Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Slouching toward Shikoku


...we awake at 5:30 and walk toward Oku-no-in as temple bells begin to peal. The cemetery looks almost two dimensional in the fog. Three monks are chanting at the Gōkyo, slower and deeper and even more Tibetan than at the service yesterday. We go around to back to Taishi's tomb and meditate awhile. Then a quick prayer asking for protection as we're about to trace his footsteps across Shikoku. On the walk back, sunlight begins to spot some of the mossy stones, animating them.

We have breakfast, pack, then get a bus for the cable car down. We are standing in front, the car submitting to gravity, moving down the steep pitch as if an automobile in idle. The driver has little to do but brake and inch us into the station.

On the next train, we lurch through the mountains toward the River Ki. We are once again back in the wild land of the gods, and I can see how this formidable range kept out invaders. Back on the plains, today's invaders are the other passengers. I hate that we have to pass north of the Ki and out of the land of the dead, then return all the way back to Osaka. I'm not ready for city yet. The bodies hem in much too close, and I can't quite concentrate on my book, having been too relaxed by all the space I got these three weeks on the road and in the mountains.

Then on the ferry. I spend most of the crossing filling in my journal, but feeling the need for perspective, I go out on deck. If I go from dry land to dry land without a glimpse of water, I'll never be sure I actually left Honshu. It is windy, the waves high, large freighters rolling as they pass through our wake. Tall shafts of white reach up Awaji's rocky southern sides. I cross to port and look past the bow at the shoreline of Shikoku which we'll walk for the next few weeks or so. I go back inside to pee, my stream drawing a crescent moon as the boat breaks the swells.

On the turntable: Fleetwood Mac, "Roadhouse Chalk Farm"
On the nighttable: Frederick Barthelme, "The Brothers"

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