<= 2023.12.10

Hokkaido, Reiwa 6

It was Valentine’s Day for me but not for J., and she sent a wish across the date line that I could think some quiet thoughts. Short on sleep, a bright day in the forties after a week below freezing, our little group walked the sunlit slush in front of the tourist shops along Lake Akan. So far from anything.

“Bokke,” an Ainu loanword, picks out a boiling pit of sulfuric mud along the lakeshore. It steams, it glops. Proceeding to the right, one finds a half-snowed path stamped with dirty bootsoles leading around an advisory sign (“warning on encounters with bears”), an older couple eating lunch out of plastic containers (“konichiwa”), to a little prominence where the path swerves and the hillside cover of bare branches draws back to admit the mass of Mount Oakan, enormous across the flat of frozen lake. I tried to take a picture but it was stupid, it just looked like it was illustrating a Wikipedia article about the mountain. Your gaze brings nothing to a volcano, it’s already itself.

I stood maybe ten minutes with its weight in my eyes. The trees up slope were Cézanne brushstrokes but monochrome; I’d never seen a brush-and-ink painting like that in the created world. A faint cry, maybe a hawk, otherwise hushed snow. Zero point. Find your balance. I’m here, I’m you. In the summer the lake ripples, and you’ve been living in that surface motion; but winter stills it. The deep freeze is where writing comes from, or used to come from. Not death but solitude. Black water, white snow, tree and stone, that gets you started. Any more and you’ll lose your way. Girl, you haven’t left any space empty.

My friends didn’t know where I was and I had to turn back.

Sea of Okhotsk tomorrow. Close to forty years since I saw the name on a map and it might as well have been in Middle-Earth.

<= 2023.12.10

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