02023-12-31 | Musings | 5 comments

It was the year that…

…I read fewer books than I did in the previous year. Only about half as many, in fact. My favorite non fiction books were Ways of Being, by James Bridle, and Where the Heart Beats, by Kay Larson. My favorite book of fiction was Hopeland, by Ian McDonald. Still Laughing, an autobiography by George Schlatter, was very entertaining. My current read is The Complete Cold Mountain. I am familiar with the Cold Mountain poetry because around the year 1981, I bought a used copy of Cold Mountain translated by Burton Watson. I carried that book everywhere with me. Kaz Tanahashi and Peter Levitt made new translations of Hanshan’s poems and then put them into three groups according to a new theory of Kaz’s that suggests that the poems were written by at least three different people. The earliest Hanshan may have been a Daoist and wrote in Early Chinese Language rhyming. Hanshan number two seems to have been a Chan (Zen) Buddhist. Hanshan number three wrote their poems in Late Middle Chinese rhyming. Would it be acceptable to see Hanshan as one poet with three bodies from different times?  Yes, indeed. The new insights into Hanshan are very interesting and the translations are beautiful. 
I am also listening to Doppelganger, an audiobook Robby gave me. It’s illuminating, frightening, and fascinating in turn.

…I didn’t buy any CDs. I considered buying the CD of Notes With Attachments by Pino Palladino and Blake Mills but purchased an album download of 24/96 FLAC files instead. Other music I enjoyed this year:

  • Player, Piano – Daniel Lanois
  • The Wind – Balmorhea
  • Emanon – Wayne Shorter
  • Feio – Wayne Shorter’s composition from Bitches Brew by Miles Davis
  • The Omnichord Real Book – Meshell Ndegeocello
  • Ralph Towner – At First Light

…I finished recording my first album ASF–After Santa Fe–in July. I discovered new methods for recording and used a new laptop computer for the first time in more than twenty years. Instead of thinking of the studio as a place that I walk to, as I did from 1994 to 2021, a studio has become something I carry with me. Rain Poems is my first album ASF. I love the way the music for the new album unfolded and the playfulness that came from experimentation, for example by treating the sound of the guitar with pieces of paper or fabric or using a sponge. When a guitar doesn’t quite sound like a guitar, one discovers a new instrument that looks like a guitar and feels familiar. It’s like having a whole new arsenal of instruments at my fingertips without actually having more than one instrument.

…I made a solo retreat in a cave at the refuge in August. This was the first of a couple of bucket list items I planned for this year. I loved it. I dropped into six hours of daily meditation without much trouble, although I did have to vary my seating positions because the legs are getting older.

…I opened the new Backstage site in October. It was about a year in the making and I am very happy with the result. This is the year I stopped handing new music to digital distributors and streaming corporations. I am also considering the withdrawal of the HuHeartDrive releases from 2019-2021 from those services: Fete, Vision 2020, Bare Wood 2, and the singles. I appreciate all of the members who signed up. Thank you for coming on this journey with me.

…I stopped using my watch to time workouts. I discovered that I don’t care about individual workouts, I just want to know the total for the day: did I move long enough and did I move hard enough. I also don’t want the watch do ask me whether I ended a workout just because I paused to look at something. Now I have all of the prompts and notifications turned off. I wore an Oura ring for a short while. A little too bulky which means I couldn’t wear it when I play guitar. I almost lost it so many times because I had to take it off for soundcheck. Several times I discovered the ring hours later, resting on a volume knob of the monitor mixer…

…I went to Japan for four weeks in November. I walked the Kumano Kodo trail, the second bucket list item of 2023. The length of four weeks was perfect, long enough to get a feel for the place and the culture. I loved the challenge of the Kumano Kodo, which culminated in the Belly Breaker section. I loved the variety of places we stayed on the Kumano but also during the rest of the trip. I am already planning another walk. 

…I summed up my year in 25 words. This might become an annual practice. :-)

Happy guitar-playing creativity.
Summer album. Backstage. 
A week alone. Cave time. 
Month in Japan with Lisi. Kumano Kodo. Bellybreaker!
Crazy upon return. But made mochi.

Happy New yEar!




  1. Steve Monroe

    >My current read is The Complete Cold Mountain. I am familiar with the Cold Mountain poetry because around the year 1981, I bought a used copy of Cold Mountain translated by Burton Watson.

    Have you ever read the one translated by Red Pine? (Bill Porter) …? If so how do they all compare?

    • ottmar

      Translating from Chinese requires a re-imagining of the poetry, a re-poeting. Therefore all translations of poems are very different. I picked a poem at random and here are both translations:

      Red Pine writes:

      someone sits in a mountain gorge
      cloud robe sunset tassels
      handful of fragrances he’d share
      the road is long and hard
      regretful and doubtful
      old and accomplished
      the crowd calls him crippled
      he stands alone steadfast

      Tanahashi and Levitt write:

      Someone dwells on a mountainside
      where clouds swirl and mist wraps around.
      He wants to make a gift of fragrant herbs,
      but the road is far off and difficult to pass.
      A heart could grow sad and doubtful
      that old age will come with nothing achieved.
      People crow and laugh at such a stubborn man
      but he stands alone, faithful and pure.

      I find the research into Hanshan and Kaz’s theory of the three bodies of Hanshan very interesting. Even if you have the Red Pine version, I think you will enjoy these translations and the research.

  2. Steve

    >Even if you have the Red Pine version, I think you will enjoy these translations and the research.

    I bought the Tanahashi/Levitt version.

    I did already have the Red Pine version from a class I took a while back, but the translation of this version is actually so different it’s almost like having a different book. And I really do appreciate the scholarship that went into the Tanahashi/Levitt version.

    This may become one of those “backpack books” which is dangerous because the interior of the backpack is a very hostile place.

  3. Steve

    Completely different vibe:

    Red Pine:
    “Zither and books are up to you … ”

    “Lute and Books should fill your life …”

    The Tanahashi/Levitt version has such fantastic imagery. Like I said … a completely different book.

    • ottmar

      A real re-poeting. I looked up Peter Levitt + he is a poet. Maybe that helped in the translation process. I do really like these new versions of Hanshan!


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