Gibberish you say? My “review” or this “poetry”?

I wonder what makes Ko Un a poet. Is anything lost in the translation from Korean to English? Or is it like a photographer acquaintance of mine, who, when I asked why he was considered a pro when both of us shoot dozens of photos to get one perfect shot, said something like, “The difference is, I know when I’ve got it.”

Whereas I generally had to wait until the prints came back to know if the film contained anything worthwhile…

Perhaps that’s the difference: perhaps the poet knows before he shares his poetry which words, which images will resonate, and throws the rest away. Whereas I’m just guessing.

Summer Vacation, Day 27: Where the Heck is Gabe’s Watch, and What the Heck is a Slushie?

We left Cowboy Bob’s mid-morning and made our way to Wall. Drove past Hubba’s House in downtown Elm Springs, snaked down through the Cheyenne River brakes north of Wasta – ever since my first trip to the Dennis Ranch, that’s among my favorite stretches of South Dakota – and rolled into Wall, where we collected roughly 20 new states’ license plates (and a couple of provinces) in the Wall Drug parking lot.

We bummed around the world-famous drug store long enough for Gabe to realize he left his nice wristwatch in the restroom an hour or more earlier. I was guessing he left it at the sink, and reminded him that it’s water-resistant, so he can leave it on when he washes.

Nope, he took it off and set it on top of the toilet paper dispenser while he was in the stall. “Why?” I asked.

He thought a moment or three. “I don’t know,” he said.

The watch wasn’t at the lost-and-found, and Gabe was fighting off tears admirably. We were about to leave when I thought, If I were an honest tourist and found that watch, I wouldn’t know where the lost-and-found was. I’d turn it in at the closest counter.

We went to the Western art shop and told the cashier what we were looking for. She said she thought they had it across the hall in the Country Store. Sure enough, there it sat behind the fudge counter. Gabe was so excited he snatched it from the hand of the young Polish gal at the cash register and nearly forgot his thank you – she was teasing him a bit, as though she had a watch but perhaps not his watch. Anyway, to remind him of his manners, I pointed out that her nametag said she was from Poland, and asked him how she he thank her. He was beaming at his watch and couldn’t remember.

“Dziekuje,” I told her.*

“Oh! Prosze!” she said.**

It was 98 degrees when we crossed the Badlands. We ate supper at a drive-in burger joint in Rapid City, and tried to explain to Trevor what a slushie is. We compared it to ice and juice, snowcones, whatever we could think of, but nothing was clicking. Finally Trevvy hit upon something that showed he hadn’t heard a word we had said. “Ooooooh!” he said. “Just like when you flush a toilet!”

Yes, my son. We are having Flushies for dessert. On second thought, let’s have floats.***

Now we’re at Grandma and Grandpa Venjohns’ place. It’s late. Sweet dreams!

* * * * *

* Pronouced “jeen-KOO-ya” – Polish for Thank you.
** Pronounced “PRO-sha” – Polish for both
Please and You’re welcome.
*** Come to think of it, in this context,
floats sound disgusting, too.

Summer Vacation, Day 26: Good Friends and Beer (Belated)

For Sunday: Spent yesterday and this morning (including right now) at Cowboy Bob’s, aka Jinglebob’s or a Dennis Ranch. Guitars, dobro, harmonica, and many (many) good beers – Bass, Blue Moon, Guinness, Moose Drool, Sam Adams Summer Ale. Got to meet Hubba, visit with Deacon Tyler, and meet a number of other friends and good people from the blogosphere.

Sure was a good time, and I loved meeting all of you folks. Kids are hunting frogs and turtles with Deacon Tyler. Gotta get packed up now – headed to Wall Drug (where Jode and I met) and the Badlands.

Summer Vacation, Day 17: Travelin’

Today we embark on the first trip of the summer, a quick jog to the north for a weekend in a lakeside campground. We’ll have a cabin, and we’ll be surrounded by families from our church, which has rented the entire campground. They even feed us! Very nice. (Of course, this means I’ll be posting for both Saturday and Sunday later on Sunday …)

This will be the warm-up to our summerly South Dakota adventure the following week. First, the Polo All-School Reunion in Jodi’s tiny hometown. Then, a beef, beer and guitar fiesta at Jinglebob’s (Remember the other nickname I had for you, JB? Our discussions during the Colorado trip have made me self-conscious about using it.), with Hubba and Deacon Tyler in attendance, among others. Then we’ll kick around the hills, stay in the lap of luxury at Jodi’s folks’ place and enjoying the Piedmont Fourth of July Parade. With any luck, the riding steer and spray-painted goat will both make an appearance.

Of course, neither of these trip compare to a couple of friends of mine: one of our student workers headed to Peru, and a former colleague from the University of Minnesota Crookston is moving to China to teach English and spread the Word. Wow. Safe travels!