Here is an excerpt from my journal on August 11, 2007:
August 11, 2007
This morning I wake in my new Japanese mountain home early enough to take a walk through the morning mists haunting the village’s many walkways. The air is wet and the trees gently drip dew onto the path before me.
My mind stiffens as I approach an unfamiliar Shinto archway, flanked by two fierce looking rock dragons. Stone steps rise between and beckon me but hide what lies ahead. Yet, I am unafraid, only joy fills me. Carefully, thoughtfully, I climb.
At the top of the steps is a path leading to an old wooden temple. On either side of me is a platform on which stands a large leaning bamboo rod wrapped at the top and in the middle with white cloth. I can only guess what they symbolize. Life? Death?
I advance humbly down the path, studying the old buildings before me: a wide platform accessible by wooden steps, a table supporting a wooden box, a thick rope, a bell. I wish to ring it but I fear I might wake someone…or something. Another platform, this one higher, holds a larger bell; another rope, this one thicker, grips me and pulls. The silence is so delicate I do not want to break it, to offend the keeper of this majestic place with my clumsy, unknowing noise. First, I will learn, then I will ring.
As I continue though the grounds I come across a small yard. Several rounded stone pillars have been placed along each side. Some are shaped like temples, some like baths, some like altars, high as my hip. Behind, flat sticks rest in wooden grates. What I can only imagine are prayers, or blessings, have been painted on each stick by a skilled calligrapher’s hand. Beside is a small box containing dusty bowls and burnt incense. Is it a graveyard? One thing is sure, it is a holy place.
At the end of the yard is a path leading into the woods. Two primitive log archways mark the way. Webs caught in the corners are turned to beautiful silver frames before the misty backdrop. Beyond the arches, in the forest, countless webs shimmer in the day’s hazy morning light. I walk until I come to an opening. Beyond is a field of rice, and beyond that, an old farmhouse. An old man working in his garden looks up and waves, “Ohayo, gosaimasu!”
The day is born again, and I too feel as though I have started a new life.