Autumn Closes

November 29, 2015

Marsh Geese, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 200–


This waning Autumn season,

That bursts upon the mindscape

Through the vehicle of landscape

And mingles dazzling elements

Of color, odors, tangled undergrowth,

Where things are lost in each other

And plausible limits vanish,

And with the passage of days,

(Or  a violent rainstorm—)

The Earth is transformed in scarcity,

A stretching silence

Insulated by hoar frost and later snow,

Where color is corralled

Like old black and white horses

Barely moving against bitter grey of day.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015


ODE TO A COOPERS HAWK and Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  A wonderful time to enjoy humanity, beauty, the bountiful harvest and give gratitude.

Thanksgiving 2.jpg



“Sea Eagle”, jane kohut-bartels, watercolor, 2001

The world is suffering deeply and no one religion owns God.  Regardless the amount of bombs, attacks, suicide vests and the retaliation of the ‘other sides’…..the balance of life is distorted, destroyed.

Our creativity gives us a sense of balance and a return to sanity.  Today, that is in short supply.

Lady Nyo



Come to me.

Come to me,

Winged celestial beauty.

Come to me with your notched

Mermaid tail,

Your silken roll of feathers.

Fly down into my hollowed-out soul,

Fill me with your sun-warmed glory

Nestle in my arms

And bring the curve of the horizon

Embraced in your outstretched wings.


I need no white bearded prophet,

No mumbled prayer, no gospel song

No hard church bench, no fast or

Festival to feel close to the Divine.

The glory of the universe,

Is embodied in your flight

As you tumble through heavens,

Ride the invisible thermals

Screech with joy at freedom

Fill your lungs with thin air

And play bumper car with an Eagle.


I, earthbound,

No hollowed bones to launch me,

Just tired soul to weigh down,

No soft plumage to feel the course

Of wind through glossy feathers

No hunting call to herald my presence.


Still my soul takes flight

The breeze lifts my spirit,

My eyes follow you,

And we will find that glory

Transcend a sullen earth,

Transcend a mean humanity

And soar together into the blue eye of God.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015 (A version of this poem was published in “Pitcher of Moon”, 2014,






Begging Bowl

November 21, 2015

Source: Begging Bowl

Begging Bowl

November 21, 2015

Night Fog 2


With begging bowl

go out in the world

to seek answers, not alms

why death and life

is so random,

why some are spared

and others not,

no mind to age, condition, status

all random, random.

And why glorious Autumn so violent

and why we live in the space

between joy and sorrow.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015



Islamic Terror in Paris….

November 14, 2015
Marianne of France

Marianne of France

 What has happened in Paris is unbelievable.  Well coordinated attacks on sites of mostly young people, with the purpose of creating fear, panic, a macabre political ‘statement’, along with death of innocents. . Am I surprised? No, just shocked. It was bound to happen and won’t be the last time.  Open borders where people are not checked, no passports, no real history of their actions and behavior in their home countries….though at the present time it looks like these were French Muslim terrorists, home grown though probably trained in ISIS camps in Syria.

We are now informed that the terrorists were wider spread, even unto other European countries and back to Syria.  A worldwide web of savagery.

It’s not like the world wasn’t warned as to what was coming: it’s just that people put it aside, believing it would happen ‘elsewhere’, that the threat and action of this savage violence wouldn’t touch them.  But it does, and it will again. No country is ‘safe’ from this sort of violence. The terror is already here and people feel like sitting ducks.

“Sitting duck” can breed hysteria and chaos. It can breed extreme right wing movements that become part of the problem of lawlessness.  It can create homegrown militias but then again, perhaps this is a reach back into our earliest history as a nation.  There was no standing army, the militias were the soldiers.  I come from the Glines brothers in New Hampshire.  Five of them serving in the Revolutionary War. They were, these militias, the standing army.

But we do have a standing army, and we also have the various National Guards. My son served 4 years in the Navy recently, and is now serving in the National Guard.  I would guess  he would be part of the ‘standing army’ if called.  For selfish reasons, I want Peace.

