Week 64

It's fall, now. For some weeks I remember clinging to the last shreds of the summer, those watery photons coming down out of the sky like a fog; I remember looking at bold leaves, green against the encroaching cold; but those leaves have gone brown, now, phased through sick pear-ish yellows and vivid reds, leaves so like stars in that respect, blowing themselves way out to the edges of legitimacy with color and vibrancy before passing out entirely, something shriveled and brown and dark in a greater, empty darkness.

They're all over the ground, now, these fallen husks of trees' livelihood. Some are still a little rusty with their early reds but most of them are brown, grayly brown, like soil emptied of nutrients. The grass is still green under the leaves but if you look closely you can see where it too is giving up inch by inch to the cold and the cloud; but grass is hardy and will still ring green under snow, if you dig it up -- will only be really truly yellow in the spring when the snow retreats to the sky.

And so the sound of these days is the wind somewhere far off, blowing across dry fields, is the crackle of crunching leaves tumbling stem over frond in that wind, is the sound of so many rubber-booted feet shuffling through so many leaf-clotted gutters. The sound of straining heating systems firing up in cars everywhere. There's this weird drawn-out feeling, like one form holding itself tightly as it expands, outgrows its capacity for self-holding. The dried out crust of skin as that which is below balloons outwards, some outward pressure pushing back down, biting in with long teeth.

And the wind.

Wind like nomads moving across the mountains, bringing with it some souvenir of where its been. The rich tang of onions in the fishing district, the sickly smell of wet slapping fish at the feet of mountains. Wind in tall caravans of clouds rolling over long fields, wind shaping the sky with such striations you can see the curvature of the earth, where the sky lists and rolls and dips below the horizon. Wind that loads weather up onto its back and shrugs it off over coasts and mountains, that whips clouds into wide blankets of uniform color and depth, clouds which drape the sky in subtle grays and cut the edges off everything, the world some new babyproofed house, nothing pointed for you to hurt yourself on.

The sun almost seems to have disowned us as our top of the world now disinclines from it. In another month and a half the sun will not rise above halfway overhead; but even an earthbound observer can tell, when the wind packs up the clouds and moves off to the sea, that the light from the sky isn't so much settling on earth as glancing off it, lost in those white clouds, lost in (on those few stunningly blue days) the wide electric sky.

Fall is squid season. When the sun sets over the northern limns of the Daisetsuzan the lights come back up in the east, out on the ocean -- but this time it's not the thin yellow of sun and atmosphere, of remembered warmth, but the sterile glow of halogen, white on the blackness of the Okhotsk, squids by the hundreds swimming to their deaths in that pale light. You'll see the lights from the shore, impossible candlepower, but you won't try to imagine the scene out there. At least, I don't.

There are days that the wind settles down and the air becomes still and on these days you can almost feel the blunt edge of winter rolling in. Mornings that the fog doesn't quite burn off all the way, where the sun can't muster enough wattage until maybe 11 or even noon before it can take the crisp frost off the low fields. There are mountainsides that don't see the sun all day and when you drive by them the treed fog looks ready to collapse and for snow to materialize in some little atmospheric freak and rain down on the mountainside, on its lonely evergreens standing still among the silver bones of the birches. You see steam rising from sewer vents by the sidewalk, this steam rising up vertically, rising beyond the tops of the one-story houses, in some places rising to the second floor before coming apart entirely, lost in that cold dry air. You see little towns no more than six or seven buildings clogging some hilly bottleneck in the landscape where the smoke rises up from tin chimneys black thick, viscous, almost. It's in these little towns alone that you'll see this low oily cloud, for in any town of respectable size the denizens have switched over to kerosene. It's in these little towns alone that you'll pick up that weird nostalgic campfire smell, that cold promise of warmth that brings you back to your childhood, regardless of if your childhood featured campfires heavily or not. It's again in these little towns alone that you won't see a single person, in these little towns alone you'll wonder how close the nearest person is, because in these little towns, alone, wouldn't everyone be up at this time, winking, blind-man-walking with sleepy eyes to find someone else to share humanity with after the long starry night?

Everything You Have Heard JET Programme Japan


Week 65

Climbing Yotei for the first time, alone in the early winter, and being absolutely floored by the beauty.


Week 62

Climbing Kogane-yama out west with Jordan, padding out the post with a bunch of rubbish about steep dropoffs