I'm gonna get religious on y'all.
Starting with a question - what makes a religion a religion?
I think we had to answer that on some essay in high school, and I sat there really thinking about it until my mind hurt. These days, as an adult, someone asks me a question like that and I just pass it off, "Nice question. Who knows." End of story.
But I recently went on a pilgrimage. I didn't know I was on a pilgrimage until halfway through my journey, despite the fact that people started calling me, "pilgrim." And that made me sit there thinking about what this thing "religion" really is.
Imagine you're back at the beginning of recorded history and the gods are sending rain or shine, helping your crops grow, and bestowing good and bad luck among people. It was their form of science. You would have no luck going down among those people and saying, "Stop believing in those gods!" That was just the way the world worked in their eyes and there was no question of "belief." In that kind of society, does religion differ from culture?
It's 5:11 am and the sun is going to rise at 5:23. I was a bit slow walking up the mountain because I had to tackle some spiderwebs, so now I'm hurrying to make it to the top before dawn breaks. And then I see two wild boars before me. One of them darts down the mountain, breaking twigs and causing rocks to tumble on its way out of sight. The other dives into the undergrowth uphill. It's a steep hill, though, and I stop still as a rock, listening and waiting for it to climb up, up, and out of my way. But it doesn't. It hides there and make grunting noises.
I've never had a boar do that to me before.
I have a broom as a weapon and a dustpan as a shield. I might be safe if it decided to charge me. But I can't imagine why it would. It has me in full view. I'm going to be walking away from it, and I'm not going to make any sharp movements. Still, I've never had a boar before that didn't want to get as far away from me as possible.
Well, I want to get as far away from it as possible, so I keep walking, making big noisy steps, and shouting, "Ho!" at intervals. And then, in the dim blue light of dawn shadows, I see the piglets. There are 3 of them running around in circles. They're agitated. And their mother is waiting up the hill, still grunting for them to find her. And me? I have walked right between the babies and their mother.
Oh wow this is by the books the stupidest position to ever be in.
Someone brought to my attention that I hadn't written in a while. While she was scrolling through some of the pictures on my phone, she asked why I hadn't written about this or that. With the pandemic, the heavy rainfall for three weeks, and my super busy job, the things that happen in my life aren't taking the form of stories. But I guess if you put enough small moments together, a picture emerges. Here are some snippets from my life.
I'm outside, walking on a dike with the sea sloshing around on one side and a quiet town on the other. Megumi points up in the sky and said, "Oishiso!" That looks delicious! She's pointing at a cumulous cloud that's bubbled up. These kinds of clouds are characteristic of summer. This day feels so much like summer that we can look up at the sky and forget the pandemic for a moment, forget our heavy work schedules, and just get drawn up in the shapes of clouds, the sound of waves, the taste of ice cream. I stop to take a picture of this fluffy formation in the sky and something spherical gets caught on camera as well. I look up again and there are more of them. A group of people are blowing bubbles our way. Megumi and I drop everything and start chasing them. Megumi and I are in our late thirties, and the people blowing bubbles don't look much younger. All of us are together in this moment trying so hard to enjoy life despite everything else happening in the world.
The subject of all my emails and posts used to be bits of Engrish I found around town.
But recently I think it's better if the subject has something to do with what I'm writing about.
So I recommend joining the facebook Engrish in Japan. It never fails to make me laugh. If I'm having a bad day, I just scroll through the site for a while. Even if you don't use facebook, I recommend scrolling through this whenever you have a bad day.
Next item up. My art email inspired so many interesting comments! Thanks everyone for all your insight and personal stories. My dad sent me this picture of one of my first works of art. I was between 3 and 4. I'm glad we still have this physical evidence of the beginning stages of my hobby. And I'm thrilled to know my parents noticed it, took a picture, and held on to that photo. That means a lot to me.( Collapse )
So probably everyone already saw my Facebook posts and the pictures in May where I was in the GAM (Global Artist Movement) art show at the Toyota city art museum. But for those who haven't, to make a long story short, I spent two weeks of musing and three days of painting this:( Collapse )
The car followed a river of teal and aquamarine, which wound around boulders it had carved out of the mountain. Some of the boulders were as big as my flat, but the scene didn't have that jagged violence that I have been inspired by in other Japanese landscapes. Though the scale of nature was impressive next to the size of our little car, the I felt calmed rather than excited about it.
This was Ehime during Golden Week. A lot of people would be out visiting family, catching Covid in restaurants and among friends. So I decided to go out to nature. Somewhere long and hard that would make the 3-day weekend feel worth it. I decided to climb Mt. Ishizuchi.
Ishizuchi is about 2,000 meters high. I haven't climbed a mountain that high in forever. The peak is a large rocky outcrop which seems to fold over like the hook of a nose. Perhaps it's for that reason that a Tengu, a long-nosed creature of the spirit world, is worshipped there and there are festivals performed on the mountain each summer, despite the danger of falling off the rocks. This Tengu is the protector of the mountain. He protects the trees, the rocks, the wildlife. . . And people seem to think he'll protect you too, if you send him your prayer. But I think if I'm going to pray at a mountain shrine, I'm not going to pray for my safety, I'm going to pray that the mountain's biodiversity stays balanced and thrives. At least I believe that's the kind of prayer that the Tengu would honor.( Collapse )
It's been more than two years since I've moved to Okayama and sometimes I still pine for Kobe. I always think - how can I recreate what I had in Kobe here in Tamano?
One of the things I miss is walking up the mountain to have tea with all of my friends, pausing along the way to watch insects, and feeling part of something bigger than me, feeling like I belong.
Sometimes, wandering along the hiking trail, I found myself pausing, giving up, wanting to turn around. I thought, why am I here? There are so many more beautiful mountains. No one will be waiting for me at the top. There are so many more lively mountains. Why bother? There are so many other ways to get exercise.
the very first time I made friends on Mt. Takatori in Kobe, it was because I'd wanted to see a sunrise from the top of a mountain for the first time. I was hoping to catch the last of the cherry blossoms as well, and maybe both of those things would come together: The blossoms and the rising sun. I felt rushed. Would I be able to make it up there in time? And then elation when I was able to see the sun rising from the morning haze.
It's been a while since I wrote.
I wanted to talk about graves this time.( Collapse )
Happy New Year and Merry Christmas! (Although I'm not counting it as 2021 yet until Jan. 20th.) I hope it's a much better year than last year. At least plans won't be cancelled this year as probably we all know better now not to make plans in the first place.
Sometimes one good person can make or break an adventure.
I owe this adventure to the owner of the Irifune hotel.
At first Yossi and I spent the holidays cleaning the house, then relaxing with our relatives. Snow fell lightly amidst a scattering of clouds that sometimes sent sharp beams of sunlight to prevent the white fluff from piling up, and sometimes covered the sun long enough for it to stick. The sun and snow played tug of war for two days while we played hide-and-seek, made skype calls, made cookies, decorated the house in paper snowflakes, practiced piano and calligraphy, and ate heartily. But on the third day, the snow was gone, the kids needed to do their winter break homework, and Yossi and I decided not to overstay our welcome.
We left the house with absolutely no plan whatsoever. I was actually pining for Kobe, struggling with my need to meet up with old friends, versus the fear of Covid. Somehow, in the next hour, we went from driving through the mountains wondering what to do, to being on a ferry heading toward the island of Shodoshima.