Search This Blog

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


With the official death toll at over 18,000 last night, I turned off the television and climbed into bed with a book I hoped would comfort me. I chose Robert Hass's Human Wishes, as old favorite.

The second poem in the book, "Vintage," contained this line, quoting the Japanese haiku master Basho:

"Basho said: avoid adjectives of scale, you will love the world more and desire it less."

While excellent advice, it struck me as slightly ironic given all the measurements reported constantly here: the death toll, the emission of microsieverts of radiation, the circumference of the area of danger, etc. Naturally we need these measurements, and they aren't merely adjectives or judgements, but facts required for us to make prudent decisions.

But Basho's words are a reminder that given this disaster at the Fukushima plant, and the BP oil accident of not long ago, we must consider the demands we are making on this earth to provide us with convenient forms of energy. We must love the planet more, and desire less. And avoid adjectives of scale so that we might desire it (the planet and its resources) less.

A few pages later I read Hass's poem "Calm," or perhaps I should say, I misread it, as I so often do. The line which actually says, "It hums and stops, hums and stops" I misread as "It humans and stops, humans and stops."

Which is exactly what is. And then isn't.


Kathleen said...

I'm feeling for you and hope you and your family are safe. I'm glad to have found your blog, and I thank you for all the ways you are alerting people on how to help, the disaster relief links, the Quakebook info.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

My family is actually located in a very safe location, given the recent events here in Japan. We do not have any damage or losses, have not suffered from food shortages or lack of power, and the local radiation levels are not significantly different from what is normal. In many ways, we are experiencing the disasters as though we are in a different country, although we do know people who have been personally affected. However our extended family and friends have also been relatively fortunate. Our hearts go out to those whose lives were devastated. We all have to try to help as we can.