Archive for the ‘musings’ category

– encounter 13b – Utsunoya

February 17, 2016

All of our countries have routes that maybe our ancestors didn’t walk on, but which someone used. The indigenous population of Australia have lived on that land for at least 45,000 years. We have a land seeped in history. Only thing is, it isn’t ours. Different climates required different needs, and that which has been well-documented and has physical, tangible remains is maybe more accessible and familiar to the western imaginations, and perhaps provides many people with a touchstone to received and learnt, perhaps cellular, images of the past.

The paths that surround Utsunoya are linked to its history as being a town on the Old Tokaido road, and in fact, some of the original path can still be walked through the hills. To hike through those hills and visit the beautiful park nearby alone is worth it.That is, it’s cool to walk the path, but it would be cool to walk it without knowing it’s history too, though maybe not as cool.

What is suggested for exploration in the Utsunoya area by most websites seems to be a quick walk to Utsunoya from the road stop, if that’s where you disembarked from the bus. I walked up from Mariko basho. . . .

nearby_soba

A sign to a soba restaurant just over the bridge, and in Utsunoya. Hiking is always best rewarded with a lovely bowl of soba or udon.

on_the_right_way

This way to the Meiji Tunnel and other attractions.

tunnel sign

Keep going. A map at the entrance of Utsunoya.

 

Hiroshige

A replication of one of Hiroshige’s paintings, or in his style, of Utsunoya, or the Old Tokaido passing by it.

Utsunoya_street_1

Through the town itself.

Utsunoya_street_2

A few tourists were wandering around, but it was the later afternoon, wet and rainy. No tourists in this photo!

Utsunoya_street_3

Many things were shut up.

Utsunoya_street_4

It was still beautiful though. A dog barked at me constantly from the safety of his house. I couldn’t find the soba restaurant, but I didn’t look too far. I had a mountain to hike!

Utsunoya_stairs_01

The stairs up to the tunnel.

IUtsunoya_stairs_2

Keep climbing.

signs_3

Signs. Tunnel, tunnel, tunnel. If you look at the map way up above, there is more than one!

signs_4

Signs.

signs_5

Signs.

Old_Tokaido_Road_Sign

Signs to the old Tokaido Rd. I would be coming back to this, but was turning left for now.

Tunnel_Museum_Sign

Signs to the tunnel.

Utsunoya is picturesque, and a walk through the Meiji-era Utsunoya Pass tunnel, which was the first toll road in Japan is definitely worth it. There is nothing wrong with the traditional itinerary.

Utsunoya_Pass_Tunnel_1

Suruga side

Utsunoya_Pass_Tunnel_2

Suruga side

Utsunoya_Pass_Tunnel_3

Suruga side.

Utsunoya_Pass_Tunnel_5
Looking back at the Suruga side.

Utsunoya_Pass_Tunnel_6

On the way through.

Utsunoya_Pass_Tunnel_7

In the centre.

Utsunoya_Pass_Tunnel_8

Utsunoya Pass, Meiji era tunnel brickwork.

Utsunoya_Pass_Tunnel_9

Okabe side.

Utsunoya_Pass_Tunnel_plaque

Commemorating the importance of the tunnel, according to this site.

contraption

Again – are these machines used for transporting harvested tea?

Walking through the tunnel, you are departing areas contained within Shizuoka City (Suruga ward), and you exit into areas contained within Fujieda City (Okabe). The recommended itinerary might also tell you to, double back, and then walk up and over the hills along what is left of the Old Tokaido Road.

Old Tokaido Road Sign 2

Clearly marked on the right.

Old Tokaido Rd Sign 3

Less clearly marked, right where you need to turn, as is so often the case in Japan. Even so, I’m grateful for the signs in English when they are there.

Old Tokaido Rd stairs

Walking up to the Old Tokaido Rd.

Old Tokaido Rd jizo

Respects being paid to ancestors and gods,  on the corner overlooking Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd village overview 1

An earlier photo showing how little the village below has changed.

Old Tokaido Rd village

Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd bamboo

Bamboo brushing the curve of the road.

Old Tokaido Rd monument 2

Monument on Old Tokaido Rd, Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd information

Information which I cannot read. It pertained to some foundation stones in the area.

Old Tokaido Rd foundation

These were foundations of maybe an inn. Below were the foundations of maybe a shrine, according to this site.

Old Tokaido Rd crest

Up and over the crest of the Old Tokaido Rd. Heading into the Fujieda shi side of thigs.

Old Tokaido Rd rise 1

And again.

Old Tokaido Rd tree roots 1

I thought that a storm must have blown through here recently. But photos on the Net from a number of years ago seem to indicate that this part of the path is always full of tree litter, and exposed roots.

Old Tokaido Rd tree roots 2

I can imagine monsoonal rain bringing these down in mudslides. They were beautiful, though. Magestic.

Old Tokaido Rd other side

Okabe side.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 1

Old Tokaido Rd sign on the Fujieda side of things.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 2

An entrance here, an entrance there.

Where you at?

There are a lot of maps around like this. If you can read a little kanji, it will help, but they can also give you a visual sense, even if you can’t.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 3

Old Tokaido Rd, Utsunoya, this way AND this way. You can see a haka (cemetery) in the background. That is a mikan (like a mandarin) tree just behind too. It was bearing fruit.

Old Tokaid Road tree roots 3

I retraced my steps. Many magnificent trees, though I don’t know how deeply their roots ran. I turned around to take this photo. I wasn’t walking in this direction.

Old Tokaido Rd stone marker

Stone marker.

Old Tokaido Rd information

Information.

Old Tokaido Rd Suruga side

Coming back to the Suruga side of the Old Tokaido Rd. It was beautiful walking through the hills with the rain tapping on the leaves, and birds singing. The rain was not too heavy, though I definitely needed my umbrella.

Old Tokaido Rd leading to tunnel stairs

If you could (you can’t) take those stairs, it would take you within proximity of the Utsunoya Pass Meiji tunnel.

Old Tokaido Rd Suruga side 2

I wandered once more to the Meiji Tunnel and walked through it.

What I would suggest you do however, rather than just the suggested itinerary, if you have the time, and your purpose is hiking, is to take the Tsuta no hosomichi from just behind the Utsunoya rest stop on the Shizuoka side. This website describes the path

This road is an oldest path for crossing the Utsunoya Pass, which is mentioned in “The Tale of Ise.”
It served as an important road until the old Tokaido was opened in 1590.
Many travelers walked along this path while it was used as an official road since the Heian period.

It is a tough trek though, and I walked past the entrance a few times towards the end of my hike, because I couldn’t actually believe it was the path. This blog post describes it as “incredibly steep.” “Hosoi” means narrow. A post that I can’t find at present says that it would take 25 minutes to climb and 15 minutes to descend. I’m actually terribly at climbing down mountains, and there were a lot of slippery looking rocks at the mouth of the path on the Okabe side, so reversing the route I’m suggesting above could be a good idea too (climb the really steep stuff, descend the more gentle – if there is a gentle descent. I suspect not).

Anyway, I’d pop over to Utsunoya village, do the section of the Tokaido trail which is there, and will also get your heart rate going if you don’t hike much, and even if you do, but it’s not too difficult. Double back, walk through the Meiji Tunnel, take the path that indicates the way to a museum.

map_overview-rest stop

map_overview_rest stop

This will exit at Tsuta-no-hosoimichi park. Turn left.