I am 3/4’s of the way through “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”.  It’s taken me 3 years to complete this book.  I had no idea how important this book would be to my present understanding of what is happening today.  The 1930’s and 40’s certainly lay the basis for WWII….and I can’t stop thinking of the similarities between the invasions and terror of the early Nazis (it was to get much worse…..) and what has happened in Paris last night.

Whether Brown Shirts of  1930’s Germany, or the black clad killers of ISIS:  their ideology all leads to death and destruction in the name of what?

You can call it religion, or ideology, but in the hands of evil, it renders death.

  Our hearts are with the French people but our heads should be pulled out of the sand.  Extreme violence such as we have seen in Paris, etc. will call for extreme measures from our governments.  The safety of our citizens and country depend upon a clearer understanding of what the world is facing.  We are not an island. We are a web.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, November 14th, 2015

Dark Days in Europe. Terror Attacks in Paris last night….

November 9, 2015

 What has happened in Paris is unbelievable.  Well coordinated attacks on sites of mostly young people, with the purpose of creating fear and panic. Am I surprised? No, just shocked. It was bound to happen and won’t be the last time.  Open borders where people are not checked, no passports, no real history of their actions and behavior in their home countries….though at the present time it looks like these were French Muslim terrorists. It’s not like the world wasn’t warned as to what was coming: it’s just that people put it aside, believing it would happen ‘elsewhere’, that the threat and action of this savage violence wouldn’t affect them.  But it does, and it will again. No country is ‘safe’ from this sort of violence. The terror is already here and people feel like sitting ducks.  Our hearts are with the French people but our heads should be pulled out of the sand.  Extreme violence such as we have seen in Paris, etc. will call for extreme measures from our governments.  The safety of our citizens and country depend upon a clearer understanding of what the world is facing.  We are not an island.

No one can ignore what is happening in Europe these days. Perhaps if you live under a rock you can, but most of us don’t. I am more than concerned, alarmed actually, at the news stream of photos where we see floods of immigrants travelling by sea and walking over countries with babies and children in tow. Elderly on crutches, pushed in wheelchairs. One Syrian woman was reported to be 105 years old.

80% of these immigrants are young men, from 18-35, single, looking for economic opportunities. A third are from Syria. The rest from Afghanistan, Iraq, the Sudan, Bosnia, Albania, and other parts of Africa. The Syrians yell and curse the US and the world for “not overthrowing Assad and ISIS”, yet they leave Syria, etc. because ‘they want a better life’. The majority of these are educated (the men) saying they are doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, engineers, and they can’t get a ‘better life’ in their home countries. Well, yes, there is a civil war going on, and they want no part of it. Some say, ‘when it is safe’, they will return to Syria because they love their home country. Just not enough to organize and fight for it. For others to shoulder the burden. They consider themselves the professionals, the elite. And they don’t want to be conscripted by either side.

Germany has said that they will take 800,000 of the immigrants (Actually 1 million). Germany is smart because these are the more ‘acceptable’ of the immigrants: more middle class, even upper class, wealthy Syrians, educated. What is left behind in the camps in Jordan, Turkey, Syria, etc. are the people who are too poor to pay smugglers to get them to the EU. This is the real crisis awaiting the news sometimes writes about and they are legion.

Of course, we don’t know what the German people think of this, but I would think it would be along the thought of “Um…no.” And as far as ‘why don’t the Saudis take these Islamic people in their own country? (Along with the other Islamic countries…) These immigrants are the ‘wrong type’ of religious Muslims. No relief for their ‘fellow’ Muslims, but the Saudis are willing to build 1000 mosques in Germany.

Two or so years ago I read “Savage Continent” by Keith Lowe. It detailed the mass migrations across Europe and the Balkans after WWII. War basically started in the Balkans, and it looks like history will repeat itself. For anyone seriously concerned about what is happening right now, I would strongly suggest reading this powerful and disturbing book.

My greatest concerns are for the children, dragged across countries, babies and small children, and those  who drown in open seas and die of disease along the road. They are the true refugees. They are innocent of all politics. In my opinion, that is where immediate concern should be placed.

