四 / 死 2015

Right now, it is seven in the morning on the next day. I forgot to adjust the timezone, so it would appear that I am posting from the future these days. That might have to change.

I realized it isn’t so much about the future and the past as it is about who is facing the sun and who is standing in shadow, facing the outside of our galaxy. Odd, that we think in terms of time in respects to our own globe, but not when we consider the stars as their light reaches us from millions of years ago.

Yesterday, I wandered in 新宿 [Shinjuku]。I mistakenly got in line for a temple where the people were making wishes for the new year. I stepped aside, thinking at first to leave. But when I turned the corner on my departure, found I was facing the adjacent gate.

I slipped in under the pretense of looking at wares out on display. I didn’t see a single one, my mind curiously trying to assimilate the situation and what — exactly — I thought I was doing there. This was not my temple, not my rituals, not my line of people.

I am constantly aware of being an outsider, gaijin. My blue eyes glow like crystals underneath my Japanese wool hood.

I wandered on, anyway, trying to understand and observe, instead of partake. People washed their hands together, hung paper strings together, lined up and waited together. There was no rudeness, no haste about them. But a slow steady motion forward toward the ultimate destination.

I passed by a pair of ghosts like myself. Two gaijin from where? I don’t know. Only that they, like I, are observers. Nothing more. We pass through the air like a breeze brushing the tails of our neighbors coats.

I come around and exit through the gate I initially passed. As I do, my fingers play nervously with my talisman of death. I am concretely aware of the new year. A new time. A new self that is ephemeral, not grounded in anything. I am painfully aware of my physical self, of my body, of its possibility to both survive and die.

I found myself warned about bad luck this morning. But with more experience, it seems to balance out. Can I outgrow my misfortune of boundless misunderstandings? Can I gain experiences that can, over time, equal better chances? Better luck?

Above my head, a raven sits and calls out the death of those who pass. I look up and we meet, eye to eye. Glittering black to glowing grey-blue. The spirit of death studies my face silently, then nods as I pass underneath.

I have been passed over for the year.

As I step out, relieved, I remember that today is the fourth.

The day of death.

And the spirit of death nodded me through the gate, wishing me passage back into the physical world.

It is going to be a good year.

Welcome to 2015!

[Sumimasen, Nihongo amari hanasenakute ano… Shinjuku doko desuka?]{Excuse me, I don’t speak much Japanese, but umm… where is the Shinjuku line?}

This is about how complex my world feels. Two days in with no-one to hold my hand. I’m grateful for the chance to muddle around at my own snail’s pace. Today, I wandered through the barely busy streets of 池袋 {Ikebukuro}. On a single street with three-quarters of the shops open, a tiny crowd gathered. A crowd that, in Bellingham, would have been a hoard. Here, however, it felt as if the city was slowly opening its eyes after a brief hibernation. After two days, its heart is still not up to pace. There are fleets of bikes, rows of shop windows, alleyways packed full of lights and hanging flags. There are wide walkways with “up” and “down” clearly marked. Cars stickered with dark pink signs that read: “Women Only”. A whole world just laying in wait to be crammed full to the brim. I can feel it like a yawn slowly building.

By the fifth, the city will be alive and I will find my way into its bloodstream. I am learning all sorts of things in a very tight space. Cramming in as much as I can take so I am a blood cell instead of a virus in that rushing flow.

I have learned that if I’m lost, stand off to the side while I stare about helplessly. No-one will bother me; I feel eyes averted more than on my face, my back, my lost confusion staring up with a blank face at a sign I cannot read. The sheer number of lines contained in such a small space puts my processor into overdrive. Then, most of the time — it just burns out and I stand there, looking at my phone that doesn’t download maps and even if it did — they are no help.

The flow of bodies ebbs around me as I find a corner to tuck away and hide in. And if I need help: I have to ask. But, you know what? Something about that just feels right. Like I have been waiting my whole life to hide in these corners while others let me sort it out until I am ready to come and ask.

Today, when I logged on to wordpress, I saw I had accessed the 日本語 [Nihongo] {Japanese} site. I got excited and decided to convert my interface. There wasn’t enough confusion, apparently.

Ah, but any little bit helps. I have memorized:

田=da or ta
大=long o
西=nishi = west
日=ni, except when it doesn’t. (I still have yet to figure out this kanji’s other readings)

Sometimes instead of kanji, the katakana 三 [mi] and ハ [ha] is used. (No idea why yet.)
And “shin” has at least five kanji I know about.

It’s slow going and I am finding more and more that roumaji is not an efficient way to learn anything. Perfect example: Tokyo has two long o’s. In roumaji, one could put a line over both o’s, spell with two of them (looks like “moo”) or with ou (which looks like “you”). Sometimes, any indication of the long o is left out completely. The kanji is: 東京 (and gives no hints).