Once in the park, make sure you cross the bridges and enjoy the river and various structures controlling its flow (see below). The paths over the river lead back to the main trail, so you can enjoy this diversion. There is information around the park about the engineering, and also included slightly in blog post. From there I would continue, looking for the maps and signs for Tsuta no hosomichi and turn here (picture below). This is not my photo. I should have taken it. It’s from a guy who walked the Old Tokaido Rd on a wing and a prayer. The link to his blog is in the caption below the photo.

The entrance is across a small stream and begins with those rocks, or I guess it’s the river. I thought I had enough time to get back to the Utsunoya road stop, Suruga Ku side, but I wasn’t sure. It was about 4:30. The sun sets at 5:30, and though from the map it seemed I should be fine, it was wet, and getting darker, so I decided not to risk it. I was’t sure how long it would take. Photographs on the Internet indicate that I should have taken it though! If you google つたのほそみち入り口 you’ll get some hits. Definitely on my list.

The descent should take you to just behind the Utsunoya rest stop, Suruga side, the point that you started from. If you can get a hiking map from somewhere, there really are a lot of walks in the area, and they seem to loop up. If you can’t, give your self a good few hours (get there earlier, rather than later) and check out the many detailed maps as you go through. Some are bilingual, but not all are.

Bee Hives Utsunoya

Coming into Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park, I walked behind this house. It’s shed is full of bee hives (unused, I guess?? Or waiting to be used.)

Honey for sale Utsunoya

They were selling honey (hachimitsu はちみつ)

Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 01

These bridges were fun to cross, and with the gentle (or not so gentle) rain and mist, truly evocative.

Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

Another one.

Warrior Helmet Dam (Kiwada River Sabo Dam)

Damming this river was apparently an engineering feat. Actually, the building of all of the tunnels, and “harnessing” of nature, or complementing of nature (?) was. This dam is indicative of a larger dam further up the river (I think! It might be this one) called the Warrior Helmet Dam colloquially. It’s offical name is the Kiwada River Sabo Dam.

Bridge -Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

Bridge

Water wheel and other buildings Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

I don’t know if these smaller buildings operated as tea houses and so on when the weather was better and it was tourist season.

Buildings Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi mich park

Buildings, bridges, on the other side of the river.

Making of the dam

Information about the engineering was scattered around the park.

Map of the area Tsuta no hosoi michi park

Map of Tsuta no Hosoimichi Trail. I would have liked to have been armed with some of this information.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 1

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Click to enlarge.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 2

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Click to enlarge.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 3

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Apparently the path had been used officially since the Heian period, and was used prior to the opening of the Tokaido Rd. The Tokaido Rd. opened in 1590,as quoted above.

Looking back at the other side of the river Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

There’s that little building, below, which I had passed directly on the other side of the river. I’m returning to the bus stop (or hoping to find it) now, after deciding I didn’t want to risk being stuck on a steep narrow path in the middle of the mountain ranges as the night fell.

Older house on the way to the Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

This older house was on the way to the Utsunoya road stop on the Okabe side (there are two).

Sign Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park

If you’re driving, this is the sign to look out for.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 1

I think I made the right decision. It was getting close to 5:00, and the clouds and mist were billowing in.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 2

Clouds, rain, traffic. I’m heading toward Fujieda here.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

Walking along on the wrong side of the road (for the bus), trying to figure out just how I was going to get home.

clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

I crossed over a pedestrian walk way, a fair way down, when I saw a bus stop, and it was the right move. On this side, I could have caught a bus to Fujieda, and taken a train back. But it was preferable to get back to Shizuoka by bus from here. The rest stop can be seen in the distance on the right.

Detailed map Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 1

This was the map I really wanted! Lots of great detail in both languages. Click to enlarge. Exciting figuring things out with the resources at hand, though.

Detailed map Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

Information. Times. Click to enlarge.

Tsuta no Hosoi Michi explanation 1

Information. Yup, where I thought, You couldn’t possibly turn there, was exactly where you turned. Photos of the start of the Tsuta no Hosoimichi trail.

Tsuta no Hosoi Michi explanation 2

Information.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 1

I found my bus stop. Actually, I walked to the next one, as I had about 20 minutes to wait, but stopped shy of walking through the working tunnel. Masses of cars, the tunnel is quite long, and I’m not sure if pedestrians were allowed.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 2

Snake clouds. Trucks resting.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 3

Mist and clouds.

Waiting for the bus Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side

The bus stop. Sakashita.

Arrival Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side

My bus! I was happy to see it. Lights always look pretty shining in the rain.

Aoi beer Golden Ale

A good day hiking was rewarded with a glass of Golden Ale once I returned to Shizuoka. Aoi is a local brewery and this little bar on one of the main streets has only about seven seats. Two were empty when I arrived. It was still early. Lots of individuals (well, 3 out of 5) were women enjoying a beer. Two, myself and the lady to my left, were solo.

Aoi Beer A taste of Green tea

According to my phone, I’d walked 65 flights of stairs. I hadn’t of course, but I’d gone up and down a fair number of gradients. This beer had traces of green tea flavour. I was having a chat to the master and another guy to my right by this time. I might have been onto my third bevvie. A mistake. Still, conversation wasn’t too bad, though my Japanese is pretty rusty nowadays.

Soba-cha

After leaving Aoi beer stand, I enjoyed a cup of soba-cha (buckwheat tea) at a soba restaurant at the station.

Oysters

I finally got my soba at the station. Not very romantic, I know, but very tasty. This was a small side dish of oysters. I ordered far too much.

Kani-soba

This soba contained shreds of crabmeat, and I can’t remember what the other flavours were. Delicious.

extras

It was a set, so tempura and rice too. Far too much, but I ate it all. 16 kilometres all up. Not bad for a half day trip with plenty of sightseeing and stops for photographs.

– encounters 7 & 8

February 8, 2016

A long trip to Nagoya and then Toyohashi, via the local and express trains, to visit the doctor, get a haircut, and to then catch up with friends.

The best quote I heard that day was I find that a body that is in motion, stays in motion. True dat. And for things that matter, I could be in motion a whole lot more. I agree fully with reflection too. It is the habit of stagnation that I often need to break.

That quote was from my lunch partner, a guy who’s constantly in motion. After I said goodbye to him, it was time for a haircut and then a walk around Takashi Park with a very heavy backpack. That evening I met some other very good friends. Below was the lovely wine that I had maybe just enough of, but maybe a few too many of as well.

wine_toyohashi

Sharing good times with good friends

Encounters 8 began with a desire to clock up my 10K. I needed some agave syrup from a store in the large shopping mall, Bay Dream. I decided to walk it and then head along the cycle path that goes from the corner where you decide whether you want to go into Miho proper, or head along the Strawberry coast.

I have actually walked along that stretch of road from behind the university, along the coast (the Strawberry road). But it’s in a recess, so no chance to see the strawberry fields, or, maybe I did, but didn’t know, as they’re harvested in winter here, and therefore probably need some kind of hothouse.

in_the_shadow_of_this_mountain
In the shadow of this mountain

The journey didn’t start with this view of the carpark they’re digging up, because I’d taken that photo the day before. Maybe it should be encounter 8a. It used to service Seiyu department store. Encounter 8a was also meeting up with some old and new friends in Shizuoka for some very inspiring conversation. Great!