There is also the issue of these ‘people smugglers’.  Opportunistic criminals who take enormous amounts of money from desperate people and then abandon them, jump out of boats when they are sinking.  They need to be rounded up and prosecuted.  But they are legion and who is funding them?

What of the hospitals in Europe? In Germany, especially in cities like Munich, Hamburg, etc., where migrants are flooding, the hospitals and staff are failing fast.  According to doctors, they are seeing diseases that they haven’t seen for over 20 years and don’t have the means of addressing such quantities in the migrants.  TB looms large, scabies, a couple of suspected cases of Ebola,      syphilis, mental illness and depression are just some of the diseases of these migrants carry. Medical staff  are exhausted and migrants are frustrated at the speed of medical care  received.  Police have to try to secure the hospitals yet pharmacies are raided and drugs stolen. There have been brawls, and outright riots between migrants:  Syrian fighting Iraqis, Afghans fighting Sudanese.  And  none of these Muslims tolerate the Christian migrants amongst them……

Already over 7000 migrant men have disappeared from the camps in Germany, etc.  Where did they go?

The ‘camps’ are terrible.  The sanitation is substandard, migrants complain about the food, and  complain  “Europe is too cold, and too many people.”  Well,  yeah.  Who ever lied about the paradise of Europe back home should have been taken with a large ton of salt.  It’s not clear to me how this vast migration started, but there are migrants that are not coming from war zones: Albanians, Serbians, Kosovars, Pakistanis, and  countries in Africa.  These seem like economic migrants to me and to many others I would believe.

Winter in Europe will challenge reindeer.  It’s supposed to be a bad one, too. And these migrants don’t want to settle in ‘boring’ Finland.  “No bars, nothing to do.”  I thought Muslims were not supposed to drink alcohol?

“We were promised apartments, homes, cars, money, free education and medical.  Europe doesn’t care about us.  We want our money.” (Your money?  It’s the taxpayers of these  host countries who are feeding you.  What in Hell are you contributing here?

The German (and Swiss, Swedes, Finns) welcomed these migrants with open arms a few short months ago.  Now?  These Islamic migrants seem more like an invasion.  They ‘shop’ for a country that gives the most benefits.  Where in modern history are borders so porous that people are not expected to show papers, visas, passports?  Greece, Serbia, Hungary’s forests and shores are littered with discarded passports.  Even Syrian passports, and I can’t understand this at all, especially if Syrians are given primary consideration.

The rise of anti-migrant demonstrations all over Europe and the rise of neo-Nazi groups have not been seen since WWII.  This is not predicated only on hatred, but mostly on fear.  Nationalism plays a role here, too.  However, in some countries, cities like Malmo, Sweden, now the ‘Rape Capitol of the World’, 95% of the rapes are by Muslim men.  They bring medieval mentalities towards women and their contempt and violence are being felt by Europeans  Muslim women already know the drill.

There is no pleasing and no stopping of the numbers. They complain of the pasta in Italy and the potatoes in Germany. Yesterday I saw a video:  A Iraqi man complaining about  a plate of food:  “No man would eat this, not even a dog.  This women would eat.”  Says something about this culture’s misogyny.

Europe is overwhelmed, and what really makes people mad is that these other rich Muslim nations refuse to take in any of their religious kind.  Perhaps they are wiser than the welcoming Europeans.

Mother Merkel’s plan was to put these people to work, to pay for the aging German’s pensions, etc.  That won’t happen.  These people don’t seem to assimilate easily into their host countries. And if Merkel thinks they will ‘start at the bottom’, she has something to learn.  So do the rest of the ‘do-gooders’ of Europe.

This situation won’t end well.  Religion and ideologies are at war.  And they always have been. In six months time, the shit will really hit the fan:  they (especially the young men…) will be bored and restless.  Good fodder for the bad influences of destructive forces already there.  And unemployment in Europe is still a serious factor for the native Europeans.  The vast majority of migrants will find the going very rough.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

More on the Bones of Haiku….some new haiku and attempting Kigo

November 8, 2015

waterlily in our pond.

