2015/The Year of…

I guess I have to do it.

The year in review. The year in preview.

I remember last year this time. I was in Japan. The land of Hanami and Senenakari. I went up to Ohara Shrine. People walked up and down the road in small groups. Four young men bustled about with big voices and boisterous laughter. A mother and a father carefully kept their children from running too far off. Others like all the rest, invisible to my small world. There was a dampness to the air. It made my nose damp, like I had a beaming red light come from the tip. The road glistened from a rain earlier in the day.

We crossed the bridge to Ohara. A few vendors spotlit by harsh fog lamps sold wares. Random stuff, toys, chopsticks, furoshiki, knives even. Expensive stuff. It was a different view of Japan than the normal everyday stuff. Kids fired bb guns at something to win prizes. I didn’t know what the prizes were. I still don’t know. Just stuff.

Then we crossed the bridge over the koi pond, a small fountain dribbled and shot water. A throng of orangish, golden red koi swam peacefully, with intense purpose, writing, sliding, past the others. We waited in line at the dragon well to perform the hand-washing ritual. The light gave the stone dragon power. Beauty. Strength. The water bit my fingers poured from the bamboo scoop. I washed my face with my wet hands, licked the water from my fingers.

We maneuvered through a thread of people up the 108 stairs, walked under the bamboo and cedar trees. The damp bricks had moss growing on them. Everywhere was moss. It crawled up the stone fences. For some reason it stayed off the wood-looking concrete fences. Maybe they weren’t old enough. Moss measures time its own way.

Up more steps to the main entrance guarded by two patient samurai. Beyond them, two enormous red creatures with glaring, golden eyes shadowed by the darkness in their cages. Huge calves run through with bulging veins hold up the ancient creatures. The reveal was splendid! The perfect tree to the left. The hundreds of people milling about. The temple rising above us all. I stopped and looked at the shisa, a few rocks rested in the right one’s mouth. Others must have put them there. It’s dog-like, lion-ness defies description. Curly hair. Sharp teeth. Fearsome yet protective.

A long line stretched to visit the temple offering, where you would walk up and shake the bell. Busy night for the spirits. Toss in the coin. Something with a hole in it. There’s a reason why but I can’t remember. It’s gotta be a five or a ten yen piece. No other coins have holes. Toss it in, clap your hands, pray, clap again. Walk away.

Only one thing was left to do. We walked over to the fortune station. We tossed a hundred yen into a sliding drawer and we took our little slip. I couldn’t read it at all. Lots of small kanji. Difficult enough when not written in faded red on a small piece of white paper.

I should have never had that piece of paper read to me. I should have just tied it on that tree. Should have just let it go.

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