Journal Musings Tokyo Walking

Walking As Prayer

Bamboo grass in snow
Bamboo grass laden with the first snow of the winter

I spent half a sleepless night reading the long-distance walking accounts of Chris Willett. There is a lot of reading, but through so much of it I felt as if I were walking with him, on much the same kinds of walks that I enjoy doing. His account of walking the Great Divide Trail especially moved me, because the experience came across as so similar to my own solo bicycle ride from Denmark to Paris in 1988. While writing my book about the experience (I’m still looking for a publisher… Anyone interested in giving it a read?) I had to face the constant memories of how much time I spent alone, and how meeting other souls along the way made all the difference in the story line of the journey.

Last year I had planned to go to Australia to walk the Larapinta Trail, but circumstances left my wallet as dry as the Outback. Reading Chris Willett, though, the fire is stoked again and I hope that this year I can actually make it out of my front door. I’ll shoot for September for a nice long walk in the desert. And with eight months to get in training I should be in top shape for even the hardest parts of the walk.

One day soon I want to try another long journey like the six-month bicycle trip my wife and I took in 1995. For anyone who has never spent such a long single stretch of time out of doors, camping each day, moving at your own pace, and feeling your body harden in ways you never knew you could, it is hard to describe the sheer immediacy and match that the human body and mind finds when living close to its original state. We were meant to live outdoors. W were meant to spend most of our time without a roof over our head or walls to block out our peripheral vision. We were meant to live with the roll of the sun and stars, the passage of clouds, and the motion capture reality of flowers and trees growing. And you can’t know it by reading a book or walking in an artificial park. You can’t really know the full presence of the earth until you actually feel yourself crawling across its surface, your muscles growing in proportion to the pull of gravity and distance.

Ever since I can remember journeying and getting outdoors into all the mess has been like a ache of joy that I had to follow. Sitting everyday at my computer now, pacing back and forth in the generic streets of Tokyo (and earlier, Boston) it is as if I am denying myself my own predisposition. Maybe other people don’t find walking alone in the mountains in a pouring rain all that exhilarating, but for me it is life itself. I am never more in my element than when walking in the woods or on a ridge or along a seashore wrack-line. If only there was a way to make it permanent, and still have my family and friends and livelihood.

I go snowshoeing tomorrow. I hear the snow in the Nikko area north of Tokyo reaches up to your hips. And more on its way tonight. It ought to be a blast!

Journal Musings

Heart Massage

Irori House

I want to wish everyone a hearty

Happy New Year!

Thanks for all your wonderful company throughout last year and your heartwarming support during this rather difficult end/ beginning of the year. I’m still quite surprised by the number of responses to my last post, but it is very good to know that we have all formed a close-knit community and that most likely if we all lived near one another we’d be getting together and clashing glasses of champagne or beer. I look forward to a time when that can actually take place.

It wasn’t exactly the best of holidays. It wasn’t awful, like last year… I guess I’ve learned how to take things as they come and adjust my mind to them… but I wouldn’t exactly say the time was a barrel of laughs. I spent most of the time holed up alone in my apartment with the flu, followed by a bad, lingering cough that just won’t let up. Since without exercise my diabetes tends to get worse, my immune system hasn’t been exactly up to the challenge. I’m wondering if I’m missing important nutrients in my diet (I know that I don’t get enough vitamin B’s), so I started looking for good sources of information on maintaining a balanced diet. After watching a program on the Discovery Channel about ayurvedic medicine (interesting that the spell checker doesn’t recognize this word…) I wandered about the web and Amazon seeking information about ayurvedic cooking. Would anyone have any suggestions on good nutritional and eating information?

I was hoping to get out to the winter mountains this vacation, but it looks like that will have to be postponed for now. Maybe it’s a good idea to start the year off small. But this year I want to make a difference in my life and, hopefully, in the lives of others and to the planet itself. Beth said in her latest post about 2003 that for her it was the Year of the Blog. Yes, indeed it was, and it will be fascinating to see where it goes from here. But it was also the Year of Lies and War. I am not an American and so have no recourse to voting Bush out of office, but I will join the ranks of millions who will do all we can this year to remove Bush from office. What happened last year was intolerable. I’m sure a lot of others must also feel that our inner resources have been renewed and that clearly it is important that something be done about the current political climate. Perhaps I can’t do much, but I can speak and, at the very least, I will open my mouth and try to add weight to tip the rolling boulder.

Then there are two landscapes that I want to try to nurture back to health. My body/mind and something somewhere of the Earth. Buddhism has figured a lot in my thoughts over the last two years and, seeing as I live in a Buddhist land, I might as well take advantage of the institutions that exist here. I’m starting to look around for some temple or organization that I might get involved with that appeals to my cosmopolitan outlook and that doesn’t base its philosophy on evangelical, money-grubbing hocus-pocus. I know very little about what is available at the moment, so it will take a little while to winnow through information.

For my body I hope to get out to the mountains as much as possible this year. That means getting into a vigorous routine of daily exercise and as many weekends as possible out among foothills, because walking with a loaded pack is really the only way to train for this. Of course, just getting out there, being among the trees and under the sky is reason enough to get out.

But I am also thinking of taking up a martial art, such as shorinji-kempo (the Japanese version of the Shaolin Kung-fu… similar to aikido, but with less emphasis on ground work) or possibly, if I can find a good instructor, (difficult here in the land of the the katana, the Japanese broadsword) taking up fencing again, which I used to do in college. I’m thinking I need a sport which not only strengthens my body, but also requires an immersion in mind exercise, an evaluation of self and surroundings.

This year ought to evoke a lot of self-exploration and harder questioning and looking about at the world around. It is no longer enough just to talk about things; it is time to actually make things happen.

And thereby I also want to contribute something real to the planet. Another face of last year was clear evidence of global warming. If I really love the Earth and its creatures as much as I’ve said I do I must practice with my fingers in the soil. Maybe plant trees. Maybe clean a river. Maybe develop my little garden into a haven for birds. Maybe start an educational gathering or getting out into the villages and helping to revive the traditional husbandry of the commons. There is so much to do. And it seems I’ve been sleeping for so long!

Perhaps it was good that Bush and company stomped all over the world. It’s woken me and others out of our stupor, determined to protect what we love. A tranquil heart is required, and compassion. A great wing of water to douse the fire.

May this year bring peace and hope for everyone. Come warm your hands at the hearth, and let’s talk.

Blogging Journal

Bad Taste

I feel like I’ve just emerged from three days of slogging through a sewer. One spam blight after another, with no time to write about what I really love. I hope I’ve fixed the problems for now. I’m off to my evening work now, but hope, when I get back, to post one or two of the offline essays that I’ve been writing while on the train. I’ll have to leave a little early so I can sit down in a quiet cafe and take my time eating something nice to cover the taste of bile in my mouth and settle the twist of my guts.

Thanks everyone for your input on all this. It’s interesting; publishing companies would probably die to have problem solving feedback as immediate and diverse as this. Think of all the time saved on editing and layout! Quite a learning experience.