As I study these bones, I keep being drawn back to Robert Haas’s “The Essential Haiku” (versions of Basho/Buson/Issa.   Haas puts forth these three as ‘types’ of poet: Basho as the ascetic and seeker, Buson the artist, Issa the humanist.   Perhaps their differences grow clearer as we read them, but right now it’s not too clear to me.

The insistence on time and place was crucial for writers of haiku. Seasonal reference was called kigo and a haiku was thought to be incomplete without it. Kigo could be many things, and changed with the seasons. A few examples: Mosquitoes were summer, cherry blossoms, rice seedlings spring, maple leaves stood in for fall and winter had numerous kigos like ‘north wind’, hoarfrost, smog (smoke over a village from hearth fires) fallen leaves, etc. The kigo was of a natural observation of seasons. Although this was codified, it also could be very individual in the work.

Quoting from Haas: “These references were conventional and widely available. They were the first way readers of the poems had of locating themselves in the haiku. Its traditional themes—deep autumn, a sudden summer shower, the images of rice seedlings and plum blossoms, of spring and summer migrants like the mountain cuckoo and the bush warbler, of the cormorant-fishermen in summer and the apprentices holiday in the spring—gave a powerful sense of the human place in the ritual and cyclical movements of the earth.”


“The first level of a haiku was in its location of nature, its second was always some implicit Buddhist reflection on nature. One of the striking differences between Christian and Buddhist thought is that in the Christian sense of things, nature is fallen, and in the Buddhist sense it isn’t. At the core of Buddhist metaphysics are three ideas about natural things: that they are transient; that they are contingent; that they suffer.”

Better to sink down through the level of these poems to the particular level of human consciousness the poems reflect. Or, in my case, attempt.

Lady Nyo

Under the eaves, chimes

Weave celestial music.

My man yawns then farts.

(Implied is strong winds, which could be spring or fall, or perhaps any season. That the kigo isn’t determined or spelled out could also signal the death of this particular haiku.)

A dog comes snooping

Mother and father cardinals—

Intruder- Leave Now!

(this just happened last weekend where two baby cardinals were tipped from their nest and killed by my pointer pup. The parents made quite a fuss. So did I when I found the babies on the steps, dead. Cardinals breed in the spring, so the kigo is inferred here.)

Radishes are up!

From such tiny seed they grow.

Stomach rumbles.

Snow falls on meadows

Crows pick at last harvest seeds

Spring still far away

Cherry red toenails

Peek out from the warm blanket.

Deep snow cools ardor.

White makeup drips

The hard heat and mosquitos

Make maiko languid.

A swirl of blossoms

Caught in the water’s current

Begins the season.

Falls crispness compels

Apples to tumble from trees.

Worms make the journey.

I chase one red leaf

Across dry and brittle grass

Juice of summer gone.

The garden spiders

Fold their black spindly legs,

Die, all work now done.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

The Struggle of Diabetes, and Hope through Intermittent Fasting.

November 5, 2015

“Sea Eagle”, jane kohut-bartels, watercolor, 2001

I don’t write about my health…or at least I don’t remember doing so.  I have been a diabetic for around 12 years, I think, though datelines on this disease are generally hard to pin down.

Mostly I have lived in denial, or made half-baked attempts at doing something about this disease.  However, I have been seeing different diabetic doctors and frankly?  They don’t seem to really get to the root of this ailment.  At least they don’t to me, except to prescribe more and more drugs.  Perhaps this is just the state of American medicine, but I think there are so many conflicting theories out there about diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol, etc., that  it overwhelms them and patients, all of us together.

Two months ago I had an appointment with my GP.  I like him, he is a dear person, but I do think that his only real answer is more drugs. And more tests.  Five years ago I started a course of insulin and gained twenty pounds in six months on the injections.  Being then a belly dance teacher, my midriff bloated and was marked by the bruising of the daily needle.  Not an attractive sight for students or anyone looking.

