There is a fisherman who lives by a river. He lives in a small hut. His possessions number a small boat, a net, some clothes, some books and a wide-brimmed hat. He fishes for trout. The fisherman doesn’t catch a lot of trout, but he catches enough. Of what he catches some he eats, some he saves and some he trades for necessities. The fisherman hangs his hat on this existence for 11 months of the year.
Every September though he abandons his fishing and goes on a voyage. Every September a raft drifts by his hut. The fisherman always ignored it, assuming the raft had broken free of its mooring and had simply floated away. Eventually he noticed the raft drifting by his hut at the same time every year. And one year the fisherman, buoyed by curiosity got on the raft, just to see were the raft went. The raft followed the river’s course drifting by forests, plains, villages and mountains. The raft drifted to were the river meets the sea, and the land faded away. In time the sea faded away and the fisher man found himself navigating amongst the stars. The fisherman could no longer see the earth, but only the blackness of the infinite, illuminated by only the stars, the galaxies and the nebula. There presented before him the dark – enigma, the pregnant emptiness, from were all things spring into existence.
The raft eventually returned to earth, back to the river and drifted back to the fishermans humble dwelling.
The fisherman still lives in his simple hut and still catches just enough trout. Yet every September the raft drifts on down the river and the fisherman gets on the raft. He drifts along the river, drifts out to sea and returns to the dark – enigma. He see’s new stars, galaxies and nebula, and old ones that have changed. He views streaking comets and exploding supernovas. And once again, he returns to hut when the raft once again drifts by. The fisherman remains grateful that he takes such a journey, yet he still remains a humble fisherman, more than content with having enough.
Inspired by a poem written by Meng Hao Ran, who is an exceptional poet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meng_hao_ran) called “New Year’s Eve at Chang Tzu – jung’s House in Lo – ch’eng”. The poem is on page 51 of David Hinton’s excellent translations of Meng Hao Ran (or jan, if someone could provide me with the poets actual name I would greatly appreciate it) poems, which can be bought here (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mountain-Poems-Meng-Hao-Jan/dp/0972869239/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1296691617&sr=8-2), here (http://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Poems-Meng-Hao-jan/dp/0972869239/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1296691684&sr=8-1) and here (http://www.archipelagobooks.org/bk.php?id=22).
The term “Sky Raft Wanderer” refers to the Chinese myth that a Yangtze fisherman noticed an empty raft drifting by his house every September. He got on it one day and drifted out to sea and found himself drifting amongst the Milky Way and constellations. It follows the belief that the Yangtze, after entering the sea ascends to become the star river. Found in David Hinton’s excellent book of Meng Hao Ran’s poems and the source of my blogging user name. So in that respect, I cannot thank Meng Hao Ran and David Hinton enough. Thank you.