Monday, May 30, 2011

Revisiting the First Week

The incredible contrast between Koyo and Osaka, in terms of people. The little alley way we were staying on that was so frenetic and so busy, lights flashing, hawkers at the door. It occured to me that this was the sort of space that Madeline Delbrel would have considered contemplative space, the soundscape no less quiet than the roaring waters running just past the temple we stayed in the previous night.

Seeing from the bus how tightly Osaka and Kobe are confined by the mountains, pushed up against the sea, I begin to understand why every possible inch is cultivated, why there are rice paddies in Kyoto city, and why the impossibly steep hills around Kamikatsu were terraced with fields.

It was a long travel day, we left the hotel in Osaka at about eight and didn't arrive in Kamikatsu until about 3 this afternoon. We took the express bus from Osaka to Tokushima, then two local buses which labored to carry us up into the mountains. We saw the permanent whirlpool in the Naruta Straits which connect the Pacific to the Inland Sea - very cool to see from the bridge, undoubtedly frightening if you were in a boat.

Kamikatsu is a zero waste village of about 2000 people in the mountains of Tokushima prefecture. Food waste is composted, everything else goes into 34 different recycling streams. I do mean everything else, from disposable diapers to cooking oil to the caps on bottles (separate from the bottles themselves). And the materials must be washed. There is no garbage or recycling collection, you have to deal with your own garbage, bringing it to the zero waste facility and sorting it.

We visited the facility, and wandering around looking at the waste prompted a return to some of my contemplations of the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises. Seeing all the ways in which the discards of living had to be painstakingly sorted, washed, taken apart was a potent reminder of how infrequently I think about where my stuff comes from, where it goes to, who makes it, and what effect my desire for things has on the world. I've been hyperaware all evening about my discards, knowing that someone will have to sort out the used tissues from the small ice cream container from the wooden spoon that was packed inside of it.

Swapping shoes at various thresholds, from outside shoes to slippers indoors, to socks on tatami, to special slippers for the bathroom, is making me very aware of changes in place as well as the purpose of the space - akin to my experience last winter when all the alarms went off in the dark chapel at the Jesuit Center.

We visited a shrine on top of the mountain (I forgot my pilgrimage book, alas, though did collect the seal on a sheet of paper), and walked nearly up to the old caves which are still used for a walking meditation. We're at 550 meters here, and between the jet lag, the slight bit of altitude, and a long walk this morning lugging my 25 pounds of stuff (yet another way to be aware of the weight of what you have, carry it around for a few hours), I was tired. There are 88 little shrines on the site, to allow you to walk the 88 shrine pilgrimage without have to travel, I made it to within 4 shrines of the top before surrendering to exhaustion. The views from the trail were spectacular, I wish my pictures did them justice, but the light was not great.

We visited a waterfall long used as a religious site, Dragon God. The rain from the typhoon means that there was a lot of water, folding like silk as it fell.

A lovely dinner at friends of Hank's closed off the day. No wireless here so this will get posted from somewhere else on the road. No photos until I get better internet!

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