I was really stressed at the weight gain and even intensive walking and dieting didn’t do much.  So I quit the insulin and the diabetic symptoms continued, though the bloating stopped.  I was rather lucky because the only outward sign of the disease was a numbness in my feet, or more so a pins and needle feeling.  At times I couldn’t touch my feet with a washcloth because of the extreme sensations. I am sure that there were more things going on inside of me, serious stuff, but I didn’t feel much of the effects.  And that is probably the problem with diabetes:  It’s called a silent killer, along with the extremely high blood pressure that seems to go along with the disease.

My sweet doctor put me back on insulin, and tried to prescribe Humalog, and other ‘stuff’ but I refused everything besides the insulin.  Metformin was ok, because it has some benefits besides diabetes, but it seems to lose its efficiency in a matter of years.

Since that depressing appointment, and the different hospital tests that I was registered for, I have done a lot more research.  I have read everything I could on the internet, plus a pile of books by different diabetes gurus I had at hand.

I needed to make a radical rupture with what I knew and what I was told by my doctors.  And within the last few weeks I see a ray of more than hope:  I see progress.

I have come to believe that the root problem for Type II diabetics is usually insulin resistance.  The body is complex but there seems to be a general path to all of this.  Or perhaps individual bodies are different, and respond in different ways, but there are some universal truths out there.

Insulin makes you fat.  I won’t repeat what I have learned through my reading, anyone diabetic can read for themselves, but giving a Type II diabetic insulin seems wrong: counterproductive.  More insulin leads to a higher Insulin Resistance, or so it seems.  It’s a vicious cycle.  I am not addressing Type I diabetics because that is of a different nature and way beyond my interest.  I am just trying to make a breakthrough in my own health and future.

For the past month, I have been following a routine of IF:  Intermittent Fasting and a relatively low carbohydrate diet.  But what I feel is of most value is the IF factor:  There are different methods to do this, some fast for two days a week and eat “normally” the remaining five days, and some fast everyday a matter of hours.  I have fallen into the latter routine.  And I see amazing results already.

I was on Victoza  for about a year and a half, but it really stopped working in my system.  Apparently my results are not unusual.  I also suffered two episodes of pancreatitis because of the Victoza (I was warned in their literature of this possibility) and didn’t want to push it.

IF works (at least for many) because we  have evolved not eating everyday, or stuffing our mouths all day.  That was the way life was:  you hunted, and if you were successful, you ate.  Otherwise, you grubbed for roots and berries. You could go for days without food.  You basically fasted more time than you had access to food.

Today?  We can supply ourselves with food at any time and at all hours. And what we are eating is modified, intensively processed and artificial.  Grains have been modified in the 60’s, especially wheat and corn.  What were slower digesting carbs now metabolize in the mouth and then in the gut.  Slow is no longer available to many of our grains. Beans are better, but are heavy, slow digesting carbs.

I ditched the insulin very recently.  I fast for 18-20 hours in a 24 hour period.  It’s easier than it seems because in doing so, my hunger seems to have dropped off in two weeks.  I try not to eat after 6-7pm at night and I don’t eat anything until 2 or 3pm.  I allow myself a 4-5 hour window of time to eat.  And I eat mostly low carb, but I do fudge on some fruit….apples, pears, mostly.

Thankfully I am asleep for most of those hours….and my sleep is better after struggling with this for many years. I do drink green teas and lemon water upon waking, but have dropped coffee…just because I am losing the taste for it.

Apparently it takes a LOT of energy to digest food.  Having a period of rest for the gut and digestion enables the body to redirect energy to other places in the body. And repair systems, cells, etc.

I have pushed myself a bit on this routine this week because of the results in blood sugar:  Yesterday, without insulin,….105….today….122.  The numbers are good to me, though the point is to get them consistently in the ‘normal’ range…..around 100 or lower.  That will come, but I am very surprised at the results so early on in this venture.  Low carb is very much part of it, but the main factor I believe is in the Intermittent Fasting.

I don’t see my doctor again until after the first of the year.  The holidays are almost upon us, but low carb is easily followed with turkey and salads, greens, butter, the wonderful stuff of eating that actually is healthy for us.  High fat, but not too much of that.

