My afternoon run took me along my usual route along the Noh River near my apartment. As I ran atop the walkway that follows both sides of the river, the flattened reeds and rushes that had been standing higher than my head a week ago indicated how high the flood waters had raged through the channel during the deluge last Thusday. I wish I could have made it down to the river that night, wearing the Barbour waxed jacket I bought so many years ago in London, but which has always been too hot or cold for Japan, and gazing at the waters roiling beneath the bridge, while the rain crashed down.
I took the first emergency stairs down to the reedy embankment and ran over the wet grasses. All the flattened reeds lay downriver, in the direction of the flow of water. Dead fish, silvery grey creatures about the length of my index finger, lay scattered about amidst the browning grass stems where they had become trapped.
The tops of my white and grey running shoes dashed through the wet detritus, turning dark grey from soaking up moisture. I could feel the chill of the water soaking through to my socks. And I passed through a series of zones…
First the dead fish zone. Followed by the grey dragonfly zone (Orthtrum triangulare) where they raced a knee level ahead of me, one after another, popping onto grass stems and flying up again at my approach. This was followed by a zone of pigeons feeding along the banks, a whole chortling flock of them, exploding into the air as I pounded by. As I made my u-turn across the river, to run along the embankment on the opposite side and return home, I passed into the silent, elfin zone of dark, victorian-matriarch-like damselflies (Calopteryx atrata) the large kind that beat their black wings like mute, slow-motion helicopters and flash their slim, cobalt blue abdomens between wing beats. They rose up from the path in dark droves, a mysterious flock of insectine birds. And on into the zone of fluttering white cabbage butterflies, dancing around me like tufts of tissue paper. A zone of spot-billed ducks, resting upon the shallow river water in the afternoon breeze. One mother trundled along the bank just by the water’s edge, herding her flock of seven ducklings. The final zone appeared overhead, with the silhouettes of a hundred jungle crows crouching along the telephone lines, keeping watch on the bridge below. Their harsh cries filled the grey air with the same wild abandon as the wind itself.
Of course I didn’t have my camera with me. I never have my camera with me when I see the best pictures. Perhaps that ought to tell me something about awareness and participation.