To the Mountain

Day 19 in Japan.  Today I would say farewell to Lynn and travel to Koyasan, where I would spend three nights in a mountaintop monastery.

At 3am my legs woke me and thoughts of my return journey from Koyasan ran through my head.  Why won’t my brain shut up?

Lynn and I breakfasted at Le Bon Vie in the train station, where we were serenaded by ACDC, Ozzy Osborne, and Disney on muzak.  I loaded my backpack with creamer cups, just in case there wasn’t any at the monastery.

At the gate, there was a train in five minutes or an hour, so I said a quick goodbye to Lynn and rolled my bag onto the platform and into a train car.  Neither of us is into emotional displays.  We know we’ll see each other somewhere again.  If one of us kicks the bucket before we make it to our next trip, it will be very sad but we’ll deal with it.

I wrote several posts about Koyasan already—the odyssey of getting there, getting in trouble for dressing inappropriately for the morning meditation, dropping my phone in a toilet, my Resltess Legs jumping off the charts since I’d run out of medication, and attending a fire ceremony.

There was a moment in my journey from Nara to Koyasan that is emblematic of my inner traveler.  I was on a train from Osaka to Hashimoto. We traveled about 10 stops, sat on the tracks for 10 minutes, then began to move backwards.  The knee-jerk, worry-wort part of me started to panic.  Had I accidentally boarded a train that didn’t really go to Hashimoto, even though it said “Hashimoto” on the engine? Would I miss the train I really needed, and never get to Hashimoto, or Koyasan, and end up dead in a rice paddy?!

Simultaneously, the rational me resisted the urge to jump off the train and just … waited. In a few minutes it became clear we had switched tracks.  We were moving backwards at an angle; the train had performed a kind of boomerang. I had snapped a photo of the overhead map (they are too hard to read from one’s seat while the train is in motion) and I consulted it now—we were definitely headed to Hashimoto.

Obsessive planning can cause more stress than letting things unfold.  I couldn’t have known ahead of time that the train would perform a 180.  Many things are only clear on the ground.  This was the day I had fretted about the most of the entire month, and it was easy once I was actually doing it.

The weather was perfect, for me.  Hot and humid and sunny.  The words “Mildly Air Conditioned” were stenciled on the train windows.  I appreciated this—in Minnesota people generally like it cold, so I am forever shivering in over-air-conned rooms.

I appreciated the scenery, which consisted of rice fields and low-lying farm buildings.  Even though I’m a city person, I felt joy at being in the country.

In Hashimoto, I Skyped with Keiko and What’sApp’d with Lynn, who was on the train to Tokyo.  I fortified myself with a vending machine iced café au lait.  I was not drinking water or stopping for lunch because I didn’t know how tight the connections would be.

Some westerners walked by and greeted me with “How ya goin?”  I grinned to myself; I knew they were Aussies because that’s what Aussies say.

That reminds me.  My Aussie friend Heidi just sent these photos.

The first one was taken in July, Australia’s winter, on her parents’ farm.  It must have been about the same time I was on my way to Koyasan on the mildly air-conditioned train.  The second snap is a recent one of Eric Beethoven, which is what they’ve named the echidna who comes to drink from puddles in their driveway.

I find myself daydreaming about Australia.  I loved it.  I have not had similar feelings about Japan.  I think that’s because Heidi made my month in Australia so easy.  The one time I was left to my own devices, my passport disappeared.  But the police found, it so everything turned out okay in the end.

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