We are told (us diabetics) that diabetes gets worse as we age. Perhaps so if we continue down the paths we have been going.  I am trying to make a radical rupture with everything I think I can change and control.  Already I have lost another 5 lbs in a couple of weeks, and I haven’t tried at all.  It’s been raining here for a while, and my dogs refuse to walk in the rain.  We will see what exercise we can get when the sun starts to shine, but already, my blood pressure is much better and I have a lot more energy.  Perhaps IF is similar in effect to serious exercise.  Something to think about….

I have come to believe that Insulin Resistance is the root problem in diabetes and this isn’t addressed strongly enough by the medical community. High blood sugars are just part of the symptoms, but not the root cause of our disease. So we have to figure it out ourselves.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

Mimi Cat August

Mimi says “Eat mice, silly…no problems at all”.

“The Kimono”, Chapter 3 ….. with a few Japanese Ghost Stories

November 2, 2015

japanese ghosts

This weekend I was talking to another writer, who happens to be Japanese.  We read each other’s blog when we can, and we got on the subject of Kaidan, Ghost Stories.  I have read many, but not as much as he. However, ghost stories are a fascination in all cultures, and I mentioned this chapter of “The Kimono” where Mari, a Japanese-American woman in Kyoto has been  invited to a ritual: a storyteller of ghost stories.  This novel will confuse those reading isolated chapters, but the short story is this:  Mari finds an antique kimono in a shop in Kyoto, and upon donning it, is transported back to the 17th century Japan.  A different region, but she lands on her face in front of a daimyo, Lord Mori. He is also Yamabushi. She travels back and forth, from the 21st century to the 17th and seems to have little control over events.  She supposes (and hopes) Lord Mori is controlling the kimono, but it seems the kimono has a mind of its own.

Lady Nyo

CHAPTER 3, KIMONO (Part of Chapter)

Mari awoke next to Steven. She watched him breath, his chest rise and fall, heard his gentle snoring. The kimono lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. She slipped out of bed and picked it up.

The trees are almost bare now, she thought distractedly, looking through the window. Holding the kimono to her breast, she buried her face in its heavy silk. Tears wet her cheeks.

Only a strange dream, Mari, nothing more.

She walked around in a haze, wondering what was happening to her. Details of her dream did not dissolve like dreams generally did but became solid. Something had happened, and the raw ache between her legs told her something had happened to her sexually. Not all she remembered could be a dream.

Later that morning after Steven had left, Mari dressed and went to the Higashiyama region in Kyoto by the eastern hills, where she had bought the kimono. The strange feeling Mari had when she woke that morning persisted as she walked in a gentle rain up Sannenzaka, the stair street, where the old wooden- front shops were. The street was crowded with people, mostly Japanese, but she spied some tourists. Though she had not been in Kyoto for long, she realized this area was a popular spot for sightseeing and buying souvenirs.   She looked into the windows and saw the kiyomizuyaki sets, traditional and simple ceramics used in the tea ceremony, other ceramics and woven goods, wooden geta and other products that were small enough to purchase and be shipped back home.

There were small, narrow streets that led off Sannenzaka, but she couldn’t find the shop where she bought the kimono. Nothing here looked familiar. After an hour of searching, she sat down on a wooden bench under a now-naked gingko tree and watched people walk past. Old couples leaning upon each other, garbed in dull, black kimonos, young couples with children, dressed in western clothes, and a couple of demure, giggling Maikos clattering by on their wooden geta.

The light rain stopped, barely misting the streets and air. Mari turned her eyes upwards to the clouds above her. She remembered a part of the dream where four cranes flew in the distance as she stood in the castle’s window. Almost beckoned by her thoughts three white cranes flew overhead and Mari’s eyes followed their flight, her eyes filling with tears. Shaking her head, she shivered though the day was not cold.

Suddenly she heard the sounds of horns and drums and down Sannenzaka street came a small procession. The horns were conch shells, the drums small hand-held instruments. They were all men and at first she thought they were priests from one of the many temples in the area. She heard people say they were Yamabushi. Mari asked a man next to her what were Yamabushi? He looked at her askance.

