Delerium

My mind is an addled mess, I make no testament to the quality of my prose or coherency. The last two days have been very long, either due to the raw route distance or my increasing slight detours when I lose the trail. Unlike the other three prefectures I found no guidebook by the roadside for Kagawa prefecture. So I have only snapshots of routes at the occasional temple info station, and the sun to tell my way. Two nights ago I thought I’d find a park to sleep in and instead spent an hour wandering around an industrial area by the sea. I ended up sleeping on the dugout bench at a municipal baseball field.

The sky began gray. I’d heard inklings of the weather for days, that a storm was coming. But there was nothing to be done, the road is to be walked, and we don’t lay up for weather. At temple 80 a history teacher driving the route with his daughter chatted at me as I studied the map. I answered his questions politely and smiled at the bad jokes while eyeing another American heading out of the temple towards the mountain.

Seven kilometers separate temple 80 from 81. On flat ground that’s far less than two hours, but there’s a steep incline up Goshikidai plateau, and at the top a maze of up and down hiking trails. To get to the trail up the hill though first you have to criss-cross through terraces of rice fields and residential areas. At first my road was blocked by a pair of construction workers shoring up irrigation canals. The flooded rice paddies forced me to double back and loop around, adding half a kilometer of catlike tightrope walking. Two levels up a large man-made lake sat in the clearing, encircled by more agricultural ridges. Before entering the mountain path, I skirted by one of the tiny trucks that are the backbone of suburban Japan, less than 150cm wide. Working my way up the grade and starting to sweat, I passed a willowy girl with a large DSLR camera. She smiled and said hello, casually descending in a billowy white blouse and pleated black skirt. The contrast of my tattered clothes, sticky wet with sweat gave me pause. I thought about Ugetsu Monogatari and the tales of yuurei, mountain ghosts of wronged maidens that caught unwary travellers and lured them to their doom. As she continued down the mountain I turned and looked after her, leaning on my walking stick and wheezing.

As I climbed the Goshikidai plateau the air grew taut, the fused bones in my chest contracting. Hope of making it through temples 81 and 82 and back down the mountain before the weather worsened evaporated with falling temperature. Farther up the road an old man of at least eight-five crept on, pausing often to catch his breath. His frailty and self-absorbed nature held me back, yet another widowed pilgrim beyond his physical limits, driven to walk endlessly until Buddha’s sweet mercy brought him repose and back into the arms of those that went before him. Feeling incredibly self-conscious that I could think of no way to help him, I redoubled my pace and sped up the shear incline. Uncomfortable with the idea of him catching up if I took a break, I tore all the way up the mountain, pulling myself up by branches and tree roots, until I reached the summit in record time. My lungs screamed for air in the heat of my chest as I stumbled out of the brush and onto the paved road up to temple 81. Across the way the American stood uneasily in a Nationals hat, looking back and forth between the road and the overgrown trail that continued up.

Yesterday was a terrible storm…

– shoes sloshing
– minnesota guy-
-laugh “on the path”
– curry lady, mom
– car store
– cars box, marks, etc.
– constant daze
– mind hazy
– feet hurt extra in heels, tensing up
– lost camera