Watery Window

Hakuba Ground Life
Still life at the edge of the trail, Hakuba, Nagano, Japan 2001.


All spring I had been anticipating the ten-day break of August this year, for a chance to escape Tokyo and spend a nice long period walking up along the ridges of the North Alps. My pack was loaded, all the food prepared, and the route mapped out. I even went to bed early the night before to make sure that I was fresh for the exertion.

When I woke up the windows were quaking with the muscling blows of a typhoon. I peeked out from behind the curtains and found the false acacia in my tiny garden being thrashed to and fro like a wet towel. A muffled roar descended from the rooftops and broke over the eaves with splashes of whistling. Clouds raced through the sky like scudding ships.

Two days this lasted. The news reported landslides throughout the country. The second morning I walked down to the river near my apartment and found the banks overflowing, brown soup sliding by just under the high water mark. Flotsam danced among the eddies, shreds of reeds and torn up clods of earth, lone soft drink bottles, aluminum cans, tumbling, sodden magazines, and once a Nike running shoe. I stood on a bridge, listening to the driving rain spatter against the stiff material of my waxed-cotton jacket.

The next day the sun broke through the cloud cover for exactly one day, steaming up the city like making crab dumplings, and the passage of water through all the fissures and cracks in the land sounded like a waterfall.

But this lasted only a day. The rain returned without a thought for all the Tokyoites who had been saving up their money for the vacation. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday… rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. It was like filling a glass with water in the sink, turning away, and forgetting that the glass was overflowing. My garden converted into a mosquito pond. The head high sunflowers lined up at the edge of a small farm plot down near the river began to turn brown from rot. My hiking boots put on warm jackets of white mold to fight off the chill. In spite of the August calendar dates, November was rising in my soul. I took to walking down to the river every afternoon to check the water level. The tow path had disappeared. Spot billed ducks, trailing their now almost fully grown chicks, paddled vigorously at the sides of the river, pecking at bits and pieces of vegetation that floated by. The drum beat of raindrops tapping the shed roof outside my bedroom window became the rhythm of my night’s dozing.

The vacation has now drawn to a close and the rain has let up, but the urge to throw my backpack over my shoulder and take off down the road still inflates my lungs. It is hard to breathe for the persistence of walls. The acacia in the garden has bent over double from too prolonged weight of water and will need cutting. Perhaps tomorrow. I have had no sky over me and my mind still thinks it is evening. The yawns come in waves. And I feel so sleepy.

4 Responses

  1. Pica

    Butuki: We missed you! And so sorry to hear your vacation didn’t materialize as planned… but you write so beautifully about the rain (which we Californians covet anxiously now as the earth bakes, but don’t expect to see until November).

  2. beth

    Glad to read this fine entry but sorry you missed your vacation. The photo is gorgeous too. Missed you; I was a little worried about you!