From the photo above and in actuality, you can still see Fuji, but for how much longer? A torii is just to the right. This location, and a guy I saw hanging out at the shrine, is the inspiration for my work in the shadow of this mountain (Mt Fuji, Shimizu). Scroll down if you follow that link.

Minowainari_shrine_01

The entrance to Minowainari Shrine. Two Inari-Kitsune, or foxes, guard the many torii

Anyway, I would have set out the same way, followed the road leading past the workmen digging up the carpark at the beginning of encounter 8, and eventually I followed the Tomoe River most of the way up to the main road. I’d noticed a few large torii off on the side roads the other day, so I wandered off to have a look, and discovered Minowainari shrine, or jinja.

Minowainari_shrine_02
Shimizu’s own little slice of Fushimi Inari Taisha – the famous torii and shrine just outside of Kyoto.

These shrine with the red torii will always be protected by Inari Kitsune, or foxes. Inari is the goddess of

foxes, of fertility, rice, tea and Sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success, and one of the principal kami of Shinto.

according to this wikipedia article. There’s quite a bit more info if you follow that link, including the fact that Inari is sometimes a god and sometimes androgynous

Minowainari_shrine_03

I should have taken a photo of this fox’s partner, the one with its mouth closed, but you know, there are plenty shots of these kinds of guardians online.

Minowainari_shrine_Kitsune_inari_12

Instead, here is another view of the same statue.

To the right of the structure, you can see a small kind of shed. In fact, it’s quite opulent inside, and is serving as the main shrine, I think. I thought that was quite unusual, though I could see that the main hall was being repaired.

Temporary_Minowainari_Shrine

There’s a festival for three days next month, I think. But I can’t find any information, even in Japanese (my skills aren’t high), as in photos and so on, but maybe it’s detailing some other kind of event.

Minowainari_shrine_Festival_Announcement_11

However, while trying to find images for a Matsuri at this shrine, I found further information about why the structure above is being used. The main shrine burnt down in 2012 after an arson attack.  The two pictures directly below are taken from the Net and show you the fire and its aftermath.

Minowari_jinja_fire

Not my photo. Taken from here . You can read the news story there too, with Google translate (or by yourself if your Japanese is up to scratch).

Minowari_Jinja_Fire

Not my photo. Taken from here. You can see the same Inari-Kitsune not doing much to protect the shrine. Maybe it was pre-determined?

Minowainari_shrine_Ema_10

Three to four years have passed though, and at the beginning of 2016 people placed their wishes on these ema for the New Year, and the days following that. I’m sure they did in the preceding years as well.

Minowainari_shrine_Pillar_09

One of the older pillars/monuments about the place.

Minowainari_shrine_08

The main shrine under repair, or being rebuilt. It looks as if it’s getting there. Of course, that structure might have existed before. I don’t really know.

Minowainari_shrine_07

This was looking out from a smaller, older shrine to the torii leading up to it. All of the Inari-Kitsune (fox) statues that you can see are pairs, and they seem to range from oldest to newest. The newest being very close to the shrine.

The middle ones had just about lost their faces, though. They were spooky, but I love this aspect of the older statues being kept around and sometimes honoured in some way or the other.

Minowainari_shrine_06

Walking back through the torii to the street.

Minowainari_shrine_05

One of the Kitsune-Inari protecting the shrine at the front. This guy seems to be pretty old.

Minowainari_shrine_04

A large torii at the end of the street indicates that a shrine is along it. This is the back of the torii. It also indicates that it’s quite an important shrine.

The shrine grounds did have a little office with a window for selling good luck charms and so on, and I finally did see an attendant there, but the curtains were basically drawn, and it wasn’t a brisk day for business.

Storage_House_01

As I left Minowari Jinja I decided not to follow the river to the main road, but took one of the side roads. There seem to be a lot of these older storage houses in the Shimizu/Shizuoka area. Or, I’ve seen three. That seems quite a lot to me. Actually, I just found this article. Their Japanese name is kura, that is, the general name of these warehouses.

Many parts of the country were really flattened in WW2, and Shimizu, as a port town, wouldn’t have been spared, I think, though I’ll need to research it.

Storage_House_Decal_02

I’m not sure if this says what used to be stored here, or if it is the “mon,” the seal, of the family.

Storage_House_Back_03

The back view with a fruiting mikan tree.

Fuji_Baydream

The walk up to Bay Dream along the main road is fairly unpleasant, due to being industrial, and the roar of  traffic, despite a bay being on the left, but obscured, because it’s in frequent use. However, between all the factories and shops there is a cycle way.

It’s not particularly attractive, but it is quieter. Also, from across the biggest mall-type shopping centre in Shizuoka, you can often get good views of Fuji, such as above. Though the day was obviously misty.

Once you’ve walked past Bay Dream, and taken the path into Miho, it becomes very pleasant, surrounded on either side by residential properties. Many folks were out walking their dogs, cycling, just taking in exercise.

Because Miho is on a peninsula, the bay is still to your left only you can see it a whole lot more clearly at times than when first leaving Shimizu. It’s on your right too, but you can’t see that from this pathway.

After about 2km, I finally decided to take the “walk of the gods” (kamisama doro), a lovely wooden promenade leading to the world heritage listed Miho no Matsubara. That meant veering right from the path I was on. I’ve taken photos of it before, so none here, but that link will show it to you.

Miho_Net_Photo_Path

Okay, okay! Too much text. This picture is from the net, and therefore is not mine. View it at the link in the paragraph above.

Once at the beach, I turned right instead of left (the views of Fuji are to the left, and there is a well maintained path through the pine trees), walked through the other set of pine trees and along the path running parallel to the beach.

I turned right at the university, cut through and then walked down to the bus stop to take me back to town. I didn’t take any photos of the ocean that evening either, even though it was in good form. I’ll give you a sunrise pic instead, from about three weeks ago.

15_Miho_Walk
Sunrise across Suruga Bay – only connected by location to this post – taken about three weeks ago

10_Miho_Walk

The pines of Miho no Matsubara. Again, another sunrise photograph, taken at the same time as the photo above. I wandered through similar pines, though not these ones for encounter 8.

– encounters 6b & 6c

February 5, 2016

There aren’t many places you can walk along the Old Tokaido Road as it’s mostly taken up with newer highways and byways. Well, you can walk along it, but it’s not particularly inspiring.

I took it now and then on my walk from Shimizu to Okitsu, first detailed here. When I could, I walked along side the Tokaido-sen, instead, or the Tokaido line. There are often wee, little pathways that expose the backs of houses, the slight intimacies of lives close to the railway tracks.

At one point, leading to Seiken ji, the temple I detailed in the blog post before this one, there was an older set of steps leading to a crossing over the tracks that had no path or boom gates. A rare occurence. I wondered if only the monks took it. I thought about risking it, but thought I’d wait for a more official crossing.

That day at the smaller crossings there were a number of workers positioned, noting down maybe the people and cars (when they could) who used them. Or maybe they were taking note of the many trains that passed. I’m not really sure what they doing.

