For my mother, summer could never last long enough. Each summer she made a grim pronouncement that summer was half over once the 4th of July came and went. I argued with her to no avail. She actually experienced dread as the too short summer season in New England moved inevitably forward. She really should have lived in California. Continue reading “Sweet Memories of New England Summers”
It was was dark outside. All I could see were small clusters of lights as our plane came in to land, but I knew the unseen rural New England landscape well. In years past this landing meant I was coming home from college or in later years for a visit with my ageing parents, my young children by my side. Feelings now, as then, were a mixture of anticipation and melancholy. The melancholy was from the recognition that time was closing in on the remaining time left between me and my parents. Those disturbing feelings are a visitor that accompanies advancing age, deepening recognition that the clock is ticking and adding a bittersweet quality to events that were once never given much thought.
The empty airport concourse signalled immediately that no one would be there any longer for my homecoming. It had been decades ago, but happy images of my mother and father waiting for me remained alive, however impossible. The Christmas decorations on display looked a little cheesier to me than they had in my youth. Mounds of dirty snow were the only remainders of last week’s early snowstorm. The cold air seemed colder than I’d remembered. The winter coat I’d brought with me in defense of the cold warmed me, but felt heavy and oppressive.
I’d come to visit a dear relative who is being treated for a grave illness. I was relieved to finally visit, but apprehensive too. Continue reading “Going Home!?”
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.
Long-range plans are not my forté. Sometimes,they are neccesary, but in general, I prefer to make it up as I go along, follow my instincts, and see what might appear. Sometimes this results in a clash with my scientific husband who is a more linear thinker. He has called my seemingly random excursions, “aimless wandering.” That’s the whole point, but I think you have to be wired a certain way to enjoy it. It has been known to drive him crazy, but today, happily, we were on the same wave length.
This kind of travel is serendipitty doo dah for me. This is a look I seem to get when visiting a temple. I am calling it my quasi-spiritual look.
What can be more fun than coming upon some wonderful place that is unexpected? Seeing a flower for the first time or the final time in the season? Taking in the complexity of the stone work pathways. Looking at the details and beauty of a bamboo fence. Listening to the sweet sounds of birds, so high in the ancient trees, I can never spot them. It’s eye and ear candy, pure and simple.
As far as temples go, I hear tourists saying they’re “templed out.” As far as I’m concerned, temples can be like people, they have a lot of similar characteristics that are arranged differently. No two are ever just alike. But you can’t be rushed in meeting them. Each entrance, gateway, walkway, garden, bell tower, hondo, etc. are different. Do I have a fave? Not really.
Today, we traveled a few miles north of central Kyoto to visit a trio of small temples in the foothills. The Japanese maples are just beginning their autumn displays at this slightly higher altitude. Bus loads of tourists will descend in a week or two, I imagine, when the colors are more vivid and cause the viewer to gasp in disbelief. Today, all was calm and peaceful. Probably the calm before the storm. It allowed me take in details that in more crowded circumstances could be overlooked.
Today the quiet on the temple grounds felt heavy and dense. Today, I noticed for the first time that there can be different qualities to quiet.
By the time we toured all three temples we were ready to eat lunchee. (adopted Japanese word.) There were no immediate restaurants, so we began to walk along the narrow country road towards what we thought might be the nearest town. We didn’t have to go far before coming to a small restaurant with no English spoken and no English menu. If you show a willingness to “work” with the staff, it’s been our experience that you will always get something to eat. Today, it was okonomyaki Just the best, simple and delicious.
Oh, Japan! Never could I have imagined the impact that a short trip to accompany my husband on a business trip to Japan in the 1980’s would have on my life. The impact was profound and has continued to influence my life in ways small and large.
Suddenly I was presented with a very different way to see and be in the world. It was as if I’d fallen down the rabbit hole into a fascinating new world that I had no idea existed. I found an ancient culture that revered its traditions as it continued to innovate creatively. I found people who appeared always to be generous and polite. I found an attention to detail that captivated me. I found a culture that revered nature (most of the time). I found stark contrasts between old and new, the sacred and the profane. Juxtapositions exist everywhere. It was stimulating and inspirational. It got my attention. In a week’s time, I quickly became obsessed with all things Japanese. It was clearly a case of love at first sight. In the ensuing years, I’ve come back to Japan many times. I now live part time in Kyoto. It’s become my Source.
My obsession can puzzle those who’ve never been to Japan. I do my best to explain it with the following examples. Continue reading “OH, Japan!”