Friday, January 03, 2014

Moving to Stand Still





There was a slowness to the morning.  Something about its nature, as everyone about seemed unhurried.  Many of the people I saw appeared to be heading home after passing the wee hours bringing in the new year.  There is a refreshingly languid feel to Japan at rest.

The train too felt unhurried, as I rode for over an hour to the northern reaches of Lake Biwa.  I made certain to get a seat on the right side, and await the first sunrise of 2014.  It too tarried a bit in arriving, needing a little more time to clear the bank of clouds nestling against the water's surface.

I'd certainly picked the wrong shoes for the day's walk.  There was a good 10 centimeters of snow on the ground.  And even it looked like it was in no hurry to get anywhere. 

The village of Makino was quiet, though occasionally a besuited man or two would cross the road ahead of me, moving toward the local shine with a wooden stick in hand.  One man smiled broadly and wished me a happy new year in my native language. 

On the outskirts of the village, a thatched roof house was working out the pace of its own state of decay.  As the main highway through here was flanked by snow, I walked down the middle, unmolested by cars which seemed to pass by only every ten minutes or so.  Beside the road, one car had a freshly torn left front fender, perhaps skidding on this very road last night.  Its driver may have been amidst the dozen or so people lined up at a small shrine in order to welcome the local deities into 2014.  I looked past them to the mountains on the horizon, a range on which I nearly lost my life in a snowstorm nearly a year ago.  I'd have to do my own praying later on.

I walk only a hour and a half, and come to Omi Imazu Station.  As I'd already walked the next section, I needed to leapfrog ahead 15km.  Hitching would be impossible due to the dearth of cars on the road.  But there was a taxi waiting at the station, so I hopped in.  I asked him to take the road along the water, retracing my steps on a hot August day just before I moved from Kyoto.   The driver moonlighted as the owner of a local inn, and seemed keen on talking me into buying a holiday home up this way.  We had a pleasant chat as my eyes stayed upon the ground over which I had previously trodden.

Today was a far more pleasant day for walking, the sun indifferent about keeping a consistent temperature as it popped in and out of the clouds.  It shone miraculous beams down upon the lake, the water gently lapped the snowy shore as if tasting ice cream.  I wandered into an neighborhood of beach homes with their free-form approach to architecture.   I left the road to walk atop the carpet of pine needles that coated the beach,  and followed it all the way into town.

Takashima had yet to awake this morning, which felt about right.  I moved past the shuttered galleries and cafes to the station, catching a train that got me home before lunch.  Over five days, I'd finished all the unfinished walks in my guidebooks, and looked forward to just sitting still awhile, easing myself into the laconic canter of this New Year of the Horse


On the turntable:  Yonder Mountain String Band, "Old Hands"
On the nighttable:  Richard Russell, "Dancing over Kyoto"

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