As I was striding along, parallel to the tracks, their presence alerted me to a small crossing on my left. The bells started their clamour, the boom gates came down. I noted a torii with a “do not enter” rope strung across it on the other side. A shrine hidden from the main road. Well-hidden. I was curious. Even though it seemed I couldn’t enter the shrine from the main pathway, there might have been more to the location.

Ibarahara_shrine_Okitsu_01

Once the train passed I crossed over. Plum blossoms were soaking up the mild winter sun. There seemed to be a community meeting place, perhaps a communal garden. I noted a path that went to the right of the torii. It wended past a waterfall trickling down a steep rock face, a tiny gorge, if that is the right word. A newish Buddhist statue stood there with fresh flowers. Very peaceful. The path continued up the hill, with two smaller jinja (shrines) on either side of it.

Not my photo. Visit this post

Not my photo. Visit this post

The photo above shows cherry blossoms, I’m pretty sure. But it’s too early in the season for sakura a the moment, so I’m pretty sure the trees I saw were ume, plum. The ones further up the mountain definitely were. Though the article seems to be from January, so perhaps plum also. OR, I’m wondering if it’s the poster’s photo, as they say they were there late December, and there were still gingko tree leaves on the ground. Who knows?

Coming down the hill, pausing at the first corner, was an older couple. I’m pretty sure the man was using a walking stick – the kind you use for old age, not steep hikes, though it was being used for both. They had paused, and by now the path had led me to a point where I got a pretty good view of Suruga Bay. Much better than from Seikenji temple. I stated that the view was beautiful and the woman agreed with me. I did not mention that half of it was beautiful, but the other half was full of machines digging up sand.

Ibarahara_Shrine_Suruga_Bay

After our niceties, I was on my way, and I came across a hall which must have been used for meetings and general maintenance. A couple of chairs sat on its verandah as if primed for folks to to kick back and take in the view.

plum_blossom_Ibarahara_shrine

Ibarahara_Shrine_Suruga_Bay_02

While doing this, another elderly gentleman wandered by. This seemed like a really deserted shrine, so it was interesting to see other folk. Also interesting that they were elderly. Maybe the ones who cared, but also the ones who knew that climbing up this mountain was guaranteed to get the heart rate going, and if done on a regular basis, was a good workout.

I again commented on the scenery, and he mentioned that the view was beautiful. Then I mentioned except for the half that wasn’t, and he replied that everybody said that was so.

I wasn’t sure if the path continued, but he disappeared to the side of the hall without entering it, so my hopes were up. I fussed around taking a few more pictures so as to give him the pleasure of a solitary hike, particularly when it seemed to be part of a regular routine. A stranger, and particularly a stranger from a strange land, can be an intrusion.

The path went past a dam or barrier of sorts, and over the canal which ran from it, sans water. But look at the size of that. It’s not massive, but when typhoon season hits and it doesn’t stop raining, I can imagine you wouldn’t want to be at that point of the walk.

Ibarahara_Shrine_Dam

This patch of land seemed to be quite small, at least from the original side of the crossing, but it meandered, wound and climbed. As did I.

path_Ibarahara_shrine
Looking back at the path.

Suruga Bay could still be seen on the left, though it was getting obscured by the huge trees. How old were they? The path lead to the steps seen in the photos below.

steps_leading_Ibarahara_Shrine_01

steps_leading_shrine_okitsu_02

My elderly friend was still climbing them (he was younger than the other couple), and again, I gave him time, and didn’t include him in the photo. I hadn’t asked permission. Once he reached the top, I began my ascent. He waited for me at the top.

Ibarahara_Shrine_02

Ibarahara_Shrine_03

Ibarahara_Shrine_04

Once I was there he asked me the regular questions, or question, where was I from. This question is always vague, or can be answered vaguely. I replied that I was from Shimizu. Okitsu is considered part of Shimizu, I think. Shimizu used to be a city before it was absorbed into Shizuoka city.

But that I was born in Australia. He asked me if I knew the story of the shrine, and if I knew about it. I told him it was first visit there, and if I’d remembered the vocabulary, would have told him I’d discovered this gem by chance. I think he could see that I really appreciated this little touch of mystery, nature and serenity tucked away, not that far, from busy Highway 1.

I am not sure, but I think he said the shrine name was Ibara Jinja. It might have been Ibaraki, but that would be a bit strange. It could have been something else entirely. If any reader knows, please leave a comment. I googled Ibara, and shrines of Okitsu, but didn’t get any hits on this one. I was searching in English though. Wait, wait, wait! Okay, got it. Ibarahara Shrine. A google through of Japanese sites indicate that the front stairs have been closed for a number of years due to fear of imminent collapse. One of those posts is from 2010, so that pathway has been shut to the public for some time.

He said that the shrine below (or maybe the path, now that I’ve done the research), the one that one could not enter, because you couldn’t get past the torii gates (well, really, you could have stepped over the ropes strung between the gates, but the two guys keeping an eye on the crossing would have been keeping an eye on me too), was the new shrine (or pathway). He said this shrine tucked away in the woods up this steep set of stairs was the older shrine (or way to get to it), and the shrine was in fairly good condition, so perhaps the second hypothesis is the correct one.

He told me some other information too, but my Japanese is nominal. Research also lets me know that the shrine can be read as “Ihara” as well, and I’m using Google translate, so very well it might be “Ibara”, or that might be a local shortening of the name. So many questions, though! Then he bid me adieu and I wandered around taking shots here and there.

Ibarahara_Shrine_05

Ibarahara_Shrine_06

Then, back down to the main road. Google had told me that the walk to Okitsu, at just over 4km, would take me about an hour. With diversions, it was a lot more, but that was okay.

Ibarahara_Shrine_Suruga_Bay_08

I’ve been trying to clock up 10k+ a day walking. Two ninety minute classes with regular monitoring adds at least 2k onto the total, however, no classes at present. I think I was at the 10km, or maybe a little under. I took the train from Okitsu back to Shimizu, headed out to S-Pulse Plaza and took note of the movie times. I returned later that night and saw Johnny Depp in Black Mass. Great performance, solid film

Just under 14km saw the day out.

– encounters 5b & 6a

February 5, 2016

tis-taku-tashiro-medium
The beginning of this post really belongs to encounters 5. The Verkehr Museum, near Shimizu Port, is currently holding an exhibition of Taku Tashiro’s work. He’s an illustrator and graphic designer. The exhibition is interesting enough. I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see it. However, if you were combining checking out the Shimizu Port area, it’s worth popping into. Admission is only 400 yen and it runs until the end of February. The Verkehr has some really interesting exhibitions detailing the port history of Shimizu, and there were also some very lovely impressionistic/abstract etchings from a local artist. I’ve misplaced her name(card).

Encounters 6 begins with setting out to walk inbetween Shimizu and Okitsu station. You always think, easy, right? I’ll just follow the railway lines. Except they go places you can’t go. The easiest way to follow them is to be on them, which, in Japan, would probably result in death, considering how well they are utilised. Not really an option. Google maps, or GPS and so on, direct you to the most boring, car-ridden path you could possibly take. So, if you know the general direction, then follow the tracks when you can, if you don’t have to double-back too much, and there are lots of hidden pathways and opportunities.

