So I got home early from work the other day (okay, “early” is relative and I’m starting to see 2pm as my normal quittin’ time. Just sayin’) and I said to myself, I said, self, you know what we haven’t done in a while? Sweat through a shirt. And I don’t mean like get a little damp under the arms… any stroll through the parking lot will do that. I mean disgustingly and thoroughly soak through an entire shirt, front and back. And it’s August still!
In summer, the only fresh thing is the produce. Summer is for your hair to never do what you ask, for your clothes to never quite look right and be comfortable at the same time.. summer is for dirt and sweat and gross, an abandoning of fanciness or pretense of anything like it. I think this is why south-islanders live longer. They gave up pretending it’s not hot as balls and just embraced the right to do whatever it took to be both productive and comfortable in that situation.
Anyway. In all this longing for AC and attempting to be a good studious productive desk-sittin’ individual, I think I started to pretend that I could in fact get away without abandoning that pretense.
So I suited up in shorts and a good sweatin’ shirt, and I hopped on China Downtown (my bike) and pedaled off toward the great unknown. I crossed the river and intended to find a mountain “crevice,” or a place where the valley extends behind a mountain somewhere.. basically I intended to explore something I couldn’t see from the main road of my commute every day.
I have a tendency, when I do that, to find shrines. This is mostly because shrines are to be found everywhere, as long as you don’t expect a shrine to be too much more than a tori gate, some steps, a water basin, a little building, and a bell. Mostly they are deserted and look like they were lovingly tended, but that was about four days ago. Iwa Jinja is a pretty grand example of a shrine. But I love the rustic little ones too.
So anyway, there I was, biking along. I’d just wiped down the bike because spiders build webs on anything that you leave sitting for more than three hours (seriously, there was one inside my car, spanning from the rearview mirror to the steering wheel and dash) and oiled the chain, and I had the oil can and its little red spray straw in my front basket, with my bag of important adventure material (camera, cell phone, some change, water bottle, hand towel) in the back basket. I lost the red spray straw somewhere before the end of the bridge, but went on.
Saw some steps at the bottom of a mountain and guessed (rightly) that they led to a small shrine. I did not realize the shrine would be all the way on the top of that mountain, and that the steps would take me nearly all the way there.
Don’t worry, it wasn’t a very tall mountain, even for Yamasaki. So this was Nakayama jinja - 中山神社 (middle-mountain shrine?). Then yesterday my VP was asking me if I had done anything lately that made me “good and tired,” or tired in a good way, like hard work, so I pulled up the googlemaps image of Nakayama and said, I climbed this by accident. On the map, though, I could see that a little valley snaked around this mountain, complete with settlement. I decided to bike through this sleepy hamlet, and so that afternoon, I did so.
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That 522 is a "highway" on this map is mind boggling. It's one of those roads that you swear has to be one-lane until you see someone coming the other way.
There is something in me that likes to go until I lose the road. To keep going until you don’t know where you are, and then go a bit further just to see what’s there, even though you can predict what it will be. And then, go back. I saw mountains, woods, and rice fields. Oh and a shrine gate (so I’ll go back there sometime). Houses and creeks and old people and little kids. But they smiled at me, all of them, when I said hello. (It kinda made me wonder if it was a new thing for them, too.. to have a random white chick biking up through their valley)
I did sweat through my shirt. I did remember what it’s like to just go. There is a dynamic tension in my life between making thing happen and letting things happen. Sometimes, I try far too hard to force things to go a certain way. Sometimes, I am far luckier than needing to do that.. and should just accept things as they present themselves to me.
Oh, and on the second day, I found the red straw too, on the bridge. Win, overall.