Friday, December 14, 2007


I realize that didn't post much in November. When I returned to the Kyo in late October, I'd made a pact with myself not to leave the country for a year. It was time to hunker down and get to work. For the first time since I moved down here, I felt I could finally commit to this city. So it was that I began to be more proactive about finding yoga students, began to set up yoga workshops for next spring, began to hang out with friends more, began to take my personal yoga and budo training more seriously. Plus the resumption of essay hell, and a few other pleasant surprises, about which I'll write when and if they arise.

There was of course time for fun. One afternoon, while having tea with Big Paul C, we saw Adam strolling up the Kamogawa. He joined us, and the nature of the conversation turned to things more historical. I immediately likened him to a modern day Bruce Chatwin, for his breadth of knowledge and infectious zeal for life. He spoke of a sword hidden in the deep mountains of Tokushima, unconsciously pulling his shawl around him like a wizard's cloak. The next day, he invited Miki and I to come out to Chiiori, in the deep Iya wilds of Shikoku. We rented a car and crossed Awaji, passed Tokushima city, and went over three high passes, bisecting the three Iya valleys. Our route followed that of the Heike as they fled in defeat 800 years before. The beauty of the area required many photo stops, and its danger had us take a long detour around where the land had slid, covering the road. We arrived at Chiiori long after dark. It was mellow and peaceful up there, eating and staying warm around the fire as the frozen rain fell outside. When the sun was out, we braved short walks, or sitting on the hillside looking at a somewhat Himalayan landscape with Tsurugi-zan looming over all.

Another weekend, Miki and I hiked from Kurama to Takao, climbing two passes and staying high in the mountains north of the Kyo. Along the way we came across a hunter and his dog out looking for deer or wild boar. It was the first time I'd seen a gun in this country, but it brought on thoughts about greater dangers: Were bears, usually in their winter dens this late in the year, still foraging on these unseasonable warm days? Shortly after, another sign confirmed our fears. As we approach a trail marker, we jumped backward when we noticed a poisonous viber enjoying the sun at the marker's base. Our walk took us through a beautiful remote village high in the hills, and to the shores of a small lake, unspoiled by concrete. It was encouraging to see a place with no traces of development, and we weren't the only ones to think so. Nearby, a film crew cranked out the latest episode of the samurai drama, Mito Komon. The cast and crew had lunch in their trucks while the lighting crew faced the challenge of filming under a sky constantly changing.

Back in the city, there were parties. We attended the Kyoto premeire of Gaia Symphony 6. Afterward, there were drinks. I talked a while with Jin Tatsumura, the film's director. There were also lots of people in the alternative health field, and quite a few scholars. One professor jittered and twitched as we talked with him, and if this were a different country, and a different decade, I'd have guessed he was pretty coked up.

During the last week of the month, there was a wine tasting party at @Cafe, and a couple farewell bashes for friends seeking other alternatives. At one of these, Sam was tap-dancing along to a jazz band. Each of his footfalls seemed to mock me, as if counting down the days until my own eventual departure.

Autumn was warm this year, and the koyo hunters were no doubt disappointed. We too followed the leaves through their changes. Each day was like watching a striptease in extreme slow motion. The Path of Philosophy gets a lot of traffic this time of year, and two temples were open for only a few days. Reikanji with its surprisingly large garden and lovely screens. Anrakuji, with the gorgeous moss covered gate, and the trimmed shrubs out back, marching toward the borrowed scenery like an army of helmeted warriors. Further North, Sekizan Zenin hid away from the crowds, the late afternoon sun pulling details of highly elaborate craftwork out of the shadows. The trails behind our place lead up to Uryu-zan, then around to Tanuki-dani. The ridges leading south mocking the technicolor neon of downtown. And gosho itself, with fewer trees, but whose gingko stand high and proud and with undeniable majesty....

On the turntable: Xymox, "Phoenix"

On the nighttable: George Leonard, "Mastery"

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