Also. I hope all of my readers have sorted out now that they will need to download Japanese fonts to their computer. It isn’t that I will be typing exclusively in Japanese after this. And it isn’t that I won’t translate — as I have above. But it’s a way of parsing the immense confusion I feel. A way of exorcising it into thin air. Into ghosts. 妖怪 [youkai]{ghosts}.

I have to face full the things I don’t understand. I have to sit on trains and get lost a hundred times. I have to stand in the flow, gaping blank-minded at signs I have no hope of reading. I have to stare into the rising sun. I have to take destruction head-on.

I have always believed that burning hot and fast is the way to go. If I never stuck my hand in the fire, on the stove, scaled it with boiling water — I would never know. Better to experience what comes to my feet than live a life running afraid.

I am tired of being a child brought up on the taste of fear, unbounded. With punishments that ended in threats. Always stated in terms of “or more” instead of “or less”. Always beaten to blood first and then told, “Do it again and just see what happens.” Always living in the gap between the desire to find solutions and the inability to problem-solve. Always trapped in purgatory for sins not yet committed.

I find action beats sitting on my hands. And study beats wondering. And trying something I’ve never done beats always thinking: “I just can’t.”

So here’s a new year’s toast to doing most things wrong, but doing them at all. To not being afraid to say “I’m sorry.” ごめんなさい [gomen’nasai].

乾杯![kanpai] Cheers!

Coalescening in Shadow of the New Moon

Incense brings my dreams on strong. I don’t remember the images, but the meanings leave me wracked with sobs. I have nothing to grasp and no-one to hold.

I am ensconced in darkness, alone.

Around the edges of everything, I dance with anyone. We parse and parry, but we do not touch. Our hands are speckled in shells, feathers, sand. Relics of mountains and life swallowed and crumbled up.

The ocean, I keep saying, is strong. Given the wrong chance, it would crush me under wave and beach. But I don’t panic with water in my snorkel, mask, mouth, and lungs. I follow young turtles through barriers of reef into hollows where the water is calm. I may be far out, but my heart would never know.

We swim together, keen eye on each other and the water. And after moments passed in hovering and wondering, we both decide we are no threat to one another. You break surface to take a breath. I to find my place.

In this salty buffet where you find everything, I, human thing, am in a desert alone.
I thank you for your trust, but I must go.

In another place, table and chairs and images others have drawn. I try my hand, but you will not raise yours with pencil or pen. I only have sketches, edges of images I know. I am not visual in the same way. My vision is heard but changed. The solstice has come, the sun sets, and the longest night — we must endure.

I pitch a tent in the damp yard, crawl in, and yet again, I am alone. Surrounded by the sound of rain I know in a couple hours will have seeped through, dripping on my inner shelter and my head. Like doubt has seeped through my dreams and drip-drip-dripped a punctuated beat on my heart.

A wide swath of rainbow arched not across but through the sky as we went north in the capsule of a car. I’ve gotten car sick one too many times. I ride higher on my bike, back arched, standing and riding tall. But if I bike, I must ride alone.

I hope on the other side of this long, dark night there is a friend to find.
A body to warm the rooms I’m waiting in. To give breath to the hole vacant beside me. I can feel the negative space like a companion in reverse.

I am still drifting through memories of the past, of past understandings, of a distant reason — trying to find out why I have ended up this way.

But why is a cosmically moot word, and what I can know “is”. So, this is. And through this, too, I shall pass.
Words of a distant friend like effervescent comfort to a sour stomach and a troubled mind.

Perhaps, I am not so alone but stuck inside a cave. Cold and dank.
I need to approach the light.

Come morning, I will stretch and feel better.
Come dawn, I will be warm.

And back.

Dropping into the island where I am waiting to embark on another journey, the winds push our blippy little craft away.

I see the stains of society weighing the green down, stamping the life out. And I know why O’ahu maybe does not want us here. We are smothering its beauty with structures that do not fit and do not belong. We are termites building towards to the sun.

A wave, arching high and electric blue, might crash and ruin it all.

Along the Hamakua Coast

Ocean waves crash high on black porous rock. A dazzling water show is foam white and electric blue. Rock crash and clatter, always tossed but never displaced. The formations like hands waving and birds perched resist the powerful fall of the cresting waves boldly, proudly, with a slow eroding grace. I sit in my little home of tent, bike, bags, and a fire ring someone else made thinking, hoping there’s no way the foam will reach me.

I sleep to soft powder rain and wake to a dripping downpour inside my four fabric walls. It is, by the clock, 2.30 and my body has woken full for the first out of three, four times. I sense in my gut it is time to go. I try to deny, to lie back down, to sleep again. One more hour, one more moment, one more dream. But my body screams. Not angry, but urgent. Now — it demands. And so, I sit up and begin to dry my belongings with a square of already damp cloth.

Into dark and night sky. The darkness is not dark but a messy white-pricked scatter of distant dust, glowing through the past at me. I think of seven dimensions, pack my things with eyes on a stranger group doing stranger things in the far corner of what — in some ways — is my park tonight. We are clearly eyeing one another, but neither makes an approach. Neither has any idea what the other does, thinks, wants, needs. We all want to keep it this way. We disappear into the blackness at the same time.