“Magicians and healers, you know, kenza and miko.”

‘Ah, thank you” Mari said bowing politely. “Yes, Yamabushi!”

As if she knew what that was, or kenza and miko for that matter.

He whispered that the fellow at the back was “Fudo”, a joker of a Buddha with a sword and noose. Mari asked him what the noose and sword represented. He said it was actually a lasso to save you from Hell, for binding up destructive passions. The sword was for cutting through delusions, foolishness. There was something vaguely familiar in all this but Mari couldn’t place it.

That evening, a Japanese friend had already invited them to an unusual ritual, something she called Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai. There would be a storyteller, a member of the Yamabushi sect, or so said Miyo. Mari had met her at a small company function when they first arrived in Kyoto.

Ah, thought Mari, that is where I have heard the word “Yamabushi”.

It was a ritual of evocation where a hundred candles were burned, said Miyo when she telephoned Mari to invite them. The spiritual energy was summoned along with a ghost story for each candle. As the short story was told, the candle was blown out and the energy compounded. This time there would be only four candles and four stories, but four was the number of Death. Miyo said this ritual would include ofuda, strips of Buddhist sutras: prayers for the protection from the supernatural.

When Mari told Steven about the evening’s séance, he refused to go. He claimed no interest in such superstition, so Mari had to go alone. Considering Steven’s disdain, it was just as well. He could show his opinion in a nasty way, and Miyo was the only friend Mari had in Kyoto.

Mari walked the short distance to her friend’s house. Kyoto was a mass of building activity and Mari was glad to see these quaint frame houses preserved. So much of the old architecture of the city had been torn down and replaced with modern structures. She entered a little gate and found she was in a small Japanese garden, the sand raked like eddies around the boulders. Miyo told her the house was one once owned by an old Samurai around 1910. He had become an ardent gardener.

Miyo was standing at the door, bowing to her. She wore the usual formal black kimono of a married woman and smiled encouraging as she came up the walk. Mari entered the house and was led into a room on the right. There were about eight other people sitting around a low table. Mari was introduced to the friends of Miyo already there, mostly elderly people, more of Miyo’s age than Mari’s. Everyone bowed as Mari bowed back.

Miyo brought in a tea service and dishes of pastry with sweet bean filling. Mari talked quietly with an elderly couple to her left. Seated farther to her right was a man dressed in kimono, who looked to be in his 50’s. His name was Hiro Takado and he was the story teller. There were four candles on the table and when refreshments were cleared, Hiro Takado lit the candles.

Mari listened to his first story, as Miyo whispered a loose translation in her ear. It was a ghost story, a man who lost his wife and ‘found’ her again on the road. It was not exactly scary, but did seem to impress the other listeners, who laughed and looked nervously around.

Hiro Takado blew out the first candle. Mari noticed the room dimmed. Dusk had arrived. Two more stories, the third about a young woman at a crossing with no features to her face. Mari was getting into the spirit of the evening, feeling her stomach flutter. There was only one candle left on the table. The other guests, clutching their ofuda, muttered nervously at the end of the story.   Each candle’s demise summoned more spiritual energy and became a beacon for the dead. They were invited amongst the living.

Hiro Takado took a sip of water and started the last kaidan. An old samurai had fallen in love with a young woman who gave him her favor and cruelly disappeared. She left her kimono behind in his bed. She was a married woman, now an adulterer. The old samurai searched high and low for his jilting lover. Finally he wrapped himself in her kimono, lay down under a cedar tree and died. The last candle was extinguished.

Mari waited breathlessly, strangely effected by the soft words of the storyteller. The others waited in silence until Hiro Takado started a chant.

“The dead walk this night

Lost voiceless souls

Wind in the trees

Carry their moans

Carry their groans

Up to our doors.

Open and greet them

Bow to their sadness

Open and greet them

Soon we will be them.”

Miyo whispered into Mari’s ear. “This is a prayer of invitation, do not be surprised if something happens. Mr. Takado is known for his abilities.”

