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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Chronia Polla! Diochnes Time

When I’m up in the mountains, I always feel in the mood to dip into my books and anthologies of Taoist, Buddhist and Zen poems.

The mountains encourage meditation (even when the church bells are ringing).

This poem by Ryokan, the Japanese Zen Buddhist monk, seems particularly appropriate, especially after a visit to Saint Paraskevi Monastery at Monodendri, and the inspiring walk above it to “Echo Point”, which offers a magnificent view over the Vikos Gorge. First, a photograph of Fred. Boissonas, from 1913.

The caption to the photograph above (published 1915) states that the Vikos Gorge offers the bands of brigands that frequent the area (as well as their victims) an inaccessible place of retreat. It also mentions the narrow pass that leads to a deep cave where local people go in case of attack to seek refuge with their animals, their worldy goods and chattels.

“Our life in this world-
To what shall I compare it?
It’s like an echo
    resounding through the mountains
    And off into the empty sky”.

(tr. Steven Carter).

It reminds me a little of the much earlier poem by Ikkyu Sojun:

“Like…the sudden flash
of lightning- already gone-
thus should one regard one’s self”.

(tr. Sam Hamill).

The wild golden yellow crocus  (Crocus chrysantus, found in stony places) is in bloom.

The people of the Zagori villages call the flowers "Diochnes", because they symbolise the season and the time of the year to leave the mountains, to return to work and "xeniteia" (semi-migratory self-exile in far-away lands). The flowers are telling us it's time to leave, they're pushing us out.

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