I rise slow and panting toward the main road. A falling rock is a charging boar or a dog giving chase. I panic in my blinding light, only to realize I’d rather see without it. A broad dim scope is better than a concentrated but restricted one.I turn it off to ride in the soft glow of a fogged over moon until a car comes to pass.

I give warning because I am small and you, metal fire-belching beast, are great. I do not need to die tonight. We pass and do not touch, but I use the gust from your strength to rush forward for a quick moment, savoring the stranger help.

Rain grows from damp to cold and I’m sweating but shivering, hungry and drained. Every sound is something to fear and every moment is drenched in discomfort. I stand in muddy grass, spoonful of sticky peanut butter in my dry mouth, and I’m as low as I can go.

Do I call for rescue that I do not really need? Will I get hypothermia if I put my coat on so wet? Will my legs give out? Will I collaspe to be crushed under tires and pavement?

I kick on, desperate near tears, for one more crest. There, at the peak, is the savior of a gas station glowing florescent white, gaslight gold, and pale unattractive green of adverts I don’t bother to read. I take shelter on the curb, shivering and gasping for breath. Scatter of plastic baggies of raisins and oat dusted dates. The peanut butter is almost gone. A bite of carrot, bite of cheese, bread that’s gone to crumbles. A hot air dryer for hands gets my shirt and jacket half warm.

And when I come out to face the day again, the sun and the warmth are coming up. I bike through tall yellow grass fields rolling relics of lava flows. Up and down, up and down I go, never dropping more than I climb. By the end, I’m 2500 feet in the air from sea level and crashing ocean where I started.

In town, I find a real coffeeshop with real baristas and real patrons who greet me and chat about everything. We exchange stories and names, shake hands and share smiles. I depart to the airport where my bike comes apart easily. And the attendant has the bananas I’ve been searching every tree between here and Hilo for. Seven of them from a neighbor’s tree, perfectly ripe and sweet. I eat three of them straight away, share two, and take two as gems of love in my bag across the ocean to home.

I love how home is everywhere I am. And friends are everyone I choose to love and trust. My bike and tent are symbols, magical, that make trust grow like grass between us. A fire is still a place of warmth that pulls companions out of the cold and unknown. Funny how a light, a lamp, and distance do not accomplish the same thing. When we sit and risk, we share the unique trust of travellers out on the same road.

My flight showed waterfalls and rainbows over the islands. Each one its own world. I listen as we fly to the accent of the people here, and I am in love. With the green, the black, the slopes, and the plateaus.

I have learned something new on this trip. Life is a series of ups, downs, and plains. We are high. We are low. And we plod along. We dance, we learn, we work. I can accept all these things.

Heading Out

After four days in the company of newfound friends, the contemplative isolation of the wild calls. And I will load my metal steed with my world and take off along the coast. To be alone. To be with the world. To test my strength and my resolve.

Maybe I will even light fires in the night and dream better dreams than these.

The last two nights spent cuddled by nightmares strange and confusing. Waking leaves nothing but the gossamer strands of vague or brief images on my mind. Knives thrown and strangers I don’t know in places I don’t remember.

But the days have been good. Full of learning to attach parts, learning to ask for help, learning to take a break. The best poke was found on accident because I needed a bathroom desperately. And the best fish were found because you had a meeting. And turtles because you saw me ride by. And winning games was easier to do because you had to go home.

The people of this land are giving and good. They ask where you are from not to judge, but to see your roots. To know what kind of tree you are. I have learned that answers given truthfully yield kindness and generosity. I have learned of costal roads and where not to go and been offered food for nothing in return.

Salt on my skin washed off by the rain that didn’t fall near as often as I thought. And on the morning of departure, hugs are warm but the air has a chill in it. And a distant piece of me thinks — I could find myself here someday. Perhaps, should the trade winds catch me.

Either way, we agree. We’ll see each other on the road at some point. Who knows where, when, or why. But chance meetings made good stories, and I am in love with both.


Family. The people I know, regardless of my path, got my back. And those to whom I will always come if you call. The ones we trust. The ones we say love to, and they understand. We tell each other how we belong not to prove that we should, but to remind each other that here — home — we are safe. We will always be safe.

Family is our harbor against the storm.

I have traveled much and settled sparingly. And in always going, I have found family all over this land. People whose hands I have touched and whose hands have held me. People who I have fed and been fed in return. People who even before I came, already knew me. Beings who, for no reason other than some shared vibration, choose to trust me. And I have trusted in return, seeking protection and safe passing. We have not abandoned one another.

And though the road is pocked full of holes and the incline steep and dangerous, I will continue my journey, seeking and finding. Giving and taking. Loving and being loved. Making and being family.

The risk of injury is always subordinate, in my heart, to the journey.