Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mountain Life ②

Yuki-chan keeps the farm clean of weeds.
   We need to plan it together, I said! Everyone agreed. So I moved to Tosayama. Why? So that we would feel in our bones what the community needed and did not need. What the people, mountains and trees thought and did not think.

   The Tosa mountain winds are unique. How the wind moves today tells you the weekend weather, about today’s sun, what to work on your soils, where the wild boar will be tonight. Sit and drink with the mountains, and listen. They talk. We just don’t give them enough time or attention. Mountains offer information that can be trusted. Real friendship. True reflections.

   So our family got to work on a good rice field, vegetable garden, Tosajiro chickens, and a goat named Yuki-chan. The kids entered Tosayama junior school. We tested heritage seed planting for the best soil match. We collected seeds from grandmothers all over the mountains. Wheat, rhubarb, corn, rice, beans, soya beans, persimmons, yuzu, loquats, perillas. We hunted wild boar and drank homemade doburoku sake all over the mountains. And listened to the stories the wind blew over us. We watched the sun come up and go down over misty Tosayama mountains every day for months.

   We started. We hired a Team to make the Academy. Do not sit in someone else’s office, I insisted. The Academy is out there, not in here. If you stay inside this building, the Academy will be limited to this building and the people who share this office. You will only repeat the same thing as we already have. That’s not the Academy. Go sit with nature. I insisted. It’s the difference between 50% organic orange juice and 100% organic orange juice. They are both orange juice but… different.

Fresh river fish caught by hand.
   Kochi may be at the bottom of the national list for revenue producing. But Kochi is right at the top for real, energetic trees and people. Tosa energy cannot be matched in all of Japan. How to allow that energy to get to work is what is lacking. Watch Tosa grow over the next 10 years!

   Look how the Ryukyu jumps out of the soil in Tosayama. It grows as high as my shoulders, if you don’t eat it first. Butterbur does too, especially under plum trees. All free food. No insects, no chemicals. It just grows native. The future of the Tosayama area comes out of the soil. It does not need input from outside. It does not need bacteria added to the soil to make it more productive. Tosa soil is energetic and beautiful enough as it is. Just like the grandmother next door. The true strength and wonder of Tosa.

Misty Tosa mountain morning. 
   You cannot produce mountains. A community cannot be produced. A community grows, naturally, organically. We cannot curate people and place. Tosa knows that. Tosa is the birthplace of community and liberty. Liberty is a living thing that interacts naturally. It refuses to be managed or controlled. The Ryoma spirit naturally throws out anything that tries to produce it unnaturally.

   In our mountain communities we need to develop factories together with natural forces, water, sun and wind powers. The old lady next door is nature. She knows. She has lived hand in hand with nature all her 70 years. She is a Nature Genius.

   Before we plan and before we act, we need to sit with her and feel the wind together, eat lunch together every week. Sip habucha tea together, everyday. Then we will understand what these Tosa mountains need from us. And what they do not.

   If we do not do this, we will create another false paradise. Like we did with Tokyo or Disneyland or chemical farming or nuclear electricity power stations. Let’s get back to nurturing mountains, real mountains. Real Tosa. Let’s try to live life like a single leaf and think like a mountain. That’s an Academy for Tosa.

   It’s not too late. The older generation knows a thing about life and what works and what does not work. It’s never to late to chat with the real mountains of Tosa. Our kids will thank us for it.

Mountain dawn in Tosa.
   Tosa mountain forests have grown together for hundreds of years. That’s how they live and last for hundreds of years. Nature grows together. Not alone. Plants and trees share roots and soil under the earth. They pass nutrients and water from root to root in times of stress. They live together. A real farmer knows this. He asks the soil what it needs today. We still have so much to learn from nature. Humans are so young on this planet. We have made so many mistakes. Plants have been here for millions of years and they know so much more. Mountains move, slowly. Humans do not see it because we are in such a hurry and live such short lives.

   We need to look again. We need to learn from nature to become Nature Genius. Live together with Tosa mountains, live as a mountain, live to offer life to all.
John in Tosa nature.

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