The past becomes present through us. Past narratives guide present actions. Past relationships inform those in the present. Past thought provides stimuli for present theory. Past descriptions of states of mind serve as reassurance that we in the present are not alone but instead have a wealth of advice to fall back on. And yet, the past remains in the shadows, unseen, asleep in the present.
This blog is entitled Sleeping Mountains in allusion to a poem by Yosano Akiko that I first encountered in a course by Dr. Kimberly Kono at Smith College. It was originally the title of a blog about my life working and studying in Japan from 2005 to 2012.
Yama no ugoku hi kitaru
kaku iedomo hito ware wo shinzeji.
Yama wa shibaraku nemurishi nomi.
Sono mukashi ni oite
yama wa mina hi ni moete ugokishi mono wo.
Saredo, so wa shinzezu to mo yoshi.
Hito yo, aa, tada kore wo shinzeyo.
Subete nemuri shi onago ima zo samete ugoku naru.
“Mountain moving day has come,”Translated by Hamill and Matsui Gibson
is what I say. But no one believes it.
Mountains were just sleeping for a while.
Earlier, they had moved, burning with fire.
But you do not have to believe it.
O people! You’d better believe it!
All the sleeping women move
now that they awaken.
The poem continues to inspire my work on gender portrayal in medieval noh theater. The theater is populated with professionals who presented themselves and others’ stories in all manner of socially codified and occasionally subversive ways. As professionals, they were of the lowest social status although they served politically powerful patrons. In the modern era, they were first long discredited as playwrights and later fit into a mainstream gender narrative. I hope to reveal the fire in their stories
Yosano, Akiko. “Mountain Moving Day.” In River of Stars: Selected Poems of Yosano Akiko, translated by Sam Hamill and Keiko Matsui Gibson. Boston and London: Shambhala Press, 1996.