During my Saturday evening walk along the Noh River near my house, the clouds teased the air with tastes of drizzle, more threatening with the rumbles of thunder, than with dumping the buckets overboard. I needed to get out of the house, away from the computer, and just walk, feeling my heart pump and seeing otherly creatures inhabit the space that we humans have been so miserly with. The river reeds had grown tall with the rains and mosquitoes soon had my bare ankles itching with bites. But I stalked slowly nevertheless, wanting to see and to listen and not rush anything.
Dark damselflies propellered among the underbrush, and I tried to photograph them, but it was too dark, and I didn’t want to use a flash. So I put the camera away and just moved through the greenery, feeling the dry scrape of grass blades and the slight shock of dew against my legs and arms. Spot-billed ducks huddled in the middle of the river like a spellbound audience, keeping an eye on the shadowy form sliding past. It was the sort of evening when you expected to come upon elves dancing under a bush, their music was that close. But the lights that glinted in my eye always turned out to be just the street lights reflected in the water.
I got to thinking about just why it is that a place like Tokyo so disturbs me, to the point of making me unable to get out of the apartment at times, the depression is so great.
Ever since I can remember there has been a fierce need within me to break away from company and spend time alone in wild places. It isn’t “alone” in the usual sense of “having no one else”, but an alone away from humans, away from the pressure of monoculture and intolerance with the world. Walking alone there was a sense of dialog with things other than myself, and often it afforded me insight into what it means to be alive. It helped me understand that I, and the world of people that I was born into, is really not all that very important, at least no more than any other world.
And in Tokyo, such chances to be alone are nearly non-existant. Even small alleys behing houses will have people walking along them or or standing by the side, watching. Watching. Always watching.
Worse, it is the sense that for someone like me who needs live things, who needs clean rivers and stretches of untouched trees and lonely paths, that what I am relegated to are these slivers of nature eked out of the concrete of the city. When trees are cut down, nothing but more concrete replaces them. The city grows hotter in the summers, and yet the inhabitants think nothing of chopping away the trees. They think nothing of paving over the river banks and trapping the soil beneath.
And I am expected to tolerate it, as if this is the way the earth should be. As if there is simply nothing to be done about it.
Perhaps I am a dreamer and don’t take this reality very well. But as Peter Gabriel once sang in his song “Mercy Street”:
“All of the buildings,
All of the cars,
Were once just a dream
In somebody’s head.”
What is this dream we are living today where we tolerate, even condone, the destruction of all that we are and that has made us? There are 6 billion of us on the planet now. If we don’t start caring now how we see things and want things, just when will we start? When there is no more water?
The rumbling thunder during my walk drifted away as evening fell. And all went silent as I walked home in the dark.