An increasing number of years ago, I found myself in Japan, visiting a friend who was teaching there. I spent a month up in the mountains in a small village. It rained most of the time, and was extremely cold, indoors and out. But for a city person, it was an awe inspiring experience. An old lady lent me her bike for the time that I was there, and I rode around on my own during the day while my friend was working, and took in the sights. Rode through a rice field and through the unusual, bright, gardened walking alleys that twist between the houses - there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the buildings, like they all grew out of the ground, fully architecturally sound and pretty, and every one of them different. I explored family shops and rode to the corner store, passing students walking home. Through the whole village you could hear the school bell letting them in and out. When the garbage truck went by, it would sing a little tune. I know people tend to be caught up in the magic of a new place, but it really did have a charm to it. And the things you can buy for just a dollar were incredible!
One day, my friend and I went to a restaurant for lunch. We ate and sat and talked for a really long time. The place was empty, so it was a while before we thought maybe we should get out of there. As we started to leave, both owners came out to meet us and gave our meal for free. I was surprised and embarrassed, feeling like it was just us looking special or something like that. Simple hospitality that a business doesn’t have to give as if it was someone’s home! It didn’t quite feel right.
But then, they offered to take us up the mountain that rose up out of the sea and stretched out across the whole south side of the town. Generally, where I’m from, you don’t jump into a car with strangers. But my friend and I felt too horrified by the implication of distrust to say no, so we didn’t.
They did, indeed, take us to the mountain. They told us a bit about it, in broken but determined English. They showed us where eggs were cooking in a hotspring bath (not one for people). We ate the random abandoned eggs. They were pretty good. All the eggs I ate there were really good - with bright orange centres… But the hot springs have extra minerals, and the eggs were particularly hot and pleasant.
We walked up the rest of the way. There were so many stairs. Rocks really, broken up and weedsy. We all struggled to climb them. It was funny, and we laughed about it, the special way you do with people you can’t speak to very well to - it’s hard to be glib or make jokes after all. It has to be straight feelings of amusement, shared with others without much of a filter. Just laughing about it, about whatever happens. Sharing, rather than conversing or trying to be clever.
We took pictures to rest. And finally at the top, we found a shrine. I don’t know what else I was expecting, other than that any of my fears about the couple were gone after the delicious eggs (it’s what they say about sharing food), and my friend and I were both curious and a bit shy.
I think the couple were amused that we were trying to be respectful. The stone and wood shrine was in a bit of rough shape, but was large enough to withstand quite a long time more. A shrine box for offers sat in front of it. A pretty old, sturdy box. To one side was a frame with bells hanging from it.
The couple then showed us how to ring the bells what to say and then pray to the fox spirit that lived there. Fox shrines I’d thought always had fox statues - many of these statues wear little cloth bibs and its all very cute. This was an abandoned shrine way up a mountain. We would have never found it. You have to want to drive up for the view and the eggs, and still be curious to make your way up the stairs tucked away.
I made a wish, it was something about protecting this place, or perhaps the couple that helped us all the way up here, and gave the fox some of the coins still hanging out in my pocket. It wasn’t enough, I’m not used to carrying change. I think it was 60 yen. Not even a dollar. But sometimes animals just want more shinies, so I hoped it wasn’t insulting. Just in case there were spirits. I’d always kind of believed in ghostly spirits, collections of energies or thoughts, or passed things. Not sure, just that I’ve always had a passion for such ideas, even if it didn’t exist. There’s not a lot of representations of this in North America, so perhaps it shook me a bit to be confronted with a possibility to engage when you get used to not believing. Even if other people believe, that’s enough, to me, I think. There’s something to that, and it’s important in a way I can’t really articulate.
Anyway, I ended up with the coins again. The couple said that the fox gave them back. I presume they opened the box and took them out, which probably horrified me so much I honestly can’t remember it actually happening. Maybe it happened literally and I can’t remember. But the former is more likely.
I also can’t remember where the keychain came from. It was on the same trip. I don’t think I bought it. I do remember thinking that it would be appropriate to put the coins with it, so I’m pretty sure it was found. I wouldn’t have bought something like that just to do that. I don’t remember a lot of small things about that trip anymore. It’s been a long time.
Since, I carry it around. Somehow, I never lost it in all that time. I’ve taken it off now. My life is totally different. So I think that’s okay. I never thought to remove it before. So I’ve taken it off, and I have a feeling I’m going to know exactly when I need to give it away. It would be convenient to do that right now, maybe randomly - and though that’s how I got the fox figure, that’s not how I got the coins. But I think it’s important to do it deliberately. It’s just a feeling I get. Maybe it knows something is up. Maybe it has a bit more will than that. I don’t know. It’s best to follow your feelings for these things, I think.
Seed to be planted
Filled with potential
Waiting for spring to come
With love and with light
Refract through our hearts
Gleam bold strong and true
Go out into the world
To shine forth anew