Week 43

Today is the first day of summer. The sky is a light, easy blue, gentle on the eyes, not overbearing. The trees haven't really bloomed yet, the wood is grayish and bare, but around the edges there's this frayed quality, this fluttery raggedness like prayer flags in the wind, a deresolution of reality where greenness is opening up, catching up, racing back against the weeks of cloud and cold, where the patchwork sky between the empty branches is being occluded by healthy wholeness. It's a good feeling, looking at blooming trees, like the opening scenes of a movie you know you're going to get into, the electricity of the first pages of a good book, where the pages in your left hand glow with the joy of the past few minutes and where the pages in your right form a solid brick, a thickness of opportunity and possibility. There's a nostalgia to it as well, like knowing where it will go, knowing the story so well, having read it over 22 times before, and getting lost in the sun and the air and the grass.

There's a very simple joy in losing yourself in a world caught up in the realization that it's alive, a joy in catching yourself up with it, in opening your arms wide and exposing as much of your surface area to the sun as possible and realizing that you, too, are alive. And when was the real First Day of Summer, back in prehistory, when the Earth first realized that it was alive -- and better yet --

Q. Over the course of the intervening millions of summers, how beautiful is it that you can sit very still on a bright morning like this, that you can listen very closely and hear a far-off gasp of surprise, the Earth once again coming back with the choked-off first breath of wakefulness?

A. Really beautiful. Clear-water-beautiful. First-love-beautiful. Beautiful like the color of a butterfly's wings, or a beetle's shell. Beautiful like friendship, like new ideas, like dreams you don't realize are impossible until you wake up, like the lingering sense that maybe they're not impossible after all.

There's a difference, thermally, between a lack of cold and a presence of heat -- a very narrow window where the wind has died down, where the cold off the Sea of Okhotsk or down from the mountains doesn't blow into the tight layers pulled round our sides, where the earth exhales out around us and we get caught in the middle of it, and we think to ourselves that maybe spring isn't so bad after all -- and that's where those best days of spring lay for us, so far: in that absence of cold. But this morning there's a real presence of heat, a sense that the sun has come down among us, finally, to live between the blades of grass and in the wavering pinkish of the cherry blossoms and in the air itself, and on long open fields you can actually see it sitting there in the atmosphere. Where in the winter the long vistas were sharp and black and very still and clear, summer's a bit more, I don't know, inhabited, so the mountains far off in the distance are blurred and hazy and a little distorted, erased by the intervening sun and fuzzy air. The roads look longer, look a little dusty, silvery patches of heat in the grooves, dirty brownish fringes between concrete and the grassy shoulders where plants dare to rub up against the pulsing black of automobile tires.

I want to get down on my hands and knees and inspect everything, catalogue it and photograph it and live in it, to remind me in bleaker days of the beauty of life and of growth and renewal.

Everything You Have Heard Japan JET Programme


Week 45

Returning to Shari after the abortive attempt the previous fall, a trio of Kiwis and I summit in glory.


Week 40

Oliver let me tag along on an excursion to see what was left of the rail line that used to run through Yubetsu.