Motivations

Almost a year has passed since I last wrote thinking of the trail. This year for various reasons I could not go back to Japan in the spring, and it seems I won’t have another chance for some time.

I started on the trail because I wanted to find something, to discover what was important to me, the thing that would lead me to the next step. In that respect I found what I was looking for and succeeded without finishing the journey. However after that first leg I found the road calling back to me, and a number of justifications to continue. Being on that road is something that speaks to me, and feels like an essential need I must answer. In that sense it is a very selfish wish, and far from the intentional of the pilgrimage. Knowing how much the romantic thrill of the journey lays in my motivation is slightly discouraging and taints the experience, but on the other hand that sort of worldly desire leading to suffering is at the heart of Buddhist teaching and somewhat consoling.

I think the essence of this lesson is to not pine for the man that I was, but to instead celebrate the man that I am.

What’s This Color

Changes in your life are rarely binary. Feelings don’t switch off, they just grow and fade, like needle-thin vines along a weathered fence. The thoughts are with me often, sometimes stronger than others. Sometimes the thoughts need a vacuum to get started.

The sun was warm and the air still; for the first time I could remember. Little of my decision to go out was based on the weather, but it loosened my soul just enough to let all the sensations through past my preoccupied vanity.

Asphalt welcomed the tires of my bicycle. The thin cast wheels spun freely. The humble click of a transmission left open, wind through my hair, and the heft of long, glass lenses in my bag all came together. Wet moss and silt dotted between clumps of dead grass, the hush of the distant highway… each granule of stimulus was noted and catalogued carefully.

I knew the way well enough to keep my nervous nature at bay, and so I took to enjoying really looking at more of the common variety I love about Sweden: rows of houses in a handful of styles tied together with scores of footpaths and bicycle trails. The intention seems to say that urbanization may only go so far; settlements are pockets of humanity along the way and should never become the dominant part of the land.

Paths wind up and down endless hills, through largely untouched fields, running apart and together in so many places. There is some odd sort of blend between relinquishing direction to the terrain and haphazard planning that makes me wonder how much of it is intentional. Is this part of the core of Swedish mindset, or is it pure chance?

Stopping in a field to shoot graffiti on another odd, secluded steel door in the side of a bluff, I begin to take the journey inwards. Where do the boundaries lie between adequate confidence and hubris, how much of the way I behave aids or impedes those around me? Can one explain his heart without words; would doing so form a stronger bond? What do the intangible things that mean so much to me mean, in turn, to others?

The gravel emits a pleasant sound with the twisting of my heel as I turn. I look deep, deep into the field, through it, over the highway, to the sole concrete palace six hundred meters in the distance. The heat and smoke in the horizon clouds the edges of my vision. How can I take a photograph that explains all of this to another person? Focus, composition, the blurring of the periphery, and the shadow layered through each blade of grass that makes up this exquisite tapestry of Söderort. It’s probably beyond my skill, but still worth trying. I hold the camera up to my eye, let out a long breath, and push the shutter. I stand still looking for a second, then move on.