Life is weird and sometimes hard to make sense of. I read this poem by the Japanese poet Basho last night, and then I read it again and again. I guess it struck a cord. These days I don’t feel quite like my old self, and I can’t tell if I’m coming or going. I’m still in the thick of a world of changes, and life seems like one big vast expanse of unpredictability and surprise. Sometimes it’s exciting and sometimes it’s terrifying. I feel like I have changed or am changing, but I don’t know from what or into what. I feel like a snake that’s shedding its skin; it’s not particularly comfortable and it’s a rather painstaking process, but I imagine in the end I’ll have a lot more room to move around.
It is strange though; I don’t know if I’m my old self in a new house, or if I’m a new ‘self’ in someone else’s house, or just some kind of half-self in no house. Maybe I’ve outgrown my old self. Or maybe I’m just confused. I love the image I get from Basho’s poem of the oak tree, a big mighty king of plants, somehow growing in a house, branches popping out of windows and doors as it keeps expanding to its full size. It doesn’t know if it’s inside or outside, but it will just keep growing and make a space for itself one way or another.
Then there’s the hail. Through it all, real life keeps clattering against the windows and doors and falling on my head like hailstones. They’re not malicious and they don’t have any intent or scheme. They’re just doing what they do- bouncing off my skull and putting dents in the proverbial car of my comfortable little self-image and life plan, and generally being impossible to ignore.
So, there you go. My whole life summed up in a four line poem by a man who lived 350 years ago on an island on the other side of the world. Who would have guessed? It doesn’t really help me make any more sense of it all, but it is comforting to know that at least one other human being (and probably billions of others) have felt the same way at some stage in their earthly wanderings. Life sure is strange.