. .

The book is coming....

The journey continues...

I am currently braving the wilds of Cornwall in the UK, with my computer, a hot water bottle and a large cup of tea.  At some point, I will emerge with a manuscipt just in time for another cup of tea.  Watch this space for more information on my forthcoming book.

Except from Chapter 4

  "Fujidera, or ‘Wisteria Well Temple’ was closed. The temple gate I had been planning to sleep under was planted on a slight slope, and the now familiar fierce guardians either side of the covered entrance to the 11th temple on my journey were watching the rain trickle across the cold, hard concrete of my bed. As I looked around to see if there was an altogether more pleasant place to put my sleeping bag and mat down for the night, Sven, the German cyclist I met 10k ago, talked to one of the men from the temple and discovered there was an inn not too far away. My pounding feet abandoned the search for dry land and decided that the inn was the place to be before he had even finished telling me about it. The temple man waved us towards our destination and politely recommended we return at 7 am, when Temple 11 and its five-colored wisteria welcomed pilgrims once more. So we set off again, Sven plodding and wheeling his smart, overloaded bike along, whilst I limped and made silent grimaces to indicate to myself how much pain I was in.

* * * * * * * * * *

   Fish eyes. They are not offensive on a little goldfish in your tank at home, and they can be quite impressive on the grandfather Koi Carp gracefully gliding under attractive mini-bridges in the temple ponds. These kind of eyes I am okay with. However, the eyes staring blankly up at me from my plate, belonging to three small grey fish, at 6 am - yes, that’s 6 in the morning - came under the category, ‘not okay’ for me.
They were watching me as I ate around them.

   They watched as I cracked a raw egg onto my rice and swirled it around, adding some soy sauce to the goopy mixture before ladling it into my mouth with chopsticks. They watched me delicately pick up each small pickle and enjoy the satisfying crunch they made, and they stared accusingly at me as I looked up in horror when the manager of the inn announced there was a typhoon coming and I would have to climb what is thought to be the most difficult mountain of the entire pilgrimage in its midst.
   “It is the most difficult mountain is it?” I exclaimed in my unnatural Japanese.
   “Of course,” he smiled a big happy smile.

  I felt sure the fish eyes were wondering how I didn’t know that already.

   I scrambled for the map book in my bag cursing my lack of map-reading skills under my breath. I had been following the big, red dotted line and I didn’t even notice the tiny contour lines and color changes between temples 11 and 12.

   The fish eyes were telling me not to be so hard on myself now. Map reading was not something I had done before and the map was not the most detailed affair. I sensed this was going to be a challenging day and I showed myself I was going to approach it with courage and spirit by cutting off the heads of the fish and putting them on the side of the plate in a neat row to continue watching as I consumed the rest of them. My usually vegetarian self had agreed that eating fish would be a part of my pilgrimage out of necessity, but I drew the line at eyes.

   My task, should I choose to accept it, was to return to Temple 11, deliver a prayer for Monika Zands and her family and then take on a 13 kilometer, six-eight hour hike in the pouring rain, up Mount Shosanji to the temple of the same name. And, Kenji, the manager of this inn happily informed me, it was then to continue for an hour or so to the next available inn, which he promptly booked over the phone. I stood moving my weight from sore foot to sore foot, then centered my balance and took a deep breath letting it whoosh out again. ‘I can eat the fish that were staring at me and I can do this’ I told myself. First, I unpacked and took out all the books that were not the map book, some socks, my glasses case, a random glass jar (what was I thinking?) sun cream (not really the weather for it) my liquid soap (too heavy) and a t-shirt (two is enough). Kenji had kindly offered to post them for me, and I felt as grateful for him then, as we stood in front of the rows of shoes at the entrance to the inn, as I had last night when I hobbled behind him as he showed me and my aching body to the hot, rejuvenating public bath and told me to lock the door and take as long as I wanted.

   Sven and I said our water-logged goodbyes at the officially open Temple 11 as drenched biker pilgrims follow the road up the mountain to Temple 12, whilst sodden walking pilgrims follow the inner mountain path. I knew this was the last time I would see him as he would be long gone by the time I arrived. As I watched him ride off on his adventure, I felt happy we’d met and took a moment to appreciate the fact that my feet were not so painful, then I trudged over to the small path behind the temple.

   Standing at the bottom of the steep, rugged mountain path, I felt incredibly small and a little afraid of going into the unknown alone. At that moment, a middle aged Japanese man and his bright orange backpack appeared. Having exchanged names, we set off together and soon discovered that I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Not a word! Nothing.

   Ota san was a round-faced, pleasant pilgrim with large glasses and no concept of using easy words or speaking slowly to foreigners. The barrage of Japanese words coming towards me at 90 miles an hour, toppled over each other as they plowed into my head and elbowed each other out the way in an effort to be the first to confuse me. I was grasping at thin air, I couldn’t even begin to guess what he was talking about. Five minutes into our climb I could feel his frustration merging with mine and lingering in the space between us as we puffed our way up the rocky path. I asked him in Japanese to, “Please speak very slowly” and he replied at a little less than the speed of light ....I had no idea what he was saying. Was this officially the experience of the ‘no-communication theorem’ I have read about, ‘in which instantaneous transfer of information between two observers is impossible’? (See Wikipedia for more information on this infinitely fascinating or interminably dull subject.) After 10 minutes, he decided to give up saying anything at all and we were both relieved. We naturally drifted apart and I saw him only a couple of times during the rest of the day. Nevertheless, it was comforting to know that I was not the only one climbing the mountain.

   What happened later on the mountain was painful, incredible and wonderful all at the same time."

Each sponsor will be named in the book.

Please note that this journey was a project I designed for my Spiritual Psychology program at the University of Santa Monica.  Click here to learn more about this wonderful university.

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