Before Basho, Japanese haiku master, set out on his pilgrimage north, he “patched his trousers, put new cords on his hat, had moxa treatment on his legs to make them stronger” and packed “a paper coat to protect me in the evening, a kimono, rainwear, ink and brushes.” 

This seems like simple preparation to me, as I leave for a pilgrimage of sorts, on the cusp of season change, and not sure about what to take. I don’t have to patch, but I may need to buy, and stronger legs would certainly be a bonus. Melbourne has a reputation for rain and chill so I’ll need more than a paper coat. I won’t be taking ink and brushes but I will be taking iPad and camera, iPhone and Kindle, and a multitude of chargers.

He has a crumpled, kindly face, rather gaunt, a little greying stubble around his chin and tired eyes that gaze into the far distance. He dresses like a priest in black robes and flat cap, and carries a bamboo staff and wide-brimmed sedge hat.

I too have a crumpled face. My eyes have gazed too much into cyberspace and are bleary from beach sun. I dress – God ! How am I going to dress for the journey? Smart or comfortable? Sporty or dressy? Boots or joggers? I’d like to carry my spotted gum staff, but I couldn’t bear to lose it. I’ll pack my beret and wear it when I need reassurance.

Wherever he went his disciples and admirers welcomed him, offered him hospitality, showed him their poems for correction and organised gatherings where they all sat down together. 

No disciples, admirers or poems for me, but there’ll be plenty of sitting down together. With my friend since third class who has shaped this jaunt to Melbourne beautifully – in our Airbnb courtyard home; in cafes; at dinner on the Melbourne tram to celebrate her birthday; on the steam train into the Dandenongs. With my blogging friend DesleyJane over a hipster breakfast. With who knows who in the box of archives waiting for me at the State Library. High above “Carmen” as she stamps her feet and tosses her hair. With van Gogh and the wardrobe department of the Australian Ballet (although in the case of these two treats it will probably be standing together).

Then he turned inland, into steep and rugged mountain country where often ‘the forests were so thick that we couldn’t hear one bird cry, and under the trees it was so dark that it was like walking at midnight’. 

One thing I can be sure of. It will never be midnight dark, not even midnight dark at full moon. It will be Warsaw bright. There will be birds, but my adventure will be a bit light on forests, unless I count afforestation by city buildings.

All this is by way of saying I’ll be an erratic presence in cyberspace for the next two weeks. I have no idea whether I’ll post or comment. So, all’s well, in case you’re likely to be concerned. I’m off adventuring.



I’ve appropriated, irreverently, an account of Basho’s journey, as channelled by Lesley Downes in “On the narrow road to the deep north”.