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Earthquake and tsunami in Japan

March 13, 2011

“All sorrows can be borne if we put them into a story, or tell a story about them.” –Isak Dinesen

I’d been asked to offer words of meditation for our church service in Sperryville, Virginia, this morning.  I spoke briefly of how we could respond to the suffering wrought by the earthquake and tsumani in northern Japan.  I said we can give financial aid to relief organizations, and we can express our heart-felt conern for the victims.  Finding ways to make these connections is not so difficult.

Shortly before the service I opened my email and found what I was looking for:  a message from Hal French, Chair of the U. S. Chapter of the IARF (International Association for Religious Freedom), saying that they are sending a message of sympathy to our Japanese member groups, mainly Buddhist and Shinto.  We we have come to know these people through long association in the IARF–most recently at the IARF Congress in Kochi, India last September.   How good it is when our religious communities find themselves joined in one community across the globe!

Hal also invited our contributions, and I extend his invitation to you.  Please send checks, payable to “IARF” and marked “Japan fund” to Hal W. French, 611 LaBruce Lane, Columbia, SC 29205.  Doris Hunter, a member of the internatinal Council of the IARF, will travel to Japan this month and will help convey both our moral and material support.   Thank you, Doris!

Ryokan, master poet and Zen Buddhist monk, the year before his death in 1831, sought to put his sorrows “into a story, or tell a story about them.”  I recited his words, in Burton Watson’s translation from the Japanese, for our meditation:

These grew in my garden:

autumn bush clover,

eulalia grass,

violets, dandelions,

a silk tree in bloom,

plantain, morning glory,


aster, spiderwort,

day lilies–

each morning, each evening

taking pains to

pour on water,

rigging a sun shade,

nursing them along,

and just when I thought–

and others said too–

they were


than ever before,

in the fifth month,

at twilight

of the twenty-fifth day,

that huge wind

came howling like a fury,

till they lay battered

over the iron grouind,

tangled by torrents

of rain from the sky,

till they’d been tumbled

a hundred thousand ways,

and all I could say was,

how pitiful!

But because I  know

it’s the work of the wind

I know there’s nothing I can do

At my house

these hundred plants

I planted and raised–

only to give them up

to the will of the wind

Those old days–I wonder,

did I dream them

or were they real?

In the  night I listen

to the autumn rain

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2011 12:22 am

    How to revere the sea
    when it crashes in Tsunamis?
    Like earth and ocean
    We are connected.
    We share the grief
    Of blessed friends.
    May our small gifts
    Help them to ease the pain of others.

  2. Kathleen Hunter permalink
    April 9, 2011 2:56 pm

    the Japanese piece is very moving, especially the poem

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