In this week's episode, the crew followed home care nurses on their visits to patients in Higashikurume, a suburb in western Tokyo. In one segment, a nurse visited a boy with cerebral palsy. It was his sixth birthday. She sang him a song, and gave him and his mother a birthday card she had made for him. She then bathed him (an event he always looks forward to, according to his mother).
After the visit, while driving her car to the home of her next patient, she said this (as translated into English subtitles): "Since starting this job, I've often thought about the true meaning of happiness. Everybody is completely different. Nurses try to help each patient find small moments of joy. I always try to ask myself what would make my patients happy. I hope to continue helping them that way."
Ah, these human stories. These glimmers all around us.
Earlier in the week, I had read this poem:
Sitting Up at Night
Spinners' lights from house to house brighten the deep night;
here and there new fields have been plowed after rain.
Always I feel ashamed to be so old and idle.
Sitting close by the stove, I hear the sound of the wind.
Lu Yu (1125-1210) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, The Old Man Who Does As He Pleases: Selections from the Poetry and Prose of Lu Yu (Columbia University Press 1973), page 67. Lu Yu wrote the poem at the age of 83.
[For anyone who may be interested, the episode of Document 72 Hours mentioned above is available until December 17 in the On Demand section of the NHK World website. The title of the episode is: "Nurse Visits: Home Is Where the Heart Is."]
Harald Sohlberg (1869-1935)
"Winter Night in the Mountains" (1914)
Lights that "brighten the deep night." Please bear with me, dear readers, as I return to lines that have appeared here on several occasions in the past: "we should be careful//Of each other, we should be kind/While there is still time." (Philip Larkin, "The Mower.") It really is as simple as that.
There is a great deal to complain of in our age, isn't there? Yet, each successive "modern" age seems clamorous, base, and hollow to a large number of its inhabitants. For instance, the politicized world that surrounds us is paltry and mean. How could it be otherwise? It has always been thus, and it will always be thus. It is one manifestation of human nature, and it will never change.
But none of this is cause for despair. And so, as I return to Philip Larkin, I must also return to John Keats: we are in "the vale of Soul-making." Which leads to this: "There cannot be, confusion of our sound forgot,/A single soul that lacks a sweet crystalline cry." (W. B. Yeats, "Paudeen.")
Last thing at night
he steps outside to breathe
the smell of winter.
The stars, so shy in summer,
from a huge emptiness.
In a huge silence he listens
for small sounds. His eyes
are filled with friendliness.
What's history to him?
He's an emblem of it
in its pure state.
And proves it. He goes inside.
The door closes and the light
dies in the window.
Norman MacCaig, in Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2005).
"Crofter" is paired in my mind with this:
The Shepherd's Hut
Now when I could not find the road
Unless beside it also flowed
This cobbled beck that through the night,
Breaking on stones, makes its own light,
Where blackness in the starlit sky
Is all I know a mountain by,
A shepherd little thinks how far
His lamp is shining like a star.
Andrew Young, Speak to the Earth (Jonathan Cape 1939).
Harald Sohlberg, "Winter Night in the Mountains" (1901)
This afternoon, while out on my walk, a thought occurred to me: "The greyest of grey days." As I walked on, similar thoughts arose. "A day of a thousand greys." "The greyest day imaginable." Such was my mood.
I continued to walk. Lifting my eyes, I noticed a thin strip of pale yellow light far off, just above the northwestern horizon, below the unbroken ceiling of grey, darkening cloud. Somewhere out on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, near the border of Canada, the World was aglow.
I was walking in that direction. Moments later, a few of the robins who stay here for the winter began to chatter from within a grove of pine trees. A dove flew across the path in front of me, and disappeared into the dim woods. (I wonder: was it the same dove I saw a few weeks ago, and mentioned in my previous post?)
Yes, a grey day, but . . .
The long night;
A light passes along
Outside the shōji.
Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 3: Summer-Autumn (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 356.
Shiki wrote several haiku that feature solitary gleams of light. Another:
Farther and farther away it goes, --
The voice of the hototogisu.
Shiki (translated by R. H. Blyth), Ibid, page 168. The hototogisu is the Japanese cuckoo.
The lantern vanishes. The call of the cuckoo arrives. As I have noted here before, the World tends to provide us with compensations, doesn't it?
And, finally, there is this:
The light in the next room also
The night is chill.
Shiki (translated by R. H. Blyth), Ibid, page 328.
Harald Sohlberg, "Winter Night in the Mountains" (1924)