People sometimes talk about “power spots.” I don’t know whether the Abe Pass is one of those spots or not, but so many times of the year, it’s so wonderful to be standing in the middle of it.
Something about the way the two opposite slopes rush together, something about the way the trees lean out, in a “communicative” sort of way, into that bowl so comfortably round.
So I said to my hearty hiking partner the only thing I could say to my hearty hiking partner: “That’s blue. I mean, that’s the most beautiful blue I’ve ever seen. That’s the bluest blue I’ve ever seen.” And it must have been so, because when I said it, it sounded about as so as anything could sound.
We could have stayed home. There was the hour and fifteen minutes drive up to Umegashima. There was the possibility of an icy road—not much chance, at least during the morning, of temperatures getting above freezing. I’d made cookies. I could have sat around and whiled away the morning with a pot of coffee, lavishing myself with abundant calories.
But I didn’t. We didn’t.
Most of the time, we drive right on past the village of hot spring inns, the ryokan, and wind right on up the mountain road for another twenty minutes, to the “parking lot.” But it’s almost the new year, and we guessed there would be significant snow–so we started the walk from the village itself. An hour later, we were through the cedar forest and back out on the road. We’d have never made it in a car–at least not in my Aqua.
Fortunately, I pretty much knew the points where we had to cross, back and forth, over the little Sakasa River, and it was a serene walk up to the pass.
The deer seemed to think so, too.
First along the river itself, then along the dry river bed. Less than an hour and we were at that magical pass.
“Man, that sky is blue.”
And then dead right we turned, straight up the slope that would take us to the ridge of Bara-no-dan. Once we hit the ridge, the view opened up.
There was a bit more accumulation of snow along the ridge, a lot of it still soft, and that made the walking—not particularly difficult or dangerous—but, well, just a little more . . . a little more adventurous.
Even the elves that accompanied us had their “irons” secured tightly to their boots.
(No, no, they don’t iron their boots—and neither do we.)
If the moisture and wind and temperature are all just right, a feathery ice will adhere itself to the bare shiro yashio twigs. You’ve probably got a three- or four-hour window to see this in.
But if you want to see the feathers glisten, you may only have a ten-minute window.
First, it’s dark. You can’t see. Then the light filters in, and you can see. That’s the way it works. Then the sun tips over the upper ridge. The feathery ice glistens. The brown seeds and the red buds of the shiro yashio, side by side, shine with tremendous respect for one another. You feel as if you’ve been invited to a pageant.
And then it melts.
Take a picture now. If you like. Look now. It’ll all be gone when you pass back by on your way down. Yeah, a ten-minute window. And you just happened to come along.
Me and my hearty hiker partner, we looked at each other and sang the chorus from one of the many songs in our ever-expanding repetoire:
We laughed at their lot
And we put up a paradise!
Yes! It’s truly lovely!
So shall we really forgo resolutions for the New Year?
If we do, it should only be because they’ve become obsolete—because we’ve already resolved to make new resolutions with every day that breaks.
The sun is but a morning star. . . . HDT
Waaaaah! And then you’re at the top. You left the inn at 8:45 AM. You stopped to take two hundred and thirty-one pictures. (You’ll like maybe ten or fifteen.) And you needed the time to take off one of your gloves for each photo opportunity. You banged your boots up against tree trunks, clearing the snow, thirteen times. You took off your boots and dumped out snow twice. You slipped and fell on your bum once. You stopped and said, “Man, that’s blue. I mean, that is the bluest blue ever,” six times. You stopped, wanting to say it all even one more time, but you knew you no longer had to, so you just stood there, leaning on your hiking poles and grinning like a fool . . . who-knows-how-many times. Once you stopped and stared at those yashio seeds and buds, thinking about the seeds in the pots you have back home, wondering if they’ll really sprout when the spring comes. You imagined the slivers of green slipping out from their soft brown cases–and for a moment, you “drifted away.”
And then a few times you and your hearty hiking partner stopped and talked a bit about “real” things–homes, family, budgets. It was four, maybe five degrees below the freezing point (celsius), but you never bothered to dig out either of the jackets you have in your backpack. You didn’t need to.
Yes, yes, you dropped a glove, took a couple of steps forward, went back for it. . . let’s say, seven times. No fears, you never lost it!
And now it’s 12:15 PM and you’re at the top! Take out your gore-tex jacket, spread it across the snow, sit down, enjoy a rice ball and a hot cup of ginger tea.
Bask in the sun.
Maybe tip your hat to Mr. Fuji.
(But you can’t pull the wool over his eyes, so don’t even think about it.)
And then down you go. Probably you’ll find the snow takes it easier on your knees than the solid ground does. Enjoy sliding around a bit. Pretend you’re a child.
Actually there’s no need to pretend.
Happy New Year!
* * *
I think this may be my hearty hiking partner’s typical image of me.