Thursday, December 03, 2009

So Much Water So Close To Home


My last day in Yonago, I went to see a Doctor of Chinese Medicine about my knee. He told me that my body has too much liquid, and gave me some herbs to remedy that. But how can I escape all this water?

It is beside my train, in the form of a river along which a tug pulls a barge loaded with dirt from what was once a mountain. This train stops at Kinosaki, its passengers disembarking for a three day weekend soaking in hot baths. My next train follows the Sea of Japan, whose rocky shoreline is carved by more water, both serving as natural defenses against ancient enemies.

In Yonago, I spend a few days feeding on crab and other things that this water offers, as if trying to instantaneously recoup the 7 kilograms lost during a 10 week walk.

Another train struts along other water, trapped in rice paddies now plowed into hourglass shapes. At Gotsu I follow the Ko no Kawa south to spend a couple days with Jake. On one of these we watch the water leap and rush through the narrow Senjokei. A month ago, Kagura performers mimicked this movement as they danced in the surrounding shrines now quiet on this warm autumn afternoon.

Thumb south to Tomo no Ura and Sensuijima floating in the Seto-Naikai. I spend half a day hiking around what the locals call `kemono no michi,` or trail of beasts. Where there are views, I sit and squint at the words on a page in the glare of sunlight reflecting brightly on water. I`ve always had a great attraction to these waters, love to walk the desert-like hills high over the waves. I often escaped down here with friends long returned to their homes, far away where water merges with other water. And I too will be soon gone, and the sentimentality I feel is a weight heavy, like the Bizen cup from which I drink my beer. I toast these ghosts, and then again. There is always the feeling of aware in off-season beach towns, yet mine is compounded and I often feel near tears. Leaving this country is like a breakup with someone I`m still deeply in love with.

There is other water too: at the end of the narrow alleys of Tomo no Ura; along the waterfront of Onomichi, above which I wander the hills between old temples; forming the spread fingers of the Hiroshima delta; at the southern edge of an overly built-up town facing Miyajima, where I spend my final days.

And the sentimentality lasts, though it could be that I have far too many minor chords on my iPod, making up the nostalgic songs that themselves flowed through all the different lives I`ve lived here. As an English teacher well-enthused at an expat life. As the husband and father. As a hollow shadow, trying to pull myself from the wreckage of a life destroyed. As a person in reconstruction, rebuilding myself in a new city.

Escape from the water. Tough to do on an island. Today I will cross over it, to see where the flow goes once beyond its limits...


On the turntable: Beatles, "Rubber Soul"
On the nighttable: Robert Stone, "Damascus Gate"