Along the main road, maybe the old Tokaido Road, is the Zagyoso Musuem/Villa. A reconstruction of one of those elegant older houses you often encounter only as reconstructions. It belonged to one of the wealthier members of Okitsu, and he was visited by many dignitaries, etc. Not really my cup of tea, but entrance was free, the grounds and house were lovely, and if you like matcha and ice-cream, it was available, though maybe not on a mid-weekday. I was out walking to see what I’d encounter, so there was one thing.

As I wandered along I came across the Seikenji temple. According to virtual tourists, train spotters like it because the Tokaido line runs right in front of it. Which it does. Apparently, according to the link just prior, a shot of a train passing under the bell tower is well sought after.

Brick_Wall_Seikenji_temple_01

Brick_Wall_Seikenji_temple_02

That brick wall was beautiful, mainly because the red brick is so rarely seen in Japan. The temple overlooks Suruga Bay, and the horizon would be the ocean if not for the elevated highway that divides the vision.

senkeiji_01

senkeiji_02

The photo below details some further information about the temple. The temple was also a crucial in terms of negotiation between the powers that be and foreign powers/ religious interests, particularly Korean, throughout its history. It must have boasted stunning views once upon a time.

senkeiji_explanation

I was the only one in the grounds, though some workers were labouring in the nearby haka (cemetery). A monk sang while I overlooked the grounds. Very peaceful.

senkeiji_04

senkeiji_05

I love the depictions of the 500 arhats / rakan/ boatsatsu / bodhisattva that you can see depicted within Japan. Enlightened folk, in other words, who have reached sainthood, nirvana, possibly, but who come back to earth to help out the mess and mass of we bumbling fools. Of course, they’re quite often bumbling too.

Recently I saw Takashi Murakami’s depiction of these 500 fellows at the Mori Art Museum. The information I gained there was useful to understand the different personalities, facial expressions, foibles and achievements of the arhats. I visited a number (500?) of these at Nihon-ji, just outside of Kurihama. That’s a trip well worth doing. It’s detailed in this very long post from a previous blog of mine (there are a lot of photos!).

Anyway, I didn’t expect to see them. It was a delight to come across them, and to wend my way up the mountainside where I was abruptly met with a locked gate. So, I didn’t wander too far. But that gave me more time to check out the arhat who seemed to be having a pretty lively conversation with one another. I liked them so much, I’ll post a number of pictures to give readers some idea of the variety.

seikenji_arhat_01

seikenji_arhat_06

seikenji_arhat_07

seikenji_arhat_04

seikenji_arhat_08

seikenji_arhat_09

seikenji_arhat_01
My favourite. This one has the Buddha inside the Buddha. Or the pure heart is shining forth.

seikenji_arhat_11

seikenji_arhat_12

seikenji_arhat_13

IMG_0298

IMG_0299
This guy is very mellow.

IMG_0300

IMG_0301

seikenji_arhat_05

sekenji_back-view

The temple from the back. That’s Suruga Bay in the distance.

And here’s Murakami being an arhat at the foyer of his Mori exhibition.

Takashi_Murakami_Arhat_01

Takashi_Murakami_Arhat_02

Stay tuned for encounter 6B.

– encounters 4

February 2, 2016

Miho Airfield

Who knew that the Miho Airfield actually got used?
I find this patch of the walk from the university into Miho, to the point of the peninsula – not that I usually get that far – kind of spooky, like in a Patrick McCabe, Call me the Breeze kind of a way. Scratch spooky. Let’s try disturbing. Well, that book is disturbing.

And what’s the connection? This red cross van which sits there on its blocks (no, I think it has wheels), with its burnt out windows and faded stencils of cheer. It just sits there, all year round (I guess). Though I also guess it is put into use when the occasional light aircraft uses the airfield.

Van

The main character, Joey Tallon, in Call me the Breeze

stay[s] in his cramped trailer in Scotsfield, a small border town plagued by violence in 1970s Northern Ireland.

A blow-up doll is involved, and the kinds of things that you just cannot unsee, which is usually the case after having read one of McCabe’s books. Though I’ve only read two. You’d have thought The Butcher Boy would have learnt me. Both are brilliantly written though.

That first aid station overlooks the ocean, of course. And the landing strip.

Miho peninsula

Miho Airfield

And here’s the man to take us out.

– encounters 1, 2 & 3

January 31, 2016

Grow Stock Pub is worth visiting. That was Thursday’s unplanned adventure when I arrived too late to catch the flick I wanted to see. My Japanese has grown rusty, not usually extending too far beyond introductions, but the staff worked hard to maintain an いいふいんき (ii fuinki) – a good atmosphere – among the three patrons who were sitting at the bar, early evening. They would not let me bury myself in my book, which was both good and bad.

A Japanese hipster came in and started shuffling cards down one end of the bar. The staff and all other patrons were friends, though they knew the guy with cards as well. The guy on the door (the master?) had just came back from Taiwan, and I was the lucky recipient of a small gift of pineapple cake. I did nothing to attract this attention and service except to be a customer. Two great Japanese craft beers, too – though I can’t remember their names – one  an amber ale, the other an IPA, one salad and one delicious seafood garlic dish later, I was on my way. Yummy.

Friday was catching up with this lady

vivian-maier-11
Finding Vivian Maier is playing at the arthouse cinemas in Japan, and fortunately there is one just around the corner from Shizuoka Station. For more information on Vivian Maier, visit this blog. It was the film I missed out on on Thursday. Friday was rain, rain and more rain. Though it eased up somewhat when I went for a blowy, windy walk along the beachfront leading to Miho no Matsubara (just behind work).

01_view_sarnath_hall
The view from Sarnath Hall

Today was also a film day. After a very long chat with a friend overseas this morning, I get myself out to the indie cinema again. It’s in Sarnath Hall and as I wandered through the foyer I encountered the art piece below.

until_death_do_us_part_Sarnath_Hall

until_death_do_us_part_Sarnath_Hall

until_death_do_us_part_Sarnath_Hall

The receptionist started up the fans for me, which were in the hull of the paper mâche canoe, and the green ping pong balls started flying about. I think I was probably meant to be interactive with the art. The particular point that papers had been used did have some particular point, but return to the section about the basic level of my Japanese. That is, I can’t tell you what that point is or was. The title is Until Death Do Us Part. That might give you a clue. It was again, a little reward for being out and about.

Sarnath Hall seems to be linked to the Buddhist temple just opposite, and as everybody mills politely about in the small upstairs foyer, just as they do at indie theatres in any city, the hall over looks both the

sarnath_hall

temple

02_view_sarnath_hall

and the haka, or cemetery

sarnath_hall

I love that the temple, and the memorial stones of the departed, so squarely own this block of the city. I was scribbling away. I’m trying to do things that are beneficial to me, rather than the opposite. That are more beneficial, rather than draining, and I ran into one of the terribly busy Japanese high school teachers who attended our Toyohashi writing group a few times, and who presented her wonderful poem at the Central Japan Literature Society once. She’s just been accepted into a PhD programme dealing with the study of creative writing. Therefore, I’m not sure if she’s writing, or studying about writing.

Again, someone I would not have met if I’d remained stuck at home. She’d just been to see a flick and mine was just called, so we only had a brief moment to catch up, but she’s lovely.