Mari glanced at the storyteller and his features seemed to swim before her eyes, a slight change in his face, his brows fuller, his mouth broadened, perhaps it was the smile he gave to Mari. Something happened to his features in the half-light of the now darkening room. With a gasp and a hand to her mouth Mari realized she was now looking at the face of the samurai in the dream. It was only later when she was walking home, when her heart was still that could she think clearly.

The next day Mari was going to bury the kimono in the bottom of an old chest. She lay it out on the bed, her hand running over the knotted embroidery inside where it wrapped around, leaving a tattoo on her hips. She closed her eyes and read the small mounds of stitching like Braille. Picking up the heavy crepe she buried her nose in the cloth, smelling its scent. She thought of the first time she saw it in the window of the shop near Sannenzaka Street. It had attracted her like a dull, muted beacon, and she thought about the candles, the stories and the face of Hiro Takado. A heaviness fell over her limbs and she shook off the desire to lay face down over the kimono and go to sleep. She quickly folded the kimono and put it under blankets and sweaters at the bottom of the chest.

For a month Mari attended to the routine with Steven, kissing her husband goodbye in the morning. She spent her days roaming the streets and temples of Kyoto, learning the different districts and feeding the ducks bread in the waterways.

It took a couple of weeks for her depression to become evident. Her daily walks were unvarying, the district’s streets and parks beginning to have a dull, sameness that did nothing to lift her spirits. She felt disconnected to everything and rarely now smiled. If anyone had bothered to ask after her, she would have told them she felt numb, detached from life.

One day Mari decided to sit at her desk and scroll through the internet. Nothing much interested her anymore. The morning was overcast anyway and threatened rain. She thought about the story teller, Hiro Takado, the ghost stories he told, the transformation of his face, and decided to research the Yamabushi. She found little except this cult was well established by the 9th century. They were mystics, healers and hermits. Apparently they got too powerful for the different ruling families and were bribed to fight and serve depending which mountain region they came from. They were mountainous warriors, and skilled in different forms of magic.

Mari sat back, wondering at the behavior of Hiro Takado, thinking the night was just some weird happening and not that she was crazy. The dream haunted, pressed inward on her, disturbed her sleep and relations with Steven. She needed relief for her face took on a haunted look, with dark circles under her eyes. She lost weight and was now thin.

One afternoon Mari opened the chest at the bottom of the bed, removed the blankets and carefully lifted the kimono out. The black crepe was heavy and cool in her hands as she draped it over the chair. Sitting on the bed, she wondered what she would do with it? Was what she remembered just an erotic dream brought upon by her unhappiness with Steven?

Later that night the full moon rose, shone on the rooftops and distorted the trees. Mari slipped out of bed, pulling the kimono around her. She carefully stepped back into bed, and watched the moon pattern the floor with its light. Finally she fell asleep, wrapped in the warming embrace of the kimono.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

Mimi Cat August

Mimi acting very silly.

An Offering for Halloween: “Mountain Poem”

October 27, 2015

Full Moon, March 2011

The world is a scary place right now. Halloween is a time  for  shivers and excitement that feed the imagination.  Perhaps this holiday serves a purpose deeper than we know.

Lady Nyo



It is almost Halloween.

The early dark of dusk

Creeps in before finishing

With the day–

Strange imaginings

Cause shadows to rustle,

Briars entangle

And nothing seems exactly …right.

In the mountains

Clouds dip low

Smothering the landscape.

Only the moan of winds

Round eaves shaking the skeleton hambones

Hiding in attic corners

Breaks the silence–

A strange cacophony.

Monstrous, ghost trees

Wedged together in

Stumbling rows,

Indian Snake arms

Wave warnings

To all who dare approach

Their Joseph’s –coat-of- many colors

Blasted by Autumn winds

Tearing around the mountain.

The hoot of the owl

Drives on dis-ease until dawn.

Roads dip and swell

In a frenzied, jagged run

Straight into the heart of danger.

Nerves uneasy,

There is too much mystery in this night.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015….while driving in the Georgia Mountains right before Halloween.

(poem published in “Pitcher of Light”, 2014, Createspace,



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