Today we have sugoi ōzora (amazing big sky) in Kanagawa prefecture. The neighborhood bedrooms have been emptied of their futons. The futons and bed linens hang over the edge of the laundry balconies to be sterilized by the sun. The laundry flutters in an orderly fashion above the futons. It’s an amazingly blue big sky day.

In Japanese, the kanji for sky can also be pronounced kara meaning “empty” or “nothing.” So, one may say naka wa karappo da ([it’s] empty inside).

Zen master Shunryu Suzuki wrote:

So we say true understanding will come out of emptiness. When you study Buddhism, you should have a general housecleaning of your mind. You must take everything out of your room and clean it thoroughly. If it is necessary, you may bring everything back in again. You may want many things, so one by one you can bring them back. But if they are not necessary, there is no need to keep them.

Lately I can’t decide if I’m ōzora or naka wa karappo. Is the sky empty? Today it feels full of NASA stuff.

The quote that pleased me to no end, and made me glad that Mr. (probably Dr.) Shannon was trained in the tidy, haiku-perfect, E.B. White school of English rhetoric:

Duct tape doesn’t work in the vacuum of space.

—John Shannon, Atlantis deputy shuttle program manager

I once had great faith in the universal usefulness of duct tape. Ah well. Some good old-fashioned problem-solving is going on in the sky above [emphasis mine]: “Astronaut John ‘Danny’ Olivas used his hands, staples from a medical kit, and pins to repair a thermal blanket on the back end of space shuttle Atlantis….”

Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc. has given me much to think about with that crap sentence. For example, are astronauts trained to use other parts of their bodies to do fine work in space? Go Danny—use that opposable thumb!

NASA has it this way: “While attached to the shuttle robot arm, Olivas tucked the blanket back into place and then used a medical stapler to secure it to adjacent blankets on the left orbital maneuvering system pod.”

Everyone please see to your laundry and your thermal blankets. I declare it a big sky day.

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