07 Oct A Walk May Make You Fall In Love With Life Itself
EACH TIME I go to Kyoto I fall in love with something new. A shade, an emotion, a memory.
Last weekend, on a walk through the sodden foothills of that venerable city, I seemed to have fallen in love with life itself.
On a walk, emotions, memories, shades of ourselves may arise as reflections of the past, shimmering on the crest of a stream. Yet on that walk you simultaneously become someone new, for the past drifts away in the stream’s gentle current.
You continue forward.
Each step guides you into the future, and maybe it’s a person you fall in love with whom you never expected to meet. Maybe it’s you whom you learn to love again.
Perhaps it’s life itself you gaze upon with fresh, opened eyes, its mystery lighting your soul on fire.
“The word ‘God’ is more of an exclamation than a proper name,” writes 20th-century philosopher Alan Watts in his biography, In My Own Way.
“It expresses astonishment, reverence, and even love for our reality. If you want to put a human face on it, that will do — if you do not take it literally — since we know nothing higher or more mysterious than people…”
Watts, a student of both western and eastern religions and traditions, writes poetically of Nanzen-ji, a Buddhist temple which impacted him greatly, resting on the outskirts of Kyoto.
In My Own Way was given to me rather serendipitously as a gift by my friend’s dad, writing to me how Alan Watt’s father wrote the foreword to his autobiography, just as my dad wrote the foreword for my first book, Arrows of Youth.
I didn’t imagine that within the pages I’d find a treasure map, inviting me into the woods of nearby Kyoto.
That I can read a page about Nanzen-ji from one of history’s renowned philosophers and decide to go on a day trip over the weekend to see it for myself… What an absolute gift it is to explore the world, our home, with its infinite and sundry mysteries.
Doing so and sharing what I find, what I learn, how the stars of our universe collide and how you, too, can chase your own North Star — this adventure gives me such profound meaning.
It rained hard last Sunday morning.
As the rain settled in the afternoon, I left Osaka for Kyoto to explore Nanzen-ji, hoping it would retain some fecund freshness from the rain.
Radiant silver clouds drifted above the hillside. I roamed further past the crowds of the temple into a forest of dark green pines. The air became sweeter, the silence deeper; autumn light pierced the trees to create a labyrinth of golden shadows on my way to a waterfall.
It’s Kyoto’s interconnectedness with nature that keeps me coming back.
In Osaka I spend evenings by the canal, enamored by the beating heart of the city which pulses in beaming smiles and neon lights.
In Kyoto, one may take a right instead of left and hike into the hills to find themselves, spiritually and physically, amongst soaring trees and red torii gates.
The seasons are changing. We are too. The mind finds home on a walk in the woods. I passed a cemetery brimming with austere headstones and vibrant flowers.
Incandescent streaks of sunlight sliced through drying wood. Dark red fibers had emerged from green petals, minty trees and honey yellow brush. My feet stepped upon damp earth, my soul nourished by the fragrance of life, mind awake, body moving slowly.
I emerged from the trees and wandered along the Philosopher’s Path, a lesser-traveled stone trail that looks down upon the rooftops of Kyoto.
This is joy, inspired by the coming of fall on an evening walk through the purlieus of an ancient city.
Camera ‘round my neck,
bandana dangling from my back pocket,
ripped and torn like me.
Its fraying edges imparting
what we’ve been through,
both remain whole,
character sewn in torn seams with
Rebuilt, love shining through our cracks
like the Japanese art kintsugi.
I have fears but I’m not afraid,
at home moving through this world,
my steps repair me.
Look what you’ve become.
Dancing from the mountains
to the energy of the city
I don’t need anything
to take this walk
other than my ability to move,
the capacity to appreciate the
simplicity of life.
This — nature, history, exploring
part of a city I’ve never been —
A sweet smell coming from a cafe as its lights turn on,
lingering in the wind.
It brings me sheer joy.
I pray it always will.
The evening sky blazed in an orange sunset. I passed kids skating on the river, friends and families enjoying the cool, clean air.
It felt like a college town as the school year begins, with brown leaves drifting in the wind amongst the glow of orange streetlights.
I love that.
Is it a semblance of what I know, perhaps, that makes me so happy? Or is it life, igniting the notion that we’re not so different after all, that beauty is inexhaustible and this is all just a mystery worth loving, ourselves, our days, our path… So keep walking.
In the darkness, countless people sat upon the bank of the Kamogawa amid the warmth of yellow lanterns, fading imperceptibly into the smoky horizon.
We still know what’s truly good in life, I thought, looking down upon the violet river from the Shijo bridge.
I think we always will.