Quiet temple, sounds of rain

April 6th, 2013, 5pm

It was 26°C with scattered clouds. The breeze was light.

That morning, strong winds prevented us from boarding the high-speed ferry to the island of N. and we decided instead to rent a vehicle, one of those quiet models that limit gasoline use by the clever addition of batteries, an electrical engine, and a flywheel coupled to a generator.

We headed for the S. peninsula, a recent addition to the celebrations. Following the coast to keep a vigilant eye on the angry, pale green sea, we drove into a dead-end and had to turn around in an awkward 9-point maneuver, under the branches of a loquat tree, whose fruits were wrapped in orange paper marked with a seal.

The peninsula is known for the immense bridge that spans the inland sea, linking two of the country’s main islands, and bearing trains to and from the city of O., where passengers can transfer to higher speed services towards the capital.

At the foot of the bridge, we joined a few people to hear a concerto for flute and guitar in a former primary school.

The flutist, a very elegant middle-aged lady, wore a flowing gray dress, and a soft expression of sorrow. Her talent had obviously been thrust upon her and she seemed almost apologetic to have to play. Her polar opposite, the guitar player flashed a broad smile on his mobile face, and seemed utterly satisfied to be playing here, for us, on this beautiful day, alongside a respected fellow artist.

But her slender, delicate hands gripped the flute clearly and simply, without flourish. His plump fingers danced a febrile pattern of plucks, pulls, pushes, and nudges, extracting a subtle melody from his instrument.

Later, on the way back to T., we left the main road to drive up the mountain. The statue of a local oni towered over the car park, and a flight of stairs (first down, then a long way up) took us to the grounds of a temple. The dead trunk of a tremendous tree, protected under a roof, stood next to cherry and magnolia blossoms, under a flat, gray sky.

Until our departure, we were the only visitors, but as we were carefully walking down the stone stairs to leave the temple grounds, a young male wearing sports clothing was climbing up.

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Raph Maz

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