Friday, March 18, 2011


Climbing Fanta Hill yesterday, just below the crest which opens onto a view of the reservoir, I stumbled upon a little heart-shaped zippered pouch. Like clutching the lottery ticket just before scratching off those boxes you just know will reveal your waiting millions, I had a lovely vision of a nice little bundle of ten thousand yen notes.

Instead, what greeted me was a moldering note and a precious little piece of burnished wood. I ripped off the leaf of a nearby weed, and plucked the block out.

A nice two-toned hardwood, it fit nicely in my hand, its smooth, gently beveled surface perfect for worrying.

It was a talisman, akin to a rabbit's foot or a little jade Buddha, a lucky charm to guide the bearer through the year.

I felt slightly guilty taking the thing — after all, this good luck charm could be patiently waiting here on this hillside for its owner to return. Was I unwittingly disturbing the course of events of the owner's life? Further, if the amulet had been abandoned or lost, it is, by legend here in Japan, believed to have protected its owner from some dire consequence. In that case, had it used up its powers, and was now nothing more than a nice-looking burnished piece of wood? Or had it taken on, absorbed that evil, and was now an unlucky charm?

The skeptic and the dreamer in me battle. The dreamer in me says of course things have spirit; of course we shouldn't disturb them; of course sentience runs through everything.

The skeptic in me scoffs. If that's the case, then what you're saying is that maybe the earth under Daichi was getting irritated and decided to scratch this massive nuclear zit lying on its shoulder.

The Shintoist in me says yes, that's just about right.

Whatever the case about animateness, I have the thing now, and I justify its presence in my pocket as a necessary piece of research.

Back home I introduce him to my other talisman, a rock plucked from shore of the Mekhong in Laos several years ago —

— and a bearing scrounged from god-knows-what industrial site in Providence, Rhode Island:

So here's my criteria if you're gonna be my talisman: you've gotta be smooth; you should fit snugly in my hand; you shouldn't too heavy or too light; and you must, must, must be made of an all natural material, something elemental: wood, metal, or stone.

I have a crystal that's just the right size and weight, but it has sharp edges, so is relegated to the shelf. The ball bearing is perhaps too small, he gets lost often, but always reappears at opportune times. Echosquirrel tells me that when she was packing our things to move from Oregon, the little guy just sort of popped out of nowhere and started rolling across the floor. A week later it greeted me, perched atop a care package of books and other goodies.

But all that's by the way.

Talismen, meet your new talisman friend:

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