Word Prompt: Death | Story Prompt: from the book “A Tale For The Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki

Write It Out: Instruction Video

“She entered her text and sat back again to wait. When the bell sounded, she read the incoming message and nodded. She thought for a moment, running her hand over her smooth head, and then she started typing again.

When up looks up, up is down.

When down looks down, down is up.

Not-one, not-two. Not same. Not different.

Now do you see?

It took her a while to type all this , and at last when she hit ENTER to send her message, she looked tired. She took off her glasses, placing them on the edge of the low table, and rubbed her eyes with her crooked fingers. Putting her glasses back on, she slowly uncurled her body and stood, taking her time. When her feet were steady underneath her, she shuffled across the room toward the sliding paper doors and the wooden veranda. Her white socks glowed brightly against the dark luster of the wood that many feet, many socks, had polished until it gleamed in the moonlight. She stood on the edge and looked out at the garden, where old rocks cast long shadows and the bamboo whispered. The smell of wet moss mixed with the scent of incense burned earlier in the day. She took a deep breath, and then another, and raised her arms out to her sides, spreading the wide black sleeves of her robes like a crow stretching its wings and preparing to fly. She stood like this for a moment, perfectly still, then brought her arms together in front of her body and started swinging them back and forth. Her sleeves flapped and filled with air, and just when it looked like she might take off, she appeared to change her mind, and instead reached around and clasped her fingers behind her, pressing them into the small of her back and attempting to arch her spine. Chin tilted upward, she examined the moon.

Up, down.

The smooth skin on her shorn head caught the light. From a distance, where Ruth stood, it looked like two moons, talking.”


I have been thinking a lot about the concept Ruth Ozeki writes about, “When up looks up, up is down” since I first read it. This caught my attention because it is both simple and profound. In light of the “freedom convoy” currently in Ottawa, which seems to be yet another activity where people are encouraged to become even more polarized, the “up” only looks “down” and so remains “up”, and of course the “down” only looks “up” and so remains “down”.

It is simplest to only ever look in one direction. For some it is the direction they are going (they don’t learn/remember the lessons of the past), and for others it is the direction they have been (they don’t see that there are other directions they might choose). This is such limiting sight. It is simple because it is familiar – but that doesn’t mean it is the best way.

Here’s where “death” comes in to the picture. Rather than being a slave to the past, or to what we think is the future, how about changing our perspective? Why not, when we are “up”, look even farther up – so as to realize we might actually be “down”? Why not consider looking to the past to see repeating patterns, and then course adjust to prevent repeating them? Easier said than done, for certain, but very worthwhile. Plus, it has the added benefit of discovering empathy for others, and finding that “sweet spot” of connection.

Whew. That’s enough philosophy for me on a cold January day! Thoughts? Feel free to share them here.

Leave a Reply