17 Feb A Winter’s Day In Kyoto, Inspired By the Essence of Spring
HAZY STRATUS clouds drifted slowly through the winter sky along with those passing on the Shijō Bridge above. Whereas the clouds remained vague, I could recognize the emotion on each passing face.
They smiled; they laughed; they gazed into the moving water.
My friends and I weren’t alone in savoring what felt like the first day of spring in Kyoto. We sat on the riverbank of the Kamo River, our legs outstretched amongst oat-colored reeds of dying grass.
Or maybe, like us, the grass felt revived from the sun. I laid my jacket on the stones and closed my eyes, listening to the clear blue-green water moving through the rapids.
It made me happy, doing nothing at all but being alive amongst others who, I imagine, felt the same.
Friends, parents with their kids, tourists and locals filled the entire walkway, taking in the freedom, the air, the beauty of this ethereal city.
The mountains called the river to the distance; it felt like you could touch them, like we were caught in the sight of their ancient awareness.
This could be the greatest feeling in the universe, I thought to myself.
It’s the spirit of love being out in the sun in the waning days of winter. It makes this all worth it.
This energy called love has no shape of its own, yet it radiates from our hearts and takes countless forms and expression.
It’s the sound of laughter amongst friends; the kiss of the wind in the summer heat; the hills in the distance and the smile on my face.
Perhaps most of all, it’s the will to see this world as good no matter what we’re shown; that’s not naive. It’s knowing what the world can be, a dark and lonely place, and being what it needs.
We lose ourselves in love.
Yet in its absence, the color of the buildings fade; the world becomes cold. To recognize its absence is to understand reality: for if it’s gone and the world’s gone grey, love was once there and it may return.
It hurts. I know how this life hurts. We all do.
Could the spring be so sweet without the dark days preceding?
My heart and soul burst with questions.
They can’t be answered, only experienced. Every fiber of my being tells me to dive beneath the surface regarding the challenges I face, these passions I pursue, and the question which consumes us all in some capacity:
what does it mean to be alive?
No life is without its challenges. No soul’s without its purpose.
Often we must accept, even embrace the darkness, the winter, the cold, to understand what gives the day its warmth.
“Show me someone sick and happy,” said the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “in danger and happy, dying and happy, exiled and happy, disgraced and happy. Show me, by god, how much I’d like to see such a Stoic. But since you can’t show me someone that perfectly formed, at least show me someone actively forming themselves to be inclined in this way. Show me.”
The hero emerges from the cave with something valuable because nothing, nothing, could get to them completely; it’s us who possess the essence of spring, even in the heart of winter.
Up amongst the tranquil narrow streets, each few steps presents a contrast of light and shadow, a simple profession of beauty.
My curiosity’s my lifeline. It brought me here, and it’s why these passageways inspire me so deeply.
I thought I had an answer yet I’m shown a different way; maybe that’s life, constantly realizing how little we can understand.
That doesn’t mean you stop and put your hands up.
It means that you go further. Push on with everything you have, for the twilight can’t consume us when we’re shining from within.
Be light. That’s all there is. No matter what. No matter how.
In unexpected times, the universe presents us with hints on how to do so — perhaps as a brilliant, unforeseen day — one like today.
Journey courageously with the people who question, who feel, who laugh, too.
We need one another.
The mystery sustains me. My questions don’t need answers. I know that sunlight feels good and friendship is everything and love is in the way the river moves, calling those around to come and contribute to it.
Whatever happens, I will accept with a smile.
Be light. Travel deep. A harmony of experience to forever guide my days.
That night, outside my window, I heard the sound of rain. I drifted into sleep. It warmed me just the same.