As were Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria. A patchy movie, but wonderfully shot and acted. It was written by a man. You could tell (I did double check though!). Not that you can always tell, and not that women don’t write plodding dialogue either, but I think the Binoche character (Maria) is right when she talks about dialogue in the play she was rehearsing as being phoney, and a stereotypical view of how women dysfunctionally interact.

I know that was one of the major points, but considering the actors played out the parts they were rehearsing in real life, there wasn’t a lot of subtlety or contrast there, though there was some. It wasn’t totally ham-fisted. It wasn’t too much All About Eve, or Sunset Boulevard. There was a lot of light as well, and Binoche and Stewart’s characters were also very empathetic to one another, and Maria (Binoche) was not pathetic (well, sometimes), and it would have been very easy to make it that kind of movie. It’s good that it wasn’t.

The play within a play, turning in on itself, is a trope that fascinates movie makers, naturally. I guess to have the internal meta-script  be as good as the actual script would maybe be going against the grain? I don’t know. Anyway, the film had plenty of glamour and beautiful scenery. It’s marketed as Actress in Japan, or アクトレス。

I’m sure this film of the Majola Snake (below), a cloud formation that snakes through the Swiss Alps, was featured, albeit, without the soundtrack, and not the whole ten minutes.

Oh, and my work came out in Otoliths.

You saw it here first.

– shadows

January 21, 2016

in the shadow of this mountain my life has been spent the red torii frames me in its pi i rest against the doors of the newest shrine a neighbourhood box backing the empty seiyu department store its bins once provided me with all the food i needed the trains can be heard rattling past the mowing of the cars on the highway now i flip the cat door of the change box of the green phone jigsawed to the corner of the road hoping to find a few coins unsettling the air the panoply of a magician whose doves have flown.

© 2015, theheartbeatsoftly/lizardrinking. please do not use without permission

What an end of/beginning of the year it’s been! Out of the blue, experimental poet Jane Joritz-Nakagawa asked myself and others to contribute to Halvard Johnson’s poetry blog, TRUCK.

One of the exciting things about returning to writing and reconnecting, is the wide interlinking (interlocution) of writers, artists, musicians, thinkers, and all-round good and interesting people.

Often for the first time, I’m encountering names, markets, styles of writing, and forms of publishing which popped up during my hiatus and prose years. Prose is still being writ (large) of course, but poetry is easier to send off. The net does bring us all closer, and not living at home also means I encounter folks from everywhere all the time. New opportunities arise.

I help Jane with the Central Japan Literature Society, so I thought she was asking for work that was somehow not completely complete (that’s a paraphrase of her request) for something she intended to present at our December meeting. Nay. It was for the December instalment of TRUCK. She’d been asked to guest edit and submitted collated work as one long post entitled The World is Not Enough. The artwork is by Shizuoka artist, Marcus Grandon.

Three of my pieces are in there, including the poem which opens this post, mt. fuji – shimizu.
two tickets won to see someone don a monster mask at the folk museum landed in the mailbox this afternoon has appeared on this blog in an earlier form. I think that a piece of tarpaulin has basically kept its shape, though I’d like to change the line spacing.
For the pieces on TRUCK, (as opposed to following the links above), scroll towards the end of the post. Read those versions, cos’ they’re the most up to date.

I’d also submitted some work for consideration to Rat’s Ass Review’s northern hemisphere’s winter edition. I hadn’t heard back from them, so had just thought, meh, you win some, you lose some. However, late December the editor contacted me to say he was running a new section called Love & Ensuing Madness. Has a nice ring to it. It has rolling submissions by the way.

Seattle/Japan poem, the visitor, the guest, has clean sheets to lie on was selected. It has also appeared on the heart beats oftly in a much rougher state.

Suma, Kobe

Suma, Kobe

In other news, last October I presented jointly and individually at the Japan Writers Conference, held at lovely Suma in Kobe. Following from that, a piece I wrote on the irreverent Alice Campion for the Literature in Language Teaching journal was published in print form a couple of weeks ago. Once it has been uploaded to the website, I’ll link to it, just as I am doing now!. Hopefully there will be a few more developments to share with you in February as well. Viva (positive) 2016!

– hey there

March 3, 2015

Well, it’s been some time. Do I even remember how to html, how to post? Updates – In October last year, in beautiful Morioka (the turning leaves, almost worn thin with  hints of winter) I participated in this event for the Font: a Literary Journal for Language Teachers at the Japan Writers’ Conference, reading my creative work with the other great authors featured in that photo.

Then in December, I read at Authors Live! in Kobe. That event also featured writers who had their work published in The Font. It coincided with the Peace as a Global Language conference for 2014, and was a well-rounded weekend. It was great to meet Suzanne Kamata , Jessica Goodfellow, Jared Angel, Paul Rossiter and Kelly Quinn at either event.

In_their_Branches_Cover_Spider_Tree
This artwork is from the Harper Collins page

A small piece of mine that originally appeared in Reasons for Song, and which still remains in that body of work, is featured in Harper Collins/ABC Radio National’s new publication, In their branches. It’s a book, despite it being published by the revered Aunty, and can be purchased now. There is a CD tie-in. A great gift for anyone.

We’ve all got special connections to trees. As part of the release, the ABC repeated this documentary which ushered the whole thing in. The original radio drop of my piece can be accessed and downloaded here. The text is also available on that page. The documentary is part of the Earshot programme, and will be repeated on Saturday, March 7, AEST 5pm and 8pm, and Sunday the 8th, 1pm and 9pm (AEST).

My work doesn’t feature, but it is a very interesting reflection on our connection and relation to trees. Anyone feeling homesick for eucalyptus will relate.

Spider_Tree_Photo
The original photo (or links to it) can be found here.

Academically, my paper on art movements and their literature components as windows for philosophical, cultural, historical and creative exploration in the Japanese EFL field has been published and uploaded here.

If you’re checking that out, you might like to look at older publications on authentic materials here (that one’s popular for some reason – I’m sure I haven’t downloaded it 35 times!), and one from way back when on Acculturation.

I had a paper detailing some technical tips for creative writers published last year, dwelling on the perhaps unfashionable maxim of “show, don’t tell”, and one is due later in March (this month, this year) on the un-lived memory and the creative process. The first is in Civilization 21(32), which is yet to be uploaded to the Aichi University Repository, and Civilization 21(34) should appear soon. Anyone interested, leave me a comment, and I’ll get back to you.

Dada poet: Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven

Dada poet: Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven

Presentations last year were held at the NEAR conference, the Literature in Language Teaching conference (The Heart of the Matter), JALT Hamamatsu and the National JALT conference. My presentations mostly dealt with empowering our students through creativity and ownership of language, and through connection to history and culture. Enough for now?

Go buy the book and reflect quietly. I’d love to know what you think.

– today

October 12, 2013

I rode my bike slowly against the wind.

this middle aged takes some

defining.

(c) theheartbeatsoftly/lizardrinking, 2013

DSC_0694
From Skart, Aichi Triennale, 2013.

(c) theheartbeatsoftly/lizardrinking, 2013

– hello friend

October 24, 2012

From this facebook page, though I don’t know who took the photo originally.

