Monday, September 14, 2009

Out of the City and Into the Sky

High on a mountainside overlooking the city of Kyoto. We were climbing towards a secluded Shinto shrine, but took a side path away from the main road. Plunging down slightly into a bamboo forest, in the distance, the only sound a lone nightingale's song, slow as it echoes through the dense one hundred foot stalks of bamboo the thickness of oak trees. Continuing, the path narrows and the bamboo begins to crush us, asking why we are invading this holy space. Finally, a clearing in in the grass forest. An altar lies in front of us. On it, a round stone rests, cradled on a stand. On the edge of the altar, an inscription in Kanji: Guess the weight, and lift the stone. If we guess correctly and lift with the right amount of effort, eternal salvation in the Western paradise awaits us. If wrong, our journey must continue.

Were we right? I do not know. Returning to the main path, we begin to encounter hundreds of vermilion wooden gates. Passing through each gate purifies our souls as we approach the main shrine. A creek to our left runs swiftly down the slope as our climb steepens. The stone steps we are mounting are covered in green moss. As we near the top, the sun breaks through the darkness and floods our eyes with light. Finally, at the summit of the steps: a green lake surrounded by an ancient mossy forest. Alas, the path curves to the left and continues up the mountainside.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Letter

To whom it may concern,
My dear, I love you.
Enclosed, please find
a heart of blue construction paper
with red crayon on top
collated and in triplicate.
Please submit your comments
questions, and concerns
by COB Sunday.
Most cordially,
Yours truly,


Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Book

The octagonal room before me was lit only from the hallway I occupied. The dust around me stirred and fell again, slowly. In the middle of the hardwood floor in front of me, on the top of a small claw-footed table, there lay a leather-bound volume with no writing or markings on the outside. I brashly took a first step across the threshold. The floor groaned under my foot and moaned again as I backed away again quickly, realizing my foolishness. The old oak door frame loomed ahead of me like a portal to a mausoleum. The room before me exhaled as it shrank from the life with which I disturbed its somnolence. I backed further away.

Pausing at first to ponder what had just transpired, I approached the room with less confidence than before. This time, I stopped short of the threshold and fingered the timber door frame. Feeling its connection to the floor, I felt my way through the boards to the foot of the table and then up to the object which it carried. The book was there; it was real. I could feel it there. After the reaction I felt from the room when I first attempted to cross the threshold, I decided an experiment was an order. Without breaking the connection to the table, I willed a green sprout with a single leaf to twist its way out of one of the claw feet of the table. There was a loud clap of thunder and centuries of dust and wooden splinters scoured my face as I struggled to protect my eyes with my forearm. The table and book remained, unaffected, but the room had changed.

Now, a floor of white granite lay beyond the old oak threshold. Etched into it were symbols and geometry unknown to mankind for millennia. The room must have been built around this platform and enchanted to conceal its existence. As the dust began to once again settle indignantly, there was a sound I identified as a descending Shepherd tone, but I couldn't identify the source. Eventually it became clear to me that the granite blocks were humming a deep tone produced by a charge of energy similar to the old electrical transformers that sat on the ground near my childhood home. Every minute or so, one of the lines or symbols on the floor flickered with an almost invisible flame. I dared not cross the threshold a second time. Instead, as though to blow a kiss, I blew back into place my best attempt to replicate the illusion of the room as it was originally. Being the only person in the house offered me little confidence that I was alone. Needing to take time to research how to gain access to the room with the book, and as I was too tired to further my explorations of this manor built along the cold banks of Loch Raven, I resolved to return to my bed chamber and sleep out the remainder of the night.