Entwining Fiction With Reality In the Autumn Hills of Kyoto, Japan

THE TRAIN rolls through the outskirts of the city. I pass a woman on her bike waiting for the train to pass, bundled in a scarf and coat to stave off the cold. She’s in a space juxtaposed with me, looking in while I’m looking out.

She sees this train as a flow of time, endlessly moving. She sees faces. Mine, perhaps. Is she affected by this chance encounter, too? I wonder, yet the moment’s gone before I have the chance to grasp it.

We can’t make time stop. Can we make it slow?

Life goes by in the blink of an eye.

It feels like our world is the only one, but it’s not, it’s only our perception.

We converge with countless other moments of awareness and they blend into one continuous passage of time — a second, two, three, a neighborhood, a traffic light — the start of an adventure.

Perhaps we can expand each individual moment and imbue it with meaning by giving ourselves to that moment fully, so when our blink is up, there’s nothing left to see.

There is something curious about my inability to read the Japanese writing painted on the walls of the wooden, decrepit buildings that I pass.

You’re somewhere unfamiliar, they say.

I can practically feel the warmth of the sunlight striking them.

I’m in a place where, instead of understanding, I feel. I see the yellow sun fighting through the clouds and cast upon the buildings, and I understand how good that feels.

The rays from that body of fire millions of kilometers away touch your skin at just the right distance and just the right temperature. This allows the body to feel cold and comfortable beneath these blankets that we wear, yet uplifted and warmed; the sunlight touches our core.

The feeling of the sun on a wintry day makes life worth it.

It’s not just the feeling of being comfortable. Clothes provide for that, and we can pile them on until we’re sweating in our fourth jumper.

When the sun kisses your face, it gives you the strength to go on. The touch of warmth after days of grey makes me believe that there’s something here we can’t possibly understand, a reason for the dark depths of sky; a reason for the digging, for the seeking, for the time we must spend alone.

Time spent alone makes the laugh of a friend all that matters, all we crave. Time spent in the rain makes the touch of the sun divine.

We’re not meant for comfort all the time. That’s not what human beings have developed to experience.

What’s the reason to leave what we know and explore the cave across the valley? Why, since the beginning of time, do the young pine to leave their shores to explore the extent of the sea?

The height of the tallest mountains? Now, the far reaches of outer space?

I pass those buildings and I feel the sun and I gaze upon the signs I can’t understand and part of me’s fulfilled. I think deep down we long to be more than we are.

I’m flooded with emotion as I look down at my journal, writing on the train for Arashiyama, the Bamboo grove outside of Kyoto, Japan.

I feel the rumble and the rush of another train fly by, hardly a foot from the outside of the thin wall.

We may be alone, but there are other longing souls surrounding us, too. We have those people whom we choose to journey alongside, our brothers and sisters on travels of their own.

I miss my friends. Yet I know we’re together, no matter what. I know this is all part of the plan. I know that by interacting with the world, friends are always a conversation away.

Give us the courage to run to which calls us.

The train touches down in Arashiyama. After a short walk through the town, I sit along the Katsura River. It runs from the mountains like a vein and into the nearby ancient city of Kyoto.

The sight of autumn in bloom is majestic. Countless people pass along the Togetsukyo Bridge, the name meaning moon crossing.

In the background, populating the surrounding hills and the mountains, color, nature, experience exhale together to create an air of mystique.

I imagine this breathtaking sight is the same one a traveler may have seen around 1100 years ago, when the first bridge was constructed in the location of Togetsukyo Bridge. People cross the river. The natural world and our modern one exist in a state of vibrant flux.

I sit cross-legged on the stone riverbed, thinking of how my favorite games and books have shaped me: Skyrim; Shogun; The Name of the Wind; Eragon; Red Rising, to name a few.

I feel I’m on this earth to tap into this force of nature which I feel so strongly, for it derives in my heart and paints the hills with a deeper poignancy; it gives the river its flow.

I long to give the world the feeling I’ve felt since I was a kid, the joy of being out in the world and finding meaning in the color of nature, the whisper of the wind.

I’m not here solely to devise the hero’s journey behind the keyboard. I’m here to look out at the bridge before me and feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I’m alive to see the auburn, earthy, golden, orange trees and feel the cold brush against my face.

Isn’t that what we long for? Why else do we endure all we can’t explain? Children race, families hug, and friends chat in a language I can’t yet understand.

The sky is dark and grey and moving; I’m here — we’re here — to feel it move.

I leave my place beside the river and head into the hills above the bamboo grove. From up above, I notice the way the river cuts through the mountain. It creates this perfect seam of beauty where color and rocks and water funnel into.

Clouds roll above the river which runs through the ravine, patiently rolling as the moon steadily rises. There’s a small hut burrowed in the trees on the other side of the ravine.

A girl takes selfies at the lookout point with her camera and a stand. I ask if she wants me to take a photo, knowing the answer is likely, no thank you.

She’s from Morrocco traveling through Japan. We wonder what that structure must be. It doesn’t look easy to reach. Colorful flags flutter from its roof.

The air is clear and crisp, and I continue hiking and run into a young blonde lad. He’s from the Netherlands and on his descent. We discuss the U.S. versus the Netherlands World Cup match which took place last night.

He’s kind and smiles as we stand there in the woods, chatting like old friends.

As I sit on the natural floor further up in the hills, looking out upon the expanding cities and towns and mountains, I hear a group of kids. We share a few words in English and in Japanese; they’re young and goofy.

How deep can we go in this? Why not endeavor to find out? Why not take it as far as we can possibly manage? We live in these individual worlds of perception, looking for something perhaps we don’t yet have.

I can’t say for certain what it is. Yet feeling my legs move further up the mountain under the light of the moon tells me I don’t need to know what it is.

I only need to be grateful for what is: the rustling autumn leaves; the moon which seems tucked into the blackening night as if a star embedded in a blanket. The orange light lapping against the stationary boats anchored in the river. Friends and family holding one another arm in arm for warmth, embracing beauty.

There’s so much beauty in this world.

I just hope I can see it, not only in the way a leaf falls, but in all else which moves, and speaks, and shines, in a language we just can’t understand.

Why not push the boundaries of what we are, what’s possible, and what we may create?

I don’t want to escape to a fictional world. I want to give this everything — before I close my eyes, and it’s gone.

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