Notebook Entry: 2009 Japan

I loved my daily early morning walks past rice fields, streams, altars and temples. One day I found myself in a new and unknown area and came across an unassuming temple standing on a hill, the path leading to it a series of ascending steep steps lined with multiple red Torii gates.This small temple–whose name was written in Kanji, which meant I could not point it out again–was more unkempt than some of the other majestic temples that were laced through the streets and culture of Japan. The coins at the altar were the only evidence of its local worshipers. The small building was encircled by old trees, a precipice of an ancient forest. The birds were singing, yet all was silent.

As I walked amongst the trees time felt suspended. Colossal and august, these trees had been dictaphones of time. They had a palpable internal rhythm that reached out through their branches and leaves. The fragrant of earth and bark was overwhelming. Within this eternal pause I disappeared. I could simultaneously sense and feel each star and planet, each plant root system burrowing into the crust of the earth, each heartbeat, and the spin of each cell in my body. All boundaries disappeared, an ocean of everything and nothing. Life and death merged into an omnipresent fragrance. I will never know how long I was caught in the splice of time, I only knew that I did not want to leave or exit this moment.

For the first time in my life I considered death, not because I wanted to give up life but because I wanted to give into it. Her beauty was so overwhelming and exquisite that I never wanted to be parted from her again. I wanted to join her. Partially my sense of place returned and I feverishly started to seek anything I could tie around my neck–a rope, a vine, a piece of fabric. I needed to hang from these majestic branches. In my death these trees would become my infinite friends. I scratched like a squirrel between the leaves and seed pods. I knew I could find a way, I just kept rummaging through soil and roots, but she was already pulling away; the ocean slowly froze over.

The last of the fragrance dissipated with the bark of a dog. In front of me a long lost friend emerged from the understory. His eyes a deep amber, his fur caked with dirt. When his dog nose touched my face I could smell his breath. Hints of fresh cut grass and rotten leaves. He whispered something in my ear in such a deep low pitch that only my spirit could pick it up. He disappeared just as fast as he came into being. Abrupt faraway barking slowly brought me back to where I was. Now just an ordinary forest on an ordinary hill but I left this place not in an ordinary state. In me was a mixture of the sweetness of life and the translucent words of my childhood guardian.