– well,

May 8, 2012

it’s a strange year. You have to be planned and positive and take every advantage and every chance you have to see each other if you want long distance relationships to work. Neither my ex and I were very good at it. I put my hand up for being far less than positive – what a drag, who can put up with it? The other hand, well, I’m kind of sitting on that, because if we had a bit more planning, a bit more longterm faith, footsteps and foresight, I think I would have had a cheerier outlook, but maybe not. Once you make it through Hades, if you can make it through Hades, I think you can make it through anything, but you’ve got to have the faith you’ll make it through, and if your partner does not know you, or maybe, knows you too well, you won’t make it. Especially if your partner feels the flames a lot closer, and more urgently, than you do.

2012 is a good, strong year, and I know I am ready to fortify things and believe there is truth and possibility in hope.  Shame that there is nobody to fortify  with ;-), and that, going back to the first paragraph, is due to my lack of positivity, probably an equal lack of faith in the projected future or non-future by either ‘partner’ (in our own ways), and both of us guilty of not seeing the other when we should have and could have. Of course there is a lot more to it than that, but this is actually a post more about Elroy, the Boston Terrier-Pug mix star of this blog, than anything else, so bear with me. It’s not a confess-mess – I think.

Anyway – I kind of got kicked out of the place that I shared in Seattle. Well, there’s no kind of to it. It’s just I wasn’t there, and it was quite a shock, even though I was, we were, split up, and it was bound to happen. Somehow, even though I wasn’t there, I thought that I would have had a chance to say goodbye to everyone, and everything, maybe even a chance to not have to say goodbye,  and to have at least had some input in making sure that all my possessions, which were shipped from both Japan and Perth as gestures of good faith, were shipped back. I was here. I didn’t go there. What did I expect? Even so. Well, my goods got shipped to Perth. I had little say in it. I paid. I don’t begrudge that. I didn’t have to. Far more was spent on the cost of getting them to Seattle by my ex (I think there was more then). It was the process. The exile. The powerlessness and power of distance, of ownership, residence that was cold, maybe necessary, but I don’t know. I was messy. Would I do the same? I don’t know.

I read an article in the New Yorker the other day. It is from 2010, when I was still in the States – October 11. I would have been in Seattle. I can’t recall reading the article then, though I remember flicking through that particular edition.

A colleague here from 2010 returned to her home country recently (Minnesota, U.S.A.) in March this year. She had a big collection of New Yorkers from her time here (shipped over), mostly, entirely, covering the time I was in the U.S.A.. 2010, a watershed year of change, of confusion, of regression and return. Of hope, of optimism, of possibility, of new beginnings.  I find it interesting that I have broken with 2010, or never got a chance to finish laying down the paving stones of that year, and here I am again with a box-load of 2010. My ex (Dave) subscribed to the New Yorker – so they were always toilet, car, interim reading, though the articles are so long, they are now perfect for Toyohashi-Nagoya reading, in a way that I didn’t have time to read them in the States.

The article I read from October 11 is “Dealing with the Dead“,  by Jennifer Egan in the “Something Borrowed” section.

In it she details how she has worn  items belonging to some members of her family who have passed, as a means of remembering them. Initially, if it is a piece of clothing, the smell imbued brings the loved ones sharply to mind, until, of course, the first wash or two. Speaking of wearing a vest of her deceased father-in-law’s, she writes

the garment smelled so much like him – coffee, pepper, burning wood – that when I held it under my children’s noses and asked, “Who does this smell like?” they both cried, startled, “Grandpa!”(2010, p.68)

Not my photo. The original can be found here.

Another colleague here, and his wife, a Canadian and a Japanese, always exchange a piece of clothing when they need to leave each other for a period of time, say, a flight, or a trip home, which might see them separated for more than 24 hours. Smell is evocative.

Our dog, at the time, my ex’s dog now (always, really) knew that. He has featured a lot in this blog. Elroy. If Dave had gone on a trip to Chicago, and I had stayed behind (just the once out of three possible joint visits in 2010), to do the books, or look after the dog, and so on, Elroy would curl up in any of his shirts that might be left out.

On another occasion, we had a road trip to Chicago in 2010, and we took in Minneapolis on our way back. The Walker Art Center, which is wonderful – I saw it in 94, well before I knew Dave, and was happy to see it again – was open late on Thursdays, and also free. Elroy was travelling with us. We left him in our hotel room, and he knew we’d return soon.

It was a beautiful summer evening. The exhibitions were great, and with this recurring theme of the past catching up with the present or the future, I saw one of the same exhibitions at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle when I visited Dave for summer, 2011. It will probably be in Perth when I return this summer/winter.

So, we crossed over the large walkway, enjoyed the last of the sun, and wandered back to the hotel. I was first in the door, and there was Elroy curled up in Dave’s canvas yellow bag on wheels (a modern suitcase). Dave had left it unzipped, and his shirts were folded inside. Elroy was pitter-pattering around so fast once we entered the room, that Dave didn’t catch sight of it, but it was cute and touching. His whole being wanting to be close enough to the thing that reminded him most of his people, who had seemingly deserted him, and then of course, the anthropomorphizing, where it seemed he really wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t leave him behind. I tried to have my camera ready the next time we went out and came back, but, “Hey, I’m not a performing seal, Sue!”, our stubby-tailed performing seal barked out, refusing to bed down in the suitcase again.

I am not your performing seal, Sue! And any moron can see that the suitcase is upright.

Elroy’s seal face – photo taken by Dave.

We took him for a walk along a park (concrete with trees), that cut through the city near us. He was so pleased, as always, when we came back, when we walked together, he did his crazy mad fast figure of eights, lassoing us in a lemniscate of eternity, which maybe existed only in his mind. Dogs remember, though. They have different value systems, and are far less judging and judgemental, but they remember people.

Well, we (Dave and I) had visa issues. It was the main reason I did not stay in the States. At the same time, I could have found work (maybe), but I didn’t want to be the only one putting the effort into exploring and nurturing the possibilities of me staying in America. I’d already given up two countries, a job, or development of a job, and my possessions to go there. I wasn’t the only one who had given things up, that’s for sure, but I wanted to be sure that we both wanted me to be there, and that it was sustainable for both of us for me to be so. Sometimes it seemed it was a joint project; I feel it should have been working towards, or at least supported by a joint, a lot of joints, but in many ways, probably too many, it was jointless. What do I mean? You mean like, Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine? No, no, no. Our relationship was often like a table without  legs.

We had the beginnings, the starts, the motions, the appearance of laying things down, but once it came to actually talk about developing, and actual developing, creating, forming, hammering in the nails of the table legs to make sure the table top didn’t fall, we just didn’t do it. But, and I’m on a movie quote roll here, as Judd Nelson (Breakfast Club) said – Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place, except we didn’t even really bother to screw anything together, except for the obvious, and that was fun. Ah well, we weren’t on the same the page, or if we were, the language we were reading and writing with was so vast in its difference as to be incomprehensible to one another.

We never made any plans for any kind of future beyond the next time we would see each other. Maybe I should have been happy with that. There was a maybe intention that in the future sometime we might possibly be the right people for one another. It was said, and agreed upon, by the both of us, that we were the right person for the other, but there were no plans for the future. I found it hard to deal with, and I destroyed anything in the present in pursuit of a more tangible future. Strange creatures, aren’t we?

