Last night was a blur, or maybe I just have a concussion.
It was one of those up and down nights - bad in the best situations, worse in this one. The rooms in these traditional inns are tucked away on the second floor. So, to get from a horizontal position to the bathroom one must: throw on a yukata robe, don too-small slippers, quietly slide open the room door, tip-toe through the slippery wooden hallway, stumble down a narrow set of steep stairs, dash through the kitchen and around the garden, switch to the bathroom slippers and finally throw open the door to the squat toilet (hopefully not surprising anyone in there).
Add to the challenge inverted hurdles along the way; wooden ceiling beams a foot lower than I am tall. Oh, and the need to squeeze one’s buttocks with a commitment that can only be compared to wedlock. Annnnd, stagger back to a wide eyed horizontal position upstairs.
I cracked my head on wooden beams an average of three times on each sprint through the obstacle course, but I’m happy to report that I made it every time. And so I’m sitting out in the garden, groggy and choosing fresh air for my breakfast. The scents wafting my way from the kitchen smell way worse than I know they actually are.
With this dash to the Kiso finish line behind me, it is time to move on to the next leg of my trip: a pilgrimage of sorts to Eihei-ji.
Mindful of my inputs and outputs, I try to make myself comfortable on a train heading north. Looking out the window it is a clear day, but I remain feeling anything but.
The path is straight amidst a meandering landscape, lifted up in valleys and tunneled through the mountains. The view opens up to a patchwork of little farms, and then closes in as snow-capped peaks grow on the horizon. As we rumble past, people hardly look up from their fields as they go about their day.
At the Sea of Japan, we turn west along the coast and head into the sun. I’m feeling a bit more…steady?! Dare I hope that a sunnier day might be on the horizon?
I’ve arrived in Fukui to a comfortable business hotel that will be the staging ground for visiting Eihei-ji tomorrow - a temple complex founded by Eihei Dogen, a pivotal figure in the Soto sect of Zen.
There is very little English spoken here, and tomorrow there will be even less. Although the western language is taught in the Japanese school system, people are shy about using it for fear of making a mistake. But I’m told by other Japanese folk that they understand me.
I chuckle as I think of my minimal hesitancy at fumbling through a conversation with my grade school French. More than once I have gotten into trouble in Montreal, where a few well-practiced lines of français tricked a convenience store clerk into thinking that I was fluent. So I know all too well what it is to nod and smile, while only understanding a word or two of each sentence.
Sometimes you just have to laugh at the absurdity of it all. As someone who has a propensity to white-knuckle it with certain aspects of life, travel is a good reminder that it’s okay to fumble - hopefully in a forward direction.
Painted by an unseen hand
Across skies and lives