The ocean whispering & roaring along the wild Oregon coast, where I will find Li Po thinking of mountains & friends & emerald wine...

April 19th, 2014, 8pm

It was 11°C with scattered clouds. The breeze was gentle.

This moment shows the ridge overlooking Manzanita, a cozy beach town nestled below this place, named Neahkanie Mountain where a reputed buried treasure from a Spanish galleon lies.

In the little town of Manzanita, the apple of my eye leads my friend & me to a lovely little bookshop named Cloud & Leaf, where I give her a book of Rumi’s essential poems, translated by my college professor, Coleman Barks. I select a slender volume of Li Po to help me translate this wild shimmering coast, these sensations of homesick wonder that Li Po always lived with as he wandered in war & exile, in verse & moonlit embraces fueled by wine & the poet’s ferocious spontaneity that earned him the lasting reputation as “The Banished Immortal,” the author of thousands of poems, most of them lost.

What we have, saved since his last fatal embrace of the moon in 762, is more than enough to matter 1,250 years later:


Alone, in the vast midst of boundless
dream, we begin to sense something:

wind and fire stir, come whorling
life into earth and water, giving us

this shape. Erasing dark confusion,
we penetrate to the essential points,

reach Nirvana-illumination, seeing
this body clearly, without any fears,

and waking beyond past and future,
we soon know the Buddha-mystery.

What luck to find a Zen recluse
offering emerald wine. We seem lost

together here—- no different than
mountains and clouds. A clear wind

opens pure emptiness, bright moon
gazing on laughter and easy talk,

blue-lotus roofs. Timeless longing
breaks free in a wandering glance.

From The Selected Poems of Li Po translated by David Hinton, published by New Directions.

I am facing the chilly sea-foam of the Pacific Ocean, thinking of what has happened to the sea and her creatures during the long interval from when Li Po gazed at the same bright moon that remains the ruler over his & my heart. May I share with you this emerald wine of enlightenment? If we are to savor our laughter & easy talk, so much depends on realizing we are digging for treasures, not of Spanish gold, but of the urgency to “penetrate to the essential points” without fear in embracing this fragile interstellar reef we call home.

Hurry, your Zen moment isn’t waiting for your complacency! Do you want the poets of 1,250 years worth of tomorrows to remember Li Po under the same moon, the same whispering & roaring Ocean, talking about buried treasure fables?!!

David Wade, Shu and Ellen said thanks.

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Chris DeBarr

Chef who believes in eating the world to save it. Wine & language & sharp knives are the tools of my métier. At heart, I'm a warm & fuzzy Dadaist.

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