Anyway, this Something Borrowed, this article of 2010, this wearing of dead people’s clothes. The last time I was in Seattle was summer of 2011. I left September 10. I took Elroy for a walk as I usually did, the day before. We would walk most mornings to St Edward Park, and we’d take steep walks up and down the paths to Lake Washington. Beautiful walks that kept both of us very fit and healthy and social. You should have seen him when he met the Great Dane. I don’t think he even noticed as he walked under its belly. When I was walking him there regularly in 2010, the photos show a strong little bundle of muscle and energy (see above).

Often I would walk him later in the day as well, and this day I walked him on a path which ran off from the house. Dave and I had only discovered it that trip. When I first arrived in 2010, we cut through the brush (or rather, bramble) to get to the small creek that ran behind the property. Images of us sitting on the verandah and looking out to the babbling brook had been written as an ideal in letters sent and read before we met, and some mornings we did sit out there, though, in the summer, the best time for sitting, the greenery blocked the views of the water, though you could hear it.

I hadn’t gone down there since, as there was no easy path, but in the interim, it seemed that the county, or maybe the housing development above, had put a nice path running alongside the house and up to the new development. It was a good quick walk, a little steep, about 20-30 minutes. Probably a lot less. 15 minutes?

Anyway, usually if Elroy and I took it, he’d either be running ahead, or behind, or catching up, or sniffing around, or doing all the things that dogs off leashes love doing. This day, however, for the whole walk, he kept stopping, and he wouldn’t budge again until I had leashed him. Then he would walk patiently and happily by my side. Strange for a dog, huh? Well, there are coyotes in that area sometimes, so I thought that maybe he could smell them, and wanted to be close.

As he hadn’t had much of a run, I hopped in the car, and drove to Rhododendron Park. This was a park near our, or rather, the/Dave’s house, which I had discovered in 2010, and it was the mainstay for Dave and me when we wanted to give Elroy some quick exercise. Rhopa was its Dave-coined nickname. Again, this was Elroy’s tramping ground. He usually ran into the bushes, ran around, sometimes did his crazy figures of eights. Often I needed to call him to come back. I thought he could really stretch his little legs – but unhuh – No Siree Bob! He wasn’t going to move until I leashed him and walked with him. He didn’t like me leaving. He was keeping an eye on me.

When we got home, I went upstairs to do some work on the computer. In addition to me leaving, Dave was going to be visiting family in Chicago the next day, so Elroy knew we would both be gone for a while, but I think he knew I’d be gone for much longer. After all, I left November 2010 after arriving in March 2010, returned for just three weeks in Feb/Mar 2011 (starting my new job here) – had six weeks in Seattle the summer of 2011. Too, counting the times that Dave and I had been in Chicago (twice for me, more for him), and Australia (twice for me, once for Dave), Elroy had been separated from the two of us for long periods. And then, of course, I made the mistake of not returning for Christmas and Spring break, 2011-2012, though if something is built to last, as friends have said, it can weather a few separations, though probably not so early in the game. Just seemed the axles on this wobbly bicycle were never going to be tightened, but I think all that either one of us had to do was tighten it. The intention has to be there. The wrench ready in somebody’s hand; ideally, both partners able to maintain, in one form or another, a well-functioning kind of relationship.

Elroy about to tuck into a piece of rawhide. He’s sitting on my legs here, his preferred buffer for chewing rawhide.

As I was sitting on the bed, typing, wasting time, looking things up, Elroy wedged himself in my folded legs and he wouldn’t shift. I had to lean over and type around him. Luckily, he’s a small dog. He had forgiven our imminent departure by the next day, but he was ferocious in his determination to get me to stay that night. He did as much as he psychologically and bodily could. Ah. How did he know? Even at the time I thought he knew. I should have had faith in his little dog wisdom. Listened. Let’s return to the opening paragraph about the lack of same. Mine, of course.

When Dave returned from Chicago, I was back at work in Japan, he wrote me the following email:

I woke at 9, Elroy wasn’t in bed. Strange. Probably in [the spare] room, I thought. Go brush my teeth. Look at the empty bed, go check [the spare room], not there. Go downstairs, check the round pillow, not there either. Make coffee, look under the coffee table. Not there. Check office couch. Empty. Go back upstairs, set my cup on the table, feel around on the bed to see if he has flattened himself into an Elroy-shaped indent in the mattress. No. Check the wardrobe closet. Not there. Start thinking about the rapture-like event in “The Leftovers.” I am genuinely confused, and starting to worry. I call his name. Nothing. Then, recalling a maneuver employed by someone I know, I clapped my hands together loudly a couple of times [the only way to get Elroy moving! Our early morning pre-walk ritual] — and I see your pillow move. I check it, and sure enough, there he is, completely covered by a single pillow on your side of the bed. I guess that he misses your scent. I tell him it’s time to go potty. He scrambles to his feet, bleary-eyed, s-t-r-e-t-c-h… Yawn…. Unfurl that Tongue… Then stutter trot down the stairs out the door into the wet foliage of the Kenmore jungle.

(Private correspondence, 2011, September 19).

So, there were many times that Elroy wanted to curl into pieces of clothing that I had left behind, or out, but I was always reluctant to have my black t-shirt covered in fawn coloured dog hair – right? Everything, I am assuming, or it is what we both think, to the best of our separated abilities, is everything, got packed, bundled, and sent. Except for clothes. Donate them, I said. I don’t think there were many left, though there is a pair of Dave’s jeans I used to wear, a black pair, usually too heavy except for the cooler days of autumn, to wear, and an embroidered Indian silk top, that I bought in Oman, which I only thought about later, which I would have liked. There was also a wicked, red, fluffy jacket, which we called the “pimp jacket”, but it was so big that packing would not be worth it, considering how often I wore it (not much). I brought a lot of my clothes when I moved here (for work – in my mind, not a permanent thing, or something we hopefully could have incorporated somehow), and Dave brought about another suitcase over when he visited October 2011.

Tulips blooming in the Seattle garden. Despite planting them, have never seen them. Photo by Dave.

Now someone else’s clothes are hanging in the wardrobe, so I know my items won’t be there, especially if everything else is gone, though I do hope that my tulips bloomed this year. The slugs are unforgiving, so maybe not. Squirrels steal bulbs too. Even so, I hope that maybe there was a scrap or two of cloth left, something big enough for a small dog to curl up into and to maybe remember. Though the beauty of that little dog, of course, is that he loves the one he’s with.

– colourful elephant

May 4, 2012

This was from a page on facebook. I can’t remember the link. If anyone knows it, feel free to leave the information in the comments. I love this picture. Not sure about the message – but taken in the realms of positive possibility, it is a nice one.

– luck, eh?

May 3, 2012

***

Really no rhyme nor reason contributing towards its appearance. Little effort needed to maintain it for some, though it’s not always a renewable resource. Ultimately, though, maybe it all boils down to which stars you were born under, and a little bit of perspective. Okay, a lot. Some people have it, and life’s beauty comes in various guises.

– I couldn’t

April 26, 2012

save us. Maybe this little fella could have helped.. . though it don’t seem he’s the peaceful kind, except in an alien meets Gary Cooper kind of a way, perhaps. Depends on what he’s drawing. Maybe he’s pulling love and peace rays from his invisible holsters. Taken along the Burke-Gilman Trail on April 12, 2010.

(c) lizardrinking/theheartbeatsoftly 2010

– untitled, april 20, 2012

April 20, 2012

love beats all,
especially
love that is beaten.