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To make miso, first you will need good poetry

(verses that won’t mind getting stained and wet)

& large crocks, bigger than you think.

You will need a good space—

Miso ferments best in a place that requires some walking to reach,

A few steps out of the way is enough, but it should be a special trip.

I keep my miso upstairs in an unused room where the smells of koji & bean & sweet can grow wild.

A space like a library, a sheltered room.

Make a note of the weather, and start early in the day if you start at all.

But before that, enjoy the cool of the morning with a cup of green tea.

Not just the cup and not just the morning, but the tea itself—

the leaves, the aroma, the steeping

dried green leaves of the first cutting mixed with toasted rice,

the tea pot and the cup out of the cabinet and down from the shelf

but also—

the tea shop, the field, the northern reaches of tea cultivation,

the smell of these places.

Then the quiet path out to the kitchen, chickens waiting for scraps, a stray boiled soybean or some rice.

Away from the noise of imagined lives elsewhere, miso tells us that life is here, obstinately.

Where beans are steamed and mashed, koji made and cooled, sea salt measured out.

Miso does not reward selfishness or opportunism, the desire for speed or lust for profit. There is no particular recognition of good or noble causes, no t-shirts or tweets or enormous banners.

Just back to the process, mixing & packing, & the perpetual cleaning up.

Slow work, simple results: this suits me, someone who has never been built for speed or agility.

Miso shop in the back, bookstore in front, and a zendo on the second floor.

Fermentation classes and poetry readings every month,

String quartets serenading the stoneware crocks.

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But for now:

Just steam the beans and mash them, mix in the fresh koji and sea salt, and wait.

Watching and caring and staying out of the way, a small part of something both larger and smaller than myself. That is life: essential and unimportant.

Where daily efforts are needed, where daily efforts mean nothing.

The beans have cooled now, enough to begin.

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