Hiking Journal Outdoors

Moments At Dawn

It is nearly five in the morning and the dawn light is filtering through the curtains. For an hour I have been up, after having been woken by some clowns who decided to have some fireworks fun outside my window. All is tranquil again, though, and the air is ringing with the orchestra of crickets, winding down the finale of the night. The trees are so still I can feel the soil breathe.

In about an hour my alarm will go off and the business of activities will intervene. My wife and I will join two friends and go for a two day hike in Yatsugatake, a range of mountains that yearly draws me almost like a spiritual fulcrum. The weather forecast says rain, as it nearly always does whenever I plan a hike recently, but the release of the strings to my apartment will make all the difference, as will, of course, the comfort of watching and joining good friends in laughter and stories. It’s been a long time.

Color hasn’t yet infiltrated the scenery outside. The greens of the false acacia and the errant avocado still harbor the grays of midnight and the horizon has yet to toss up the fireball of the sun. An in-between time that half echoes the voice of my thoughts, where my night self and my day self meet at the parting of some inchoate veil. It is as if my breath incorporates my spirit, hanging inside and out, not quite corporeal, and yet imaginary at the same time. If I were to wake up to the world one day to the absence of humanity, this is what the city might feel like. For a while. Before my own realization of lost purpose.

I lift my eyes to the sky, now brightening and introducing birds. I wager the first call will be the brown-eared bulbul’s, always brash and brave and eager to get going. It is the kind of cheery attitude that makes waking and forging on worthwhile; the kind of spirit that walkers in the mountains seem to wear on their sleeves. It is perhaps the basis of my faith; heralding life as it is and rejoicing in yet another turn of the great circle.

Hiking Journal Musings Outdoors

Street Lights

I’ve been avoiding writing in the blog these last few days because I’ve been in a funk and I can’t seem to find anything worthwhile to write about without sounding like I’m whining or taking the world for granted. It’s been a strange and awkward kind of funk that I just can’t seem to shake. Bad faith from my design work partners (now telling me today that they don’t know when they will be able to pay me… alarm bells going off), a string of overly critical comments recently from my boss at my evening job about my teaching methods, the start of the planning stage for going about moving out separately from my wife (the talking is calm, but I can’t help always feeling this screen of unreality veiling our tenderness; like watching a heartbreaking movie from within a shower. You want to cry, but the tears keep getting washed away by the water), weekends intended for mountain walking thwarted by tiny events like a low blood sugar attack that prevents me from catching the earliest train that would allow me enough time to get out to the mountain or being so tired from all the recent work that I can’t find it in me to roll out of bed or a call from the landlord asking me to be around on the day I was to depart to wait for the plumber, and so forth and so on, ad addendum.

So it was with some hunchbacked relief that I boarded the train this evening after work, knowing that from tomorrow I will have seven days of vacation. There will be mountains and mountains and yet more mountains on my brain, hopefully, to feed the hunger for heights that has been building up for the past few months. I’ve sewn together two tents and a tarp and will have my chance to finally try them out. Don’t know if they will work, but at least I will know it was my fingers that caused the failure of my equipment; there is something reassuring in the knowledge that even a failure of mine will at least be my failure and no one can take that away from me.

The evening sits upon the deserted residential streets (all lined with walls around every house and apartment building… one ends up walking alleys and lanes here in Tokyo, rather than the passage between furry green carpets of the States) like a fat cat just finished with dining. A cool breeze wafts through the blurry heat, stirring my view of the soundless clouds scudding by overhead. And real cats tiptoe under the street lights, their shadows racing to catch up then passing them by. Cicadas sing electric duets in the limelight, some whirr away from the safety of their perches in the trees and break themselves against the lamp glass, their wings shredding like paper. These creatures of the earth, messengers of the subconscious, lost among our alien concrete.

I stroll home, but my legs lost their swing until I come to a standstill under one street light, looking up ahead and back over my shoulder. I look up and dark birds whistle over the roof tops, heading… home? Or standing still, while the earth yaws beneath them? I can almost hear the timbers creak. Uncertain, my footsteps break from reverie and find the door as I fumble for the keys. And that is the crux of the problem, isn’t it? Just these keys. The lock snicks open and I step away, my back turned toward the expanses, to be cupped in windless inertia. A home away from home.

Art & Design Blogging Journal Poetry Writing


Japonica Rain
Raindrops on a Japonica leaf in my garden, Tokyo, Japan, April 2004

Fast becoming one of my favorite blogs Journal of a Writing Man, there is something disarming and undeniably charming about Old Grey Poet’s daily stories. The fact that he focuses on the details of his daily life, peppering the anecdotes with bytes of such treasures as an annoyance with the residue left over on the back of a notebook after peeling away the price sticker, or the joy of riding a bicycle again after years of neglect, or the wonder of watching a water spout, brings me back for more every day.

I can relate to what he is writing and can fit inside the boundaries of such a world. It has made me think hard about what I want to write here, and though my last post was the usual weltschmertz griping, I intend to focus more, from now on, on this little ring of influence that I can manage by myself. The blog will undergo some changes, including new blogging software (WordPress), a facelift, and some added and rearranged categories. It will take a little while, but I hope it will streamline the site and focus the voice here.

It’s been a harrowing month, what with having been cheated in my payment for the spring hotel brochure design project (the cover of the main brochure is to the left. The colors are definitely not right online… the reddish brown on top is actually a lot deeper brown and the blue below is actually more violet) and having to deal with it all in some very convoluted Japanese negotiations (my Japanese is very good, but I just can’t keep up in such jargon-rich sparring, especially when there are two Japanese, thirty-year design veterans against one of me… and believe me, the Japanese know how to be convoluted and vague… their whole language revolves around saying things through innuendo! And no, I never was able to rectify my losses) without resources, without anyone to turn to for professional advice. It’s left me discouraged and not a little angry. I don’t think I will ever do design work in Japan again. This is the main reason I haven’t been blogging for quite some time.

Keio Plaza Hotel Main CoverBut on the bright side, it’s become clear that design work is not my cup of tea (after having been cheated five times already… you’d think I would have learned by now!). Now, with all other possible career roads taken eliminated, like salt evaporated out of the bucket, I have no more excuses not to put all my effort into making it as a writer. I’ve tried every combination of vocation (except working as a field biologist) that I’ve ever imagined myself doing, and one by one eliminated them. Only writing holds fast and only writing fulfills all the criteria I’ve asked of my life. It’s hard, lonely, low paying work and I can get cheated in this field, too, but at least it’s in my language and at least I have resources and people to turn to. And most important, at least I love doing it as I do it, even when I’m struggling.

So here goes!