Week 59

So we're driving back from Asahikawa this weekend. It's the middle of the night, the trees are tall and thick on either side of the road through Ukishima Pass. The headlights pool out a little world of concrete in front of us, quickly pulled under the wheels and spit out into the black behind. The moon is bright, up above: we're only one day out from the full moon and it's lighting up the whole sky in a really diffuse, nonlight kind of way. I lean way forward, hunch my arms up against the steering wheel, and look up at it. Jordan, in the passenger seat, does too; it paints her face silver, the shadow cast by the frame of the windshield razor-sharp across her bangs. I can trace out that margin, that limn between shadow-cast-in-darkness and watery light, across the whole passenger compartment: as Jordan sits back it retreats to her lap, the black corner formed by the roof and A-pillar cradling the wrist of her lapped hand, reaching out of the curve and over the knuckles of my own hand holding hers; the edge proceeds across the parking brake, across my lap as well (broken by one arm stretched across to the steering wheel), bisecting the power window controls on the driver's-door armrest and cutting off abruptly against the window, deresolving in the night.

Here are the things that we can hear in the car: (a) the sound of the wind (b) the dim rumbling of tires spinning quickly on concrete (c) the trundle of the car over badly repaved patches (d) Clams Casino from the plugged-in iPod (e) Jordan talking, or alternately, me talking, or at some points, both of us at the same time. Which is to say the point here isn't that the car is particularly noisy, because almost all of this is more or less background-type noise, easily filterable, ignorable in the Age of Overstimulation; but if you pay attention to it you'd realize that there was a not inconsiderable amount of noise.

You also notice, if you pay attention, the overwhelming silence. The silence that comes over and through and with the attention-payer. Silence that you can feel, almost tangibly, as if you could roll down the window, reach out and run your fingers through the texture of it. The silence of the bottom of the ocean, of immense weight on top of you, of something above and around so thick that noise can't penetrate or travel through or vibrate with, at all. The silence of Hokkaido, which if you've been reading this with any kind of regularity I'm sure you've heard enough from me on the subject, but too bad, because I'm legitimately haunted by this absence & I'm writing about it again. The silence of Hokkaido, of the bleak spaces between human settlements, weighs down through sound, almost, cuts off sound and sense in a part of you that doesn't sense, traditionally, doesn't hear, quiets a part of you that doesn't make noise. I feel like it might be what the brink of sanity might feel like.

The moral is, here: don't pay too much attention.

And up above is that diffuse moonlight, that nonlight, that big black sky only rendered unblack by the advanced blackness of the mountains, which in winter have this kind of holyish glow in the moonlight, so many lunar-ricocheted photons lighting them up like ghosts. In summer the thickness of the trees not only sucks down whatever little light lingers in the sky but does you one better by breaking up the light right around the edges, so mountains don't get that crisp cutout quality except from considerable distance; and in Ukishima the mountains cut almost straight up from the road, their rise-over-run impossibly steep, slope elbowing up against that mathematical 'undefined,' or at least it seems that way from the road. Mountains like grown-up standing over you tennis-ing words you don't understand over your head, you weaving unimportantly below, sidelong glances skyward.

And those mountains, inscrutable, deeply dark, with their broken-up edges looking less like landscape and more like God tore big fistfuls of construction-paper backgrounds out of the world, so you see all the little fibers of reality lingering out between the material sky and the immaterial holes where the mountains are, should be, could be, might be.

You can catch some serious starlight action out there as well, once you get far enough out. Some pretty cool visual-inversion-type stuff goes on as well when the sky is bright and textured and detailed and the ground is inconsolably black. Plus there's the looking-into-infinity factor of the thing, seeing backwards in time through inconceivable histories of light. But whatever awe or quasi-transcendence you might contact with your head craned up at the sky like this kinda loses a bit of its the-earth-is-not-a-cold-dead-place significance when you look to the mountains: because by some optical trickery of parallax when the stars disappear behind mountains (when, e.g., you're moving pretty quickly in a car), they don't seem to move behind the mountain but actually into it, evaporating right on the edge, flickering out, gone into something concave rather than behind something convex. So you're sitting there going, Man, space is beautiful, & I'm kinda upset at whatever Powers That Be are holding us down here on Earth with all of our problems, but at least the commercialization of space is opening up a lot of doors that the government doesn't have either the impetus or the proper manual equipment to open -- and so but anyway you're thinking these things and before you know it space itself, all of those inconceivable histories, are being eaten by some hole in spacetime sitting right on the earth, across a narrow stretch of concrete lit up by the headlights -- and in fact, you're surrounded on all sides by this void, & the only thing keeping your four wheels on the ground at all is the headlights which by the way are they getting dimmer? And how can you know that you're not already falling through that void, the blackness all around, the sky's nonlight receding above you --

And everything flushes away, grows a sick, Matrix-ish green, because you're in the Ukishima Tunnel, always nauseously damp because it cuts under a swamp, but somehow the whooshing nausea of the Ukishima Tunnel is better than the falling-through-blackness sense of driving through late summer's florid dark -- or at least it seems that way, now.

But then you're out of the tunnel and back in the dark and on your way home.

Everything You Have Heard JET Programme Japan


Week 60

Random stuff I overheard on The Bus in Honolulu.


Week 57

My first long distance ride, to the Northern Welcome Party in Nakagawa