Thanks everyone for all your Christmas cards, birthday messages and emails, and everything. I've been very lighthearted and not the least bit lonely during the holidays! My card wall is now full of personal messages, even though they came late!!!
This is a story about my little hero, Haru-chan.
We gathered, as we always do, at the small, local shrine that rests unobtrusively near the top of a steep hill. This tradition is called, "Hatsumode," the first visit to the shrine of the year. Yossi and I have a ritual. We pray at the shrine together, and then we walk once clockwise around it while holding hands. Then we're served half a sip of sake from the shrine priestesses. Every hour on the hour, a man sitting by the fire lights a cracker that soars up in to the sky and thunders across the valley, making me jump out of my skin. Even if I know it's coming, it still makes me jump.
This all takes about 10 minutes. After that, we jump in our cars, turn on the heaters, and go off for lunch. Once in a while, we'll run in to someone that causes a bit of a chat for a while, but that didn't happen this year.
This year my 5-year-old niece, Haru-chan, had a camera with her. I asked what we should take pictures of. She took me off to the side near a stone stairway and we took pictures of the Shishi stone guardians of the gates. I looked over my shoulder. What is this stairway going down?