Friday, January 05, 2007

Neyyar Dam-nation!

Off to India, where I'll spend a month in teacher training at the Sivananda Ashram. I'm sure to return much thinner and slightly more pious.

Back in snowy February...

On the turntable: Krishna Das, "Pilgrim Heart"
On the nighttable: Salman Rushdie, "Midnight's Children"

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hitching into the Year of the Boar

Spent a crazy week with friends, exploring the themes of good food, rampant conversation, and long walks under mild winter skies. I've already mentioned that Miki and I spent a night in Osaka with Hide and Sawako, eating an international hodge-podge and talking James Joyce under the eyes of some of Hide's creations. The next night saw a brief stopover by Kodo apprentice Crissy and staff member Chie. Then the following day, Team Daza was in town, cashing in on the karma acquired by the countless nights I've spent on their Kichijoji tatami. (Patient folks they are.) We added bike riding and mountain climbing to the mix, plus had a party with Anna S. and a couple more with E-Ma.

On the eve, Miki and I met friends at Shimogama Jinja. Had a surreal moment of realizing that the New Year had dawned only when noticing dozens of people simultaneously beginning to text on their cellphones. After giving props to the gods, I stood by the bonfire, drinking cheap wine from a paper cup, on which I later wrote this poem:

Pillars of sparks
from the shrine's courtyard
give birth to stars

Also talked a little with one of the shrines kannushi, a young fellow with jeans poking out beneath his white robes. He claimed that the main reason his English was so good was so he could chat up foreign girls.

Missed the first sunrise, but compensated somewhat, with flashes of a fierce headache. With Daza and Eli, we walked to my local shrine, then down the Path of Philosophy to Miki's local. The slow pace of a three year old allowed us to notice all the things we usually miss during our walks or bike rides there. Zach and I explored the creepy remains of a long dead tea shop and as evening came on, we found a couple new places for waterfall misogi. Atop one stretch of steps we found some lollypops as offering to jizo. Bizarrely, this was the same thing Eli had been asking for all day.

The following day, biked upriver to join the crowds in prayer at Kamigamo Shrine, then walked the streets nearby, lined with high earth walls. Eric and Mari had their party that night, osechi followed by piano jazz.

On Daza's last day in town, we all walked up Daimonjiyama, then on into the woods beyond, hoping to find a path through the mountains back to my place. Along the way we met a bizarre old man walking with two canes who pointed us down the trail. We joked that he may have been a trickster fox, but stopped laughing soon enough, after dropping into a strange valley settlement which seemed to be abandoned. There were a handful of structures rapidly being overtaken by grass and vine. A few of them had strange figures of fiberglass and molded plastic, the detritus of festivals long over. One gargoyle was particularly creepy in the way it surveyed this dead kingdom. Had we been in the States, I would have been listening for dogs while worrying about guns. Yet even here in Japan, it was hard to feel completely at ease in such a place as this. Leaving the buildings behind, we continued along a small river into a land rapidly darkening with gathering clouds. The walk was forboding, along crumbling marshy trail that crossed steel beams that hid the creek and gave the aural illusion of passing cars. But the water continued to run, and the ridges grew lower and finally we found the road to Hiei. We began to hitch. Somehow, a car stopped for us, bringing us, four adults and a three-year old standing in the middle of a mountain road, down to the city. I'm sure the driver had a good story for his friends that night...

On the turntable: Talvin Singh, "Ha"
On the nighttable: "Granta 57: India! The Golden Jubilee"