After recovering from three somewhat harrowing days driving a rental car on the road in Japan, we learned , despite the high points of the trip, not to do it again. I also relearned that there is a very small margin of error between life and death on a snake like one lane curving road where a head -on collision could catapult you from one world to the next and was possible at any time.
At Koyasan, while walking through the cryptomeria pathway lined with tombs of the dead, I learned again to value the time I have left, before I rest for eternity with the millions who have passed before us.
On the far too narrow one lane road leading us out of Koyasan, I learned that beauty can exist in unlikely circumstances. The road really should have been just a pathway along the small river, but it actually was chosen by Google maps as our way to get down the steep mountain. It even had a route #!
Despite the knowledge that each curve or one wrong turn of the wheel could presage our final moments, I could not get over the thrill of being in this beautiful area. The intense beauty overcame my fear. The foliage lining the river’s path was at its peak of fall color. The river itself, about 25 feet beneath the road, was populated by beautiful boulders and rocks, the river, crystal clear, running a path between them. It invited me to linger, but my husband had a sense of urgency to get us to a wider and undoubtedly safer road. Some bikers rushed past us, but other than that, we’d meet one or two other motorists about every 20minutes, which is to say, we were mostly alone in this splendid landscape on this treacherous road.
Then, suddenly this journey into an alternate universe was over. We welcomed the first houses that appeared and celebrated escaping alive. Maybe I’m being overly melodramatic, but I don’t think so! Soon, the junk big box architecture that is too prevalent outside of most cities took over our visual field. We’ve lost so much of the natural world.
The sacred place of Koyasan was meant to celebrate nature, as is Shintoism. I am grateful we got to participate in the celebration, somber as it could be at times.
Life is precarious and glorious.