Basho’s wandering as an old man absorbing nature, visiting the sources of his hero’s writing, and doing an occasional poetry slam with drunk mates seemed like my idea of an enlightened old age. The ‘Travel Sketches’ book’s  intense poetry and honest open prose is a good travelling ‘companion’. When I was younger this book came with me on lots of trips while I was trying to feel an edge, mostly picking it up before sleep at night to carry it into dreams. There are a few rolls of Super 8 called ‘Narrow Road’ in my boxes, this below is one of them. My YouTube caption says

“First we had to drop the cat off (where?) and then we visited my home town Walwa and my primary school across the border in Jingellic. Then we walked over Mt Kosciusko ending at Lake Albina in the dark, and woke up to a helicopter bringing in LP gas and warnings of coming snow storm, and walked out via Blue Lake track. There’s so much stuff in this that needs explaining I think it’s a job for the website (or a voice over). Music is licensed from AudioBlocks. Thank you Margaret for indulging my nostalgic revisit to my childhood home and taking the images of me. The filmstock was Ektachrome 64, grainy and it was under-exposed.  I pushed it in the Reflecta+ transfer.”

See below for that ‘explanation’ I promised.

Here are the much quoted opening paragraphs from this book by Basho  (thanks to Wikipedia) and a PDF version I found online from a different translator. It seems Basho scholars love offering different interpretations. Once you’ve set up the journey, the collected poems – haiku at the back of the book are the source of travel contemplation.

“The months and days are the travellers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers. Those who float away their lives on ships or who grow old leading horses are forever journeying, and their homes are wherever their travels take them. Many of the men of old died on the road, and I too for years past have been stirred by the sight of a solitary cloud drifting with the wind to ceaseless thoughts of roaming.

Last year I spent wandering along the seacoast. In autumn I returned to my cottage on the river and swept away the cobwebs. Gradually the year drew to its close. When spring came and there was mist in the air, I thought of crossing the Barrier of Shirakawa into Oku. I seemed to be possessed by the spirits of wanderlust, and they all but deprived me of my senses. The guardian spirits of the road beckoned, and I could not settle down to work.

I patched my torn trousers and changed the cord on my bamboo hat. To strengthen my legs for the journey I had moxa burned on my shins. By then I could think of nothing but the moon at Matsushima. When I sold my cottage and moved to Sampū’s villa, to stay until I started on my journey, I hung this poem on a post in my hut:

kusa no to mo
sumikawaru yo zo
hina no ie

Even a thatched hut
May change with a new owner
Into a doll’s house.


There’s not much of the Zen Buddhist search for enlightenment in this film, and the film poetry is just a narrative. There’s a bit of ego in the bits where I took Margaret back to see where I grew up and went to school, and asked her to film me. The photo’s have captions added, if I was a poet, I’d have done them as haiku.  There is an expanded description of those sequences in the film, for the archive. I don’t like the music to this anymore, it seems trivial.

Lake Albina is the star in this post which has a black and white video, called ‘Suitcase’ of another visit.


Like Basho, I was leaving this house in Burwood, (it had belonged to my parents who sold it to a friend who was happy for me to rent the back shed as a bedroom studio). The cat was being taken to live with my sister Jill and it was agitated. It roamed the car and mewed all the way to ‘Doreen’. It escaped from their house the first time the door was left open, and disappeared for weeks, and was sadly given up for dead. Then it came home and stayed, until it died of old age.