Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ontake-san in fall 秋の御嶽山

Over "silver week" (a series of holidays that lined up this week in Japan) Aki and I climbed Ontake-san with a couple of friends. This was our first time staying in one of the mountains several lodges; it was a great trip.

The 20th boasted perfect weather--not a cloud in the sky--but a drinking party on the night of the 19th had dissuaded me from thinking about climbing that day. So, our friends arrived on the 20th and we set out the next morning--the 21st. The weather was not as brilliant as it had been the day before, but we were able to stay above the clouds for most of the climb.

Some highlights from the climb:

Just above Ta-no-hara 田の原 (the highest point you can reach by car--about 2200 meters) we encountered this group of Shingon Buddhists chanting as they descended. I have previously met the monk that was leading the group and he explained to me that the red cords that the worshipers wear at their waists symbolize umbilical cords that tie them to their "mother", Ontake-san.

The summit, with ni-no-ike 二の池 (second pond) in the background (Mt. Norikura 乗鞍 and Hotaka-dake 穂高岳 are also back there somewhere).

View of san-no-ike 三の池 (third pond). There are five ponds on Ontake-san, and the third is perhaps the most famous. It's waters are known for their medicinal properties.

This fellow was meditating above the second pond.
I wonder how many years he's been there.

Walking on walking,
under foot earth turns.
Streams and mountains never stay the same.

-Gary Snyder
(from the poem "The Mountain Spirit")

Sunday, September 13, 2009

a rememberance

On the way to my job at Otaki's combined elementary/junior high school I stopped to take a shot of this buckwheat (soba) field. It was a beautiful morning.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the nagano-seibu-jishin 長野西部地震--Western Nagano Earthquake. The magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck at 8:48 AM on the morning of September 14th, 1984. The epicenter was located about 5 kilometers from the center of Otaki village. The jolt caused a section of earth from Mt. Ontake's southeastern slope to dislodge and it roared down the mountain and into the Otaki Valley at a ferocious pace. 29 people lost their lives in the quake.

This morning, at 8:48 AM
a siren rang out in the village
and we all hung our heads in
silence to remember the dead.

On the southeastern slope of Mt. Ontake, a mountain that is beloved and revered by village residents, there remains an enormous wound of crumbling rock, which serves as a reminder of the unpredictible power of the natural world.

As the siren rang this morning I thought of the dead, of nature's power, and of all the beautiful wonders that there are.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

stability and turbulence

After a turbulent summer of rainy weather the skies over Otaki have stabilized, bringing to the heavens blues as deep as lapis lazuli.

Temperatures, on the other hand, have de-stabilized, a pattern I recognize from last year's fall and this year's spring--a battling of the seasons that we humans get caught in the middle of. Although I know the ultimate winner of the scrimmage now under way--fall and then winter--the bright rays of the noon sun pelt down and fool me into thinking the outcome might, just this one year, be different.

Warm days
cool nights
farmers worry, survey, adjust, re-adjust, worry;
like crossing a river upon slick stones.
Simple greetings:
"how's the weather?"
take on weight
and bend like stalks of rice
in the flat light that
crawls down the Otaki valley.