Mountains are very lonely, so still, so silent, so immense, so full of presence and being. The poet is caressing his loneliness with his song. He is the high mountain bird that goes far above other birds to sing of solitude that is like a mountain. Why do we climb mountains? It’s a struggle with great hardships to get above the tree line, to get above the lower mountains and their valleys; it’s a quest of awareness to climb above form so that your vision has no boundaries. The view from the highest mountain is a metaphor for formless awareness that is totally alone, awareness without a second, awareness without an IT to be aware of. In Zen this awareness is suddenly come upon, like breaking through the fog hiding a mountains 360 view. AH…satori. I See.
What, did the melon just run a race through the mud? I like the way Basho makes objects subjective, giving them feeling and personhood. When you walk with Basho through his very simple world it comes alive. Nature is alive and emotional. We are conditioned to see nature as objects to be controlled, used or simply eaten. Yet here a simple melon has the subjective feelings of us. The melon feels cool. I feel a melon. A melon doesn’t feel. But here the boundary between the melon as object and me as subject is blurred.
Japans nature religion is Shinto, which is pantheistic. Nature is alive and full of spirit, like in Avatar’s Pandora. Walking through the world through the eyes of Basho makes me feel like I’m on Pandora as Jake Sully seeing nature for the first time.
In this poem there is a shift from the objective qualities of wet dew and mud, adjectives used to describe a melon as an object. One could say that the melon has dew and mud on it. But the melon itself is dead, is just a dead thing to me. But then in the third line the perspective shifts and the melon looks especially cool. The melon is feeling cool. Cool is not an adjective with which one describes an dead thing. Cool is what you feel. Basho feels nature as himself.
We all have heard the woodpecker tapping, tapping…and the house must be very quiet to hear that tapping outside. But what is the house here? No thoughts in the house either. Thought are sound. Sound is movement. Thoughts are mind sounds. So now we are really quiet. All that exists is the woodpecker’s tapping. And even that is not a woodpecker, not something with a name because that naming is also a sound in the house. There is no “Oh, that’s a woodpecker.” There is not even the poet in the house, because the idea that I’m in the house is also a sound in the house. But for the tapping, tapping…there is nothing or no one there. This is Zen.
There is a shift from awareness-of the wood pecker as an object to awareness-as the woodpecker. There is a shift from awareness of the woodpecker to awareness-as the sound of the tapping. Awareness has shifted from objective to subjective, and subjective awareness has no boundary, a house without an IT. Only Now exists.
Why are village songs more lovely than city poems? Why are country people different than city people? What is the ground of each? Is city life artificial? Is the village in the body while the city is in the mind? Are family networks stronger in the village? Is city life fragmented while village life is whole. Does fame and fortune matter in the simple village. Is the village timeless? Is the city future orientated?
How unusual to associate sound with stone. The poets creates an intermediate zone where sense data is mixed in unfathomed ways to come up with a new sense that no single sense can be conscious of. The poet plays with sense portals like a child running through the house opening and shutting doors. A sound sinks into stone. Or is it silence that is stone. What is more lonely than stone. What is more still than stone. We listen to cicada’s cry and it does sink into stillness…it is the cry that creates the stillness. Without the cry you would not know stillness. The poet describes silence with sound. A noise with stone.