Monthly Archives: May 2014

Where I was


So there you are, wedged in somewhere between a whole slew of distant peaks, deep in the woods, looking for a trail post. You see one up ahead. You quicken your step. Enlightenment is moments away. And then you’re standing in front of the post, and it says . . .

Absolutely nothing. Nada. With a sign like that . . . a cool, grey, empty slate, a smooth, glossless tabula rasa, how in the world are you supposed to know where in the world you are?

Yes, where in the world was I?

Actually, the answer came to me pretty quickly. Almost instantaneously, in fact. (Sorry, no stories of me wandering the woods, dying of thirst, no tales of me being chewed up by bears.) Where I was was a bit beyond that lovely corridor of rhododendron blossoms. How they’d grown coy as I’d climbed toward the sky and the air had cooled! Where I was was just beyond those tiny pink flowers, those little frilled bells, scattered here and there, almost like miniscule street lamps erected along  winding  village roads, roads of moss and leaves, rocks and root. Very cute. . . . Get down on the ground and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.

Anyway, that’s where I was. So now you know.

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We’ve come out for tea.

Sit the breezy ridge with us?

Snuggle beneath our snow-white silk?



Frilled lamps, rock mirrors.

Cheek to leaves and moss . . . peer in,

Reflect the pink shine.



But where were you?

Okay, okay, I get it. Where I was was 42 minutes down from the peak of Hakkorei, which was 89 minutes and 97 pictures up from the parking lot . . . which itself was 14 minutes up the “beware-of-falling-rocks” road leading out from the hot-springs mecca, Umegashima, about three-quarters of the way to the Abe Pass. Sorry about that about.

Umegashima, 68 minutes (in my I-think-I-can hybrid) from my humble first-floor, cramped-kitchen apartment in Shizuoka City,  itself nestled right there on the Pacific Ocean. I think we’ve all heard of that.

It’s a nice walk up Hakkorei.

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You’ll walk through the trees, see some pretty things, come to a steep place or two. Might look a little hairy, but it isn’t really. I climbed, never taking my camera out of my right hand.

You’ll have some nice views.

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And from the top of Hakkorei, it’s a nice walk over to Oyarei. If you’re going that far.

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No serious obstacles.

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When I got to the top of Oyarei, I took one look at the marker–that one was legible (sorry, no pic)–and jumped up into the air as high as I my weary legs would allow. Even thirty years ago, I’d been no Michael Jordan, but I gave it my very best. The effort felt good . . . and just maybe I made it.

What the marker said was this: Mt. Oyarei . . . 1999.7 meters.

Some trail markers are pretty clear. Here’s the one atop Hakkorei.



     “You mean we all live along the same street? A street that goes down to the coast, up to Miyanichi City, over to Fukuoka, then on to Osaka, San Francisco, Chicago, Omaha?”

     “That’s right. That’s it exactly.”

Pretty faces


When she arched her back

and raised her half-clasped hands to the sky,

I thought her fingertips

might tickle the sun.

And what with the way her face shone,

I thought if only I had a camera

to snap a shot

to carry in my breast pocket


I would never ask for anything more.


But when a breeze broke her pose,

and she lowered her arms

and hugged her elbows,

what I wished I had

was a cotton jacket

to drape

(gently now!)

 over her shoulders.

Just her shoulders.

The goosebumps on her arms

I could rub smooth



Here, there, and everywhere . . . pretty faces.





May 11th. So many things to celebrate. And good old Skype allowed me to say Happy Birthday and Happy Mother’s Day to those across the pond . . . for free!

And before that, well, what could have been better than to have been with good people in a good place on a good day. And what else is there to say about that . . . except . . .







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 Quiet now.




Steady now. Balance.


Leaves? . . . Birds? (Look close.)






Climb twice!


You’d prefer to spend the day with your daughter, but that’s not possible, so you decide to go for a jog/hike up Yatsu Yama. (yama = mountain).


It’s a delightful May morning, and once you’re up on the mountain you realize there are smiling faces everywhere.


You feel a little kick in your step. You reach the top, glance right at the Suruga Bay, under a lovely blue sky, then glance left, at the snow-topped mountains, also under lovely blue. Another burst of energy. Down the other side you plunge. Then you see a girl sliding down a slope on cardboard, and you either have to stop and cry or gallop forward.


Suddenly you’re clicking along at a pace you thought you’d left behind years ago. And then you see all those folks, wandering around in the brush beside the trail. With plastic bags. Why, they’re picking wild strawberries! There are wild strawberries everywhere! Those guys are going to pick to their heart’s content and go home and make jam! Wild strawberry jam! . . . And what are you going to do?

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Intown mountain run.

Ridge rush, heartburst, scarlet scream.

Stop for strawberries?!


(Ah-soh-ka! Yes, yes! Climb twice!)

You fly down the mountain. Don’t slacken your pace until you’re through your front door. You get a bag, hop on your bicycle, head back to Yatsu Yama. (Silly you, you should have put on long pants, but what the hell.) Two hours later, you’re stirring the pot. All those little seeds in all that lovely red, bubbling away. Absolutely marvelous. Then the jars are going into the refrigerator. You imagine your friends’ smiling faces. Wow! they say, licking the spoon, it doesn’t get any better than this! (that is, unless you pay for our flights to Okinawa for a morning of snorkling off Zamami Island).


Yep, sometimes you have to settle for absolutely marvelous . . . but you would have preferred to have spent the day with your daughter.


Traditional birthday presents


Wow! I woke up this morning, walked outside, and found birthday presents scattered all over the place. You might not recognize some of them as presents, so here I’ll just include pictures of the more “traditional” type . . . the ones wrapped in gorgeous yellow, pink, and green.


I thought about opening them right away (you know, the kid in me), but I pondered it a bit more and decided just to let them open themselves whenever they feel like it. Usually, that works pretty well. I don’t know if you’re celebrating anything today or not, but someone may have left you some presents, too, regardless.

Sometimes people give presents just for the hell of it.

Take a look. If need be, you can come enjoy mine.