A TRAVELLER’S NAP
I make my way west and come to the Kamo river. Large blocks create a steep wall which frames the wide span of water. It is not too deep. I find a place, not too far from a bridge where a large peninsula-like form of stone and grass has protruded out from the wall. I make my way down to the water’s edge and set my jacket down, followed by me sitting down. I sit and look across the river. A long stretch of quintessential Japanese architecture spans the entire length between the two bridges. I am in a good place.
I take out a pen and notebook and start making some notes. But I am not in the mood to write. I have just eaten a full plate of hot food. The early afternoon November sun is ripe and the clouds passing overhead are telling me, maybe you should rest.
I set my backpack behind me as a pillow and recline back into the stones and grass. The stones feel good on my back and soften my tired muscles. It is so good to feel the air, I take a series of several deep breaths. With the water so near - at the edge of my feet even, all my thoughts are washed down river. I drift off with the clouds.
In a state of subconsciousness, I am dully aware that one side of my body is burning hot from the low wintering sun, like a hot iron being constantly pressed against me. The other side, the right side, feels nothing but the cold wind. It is strong and forced and hits me like waves on a shoreline - but I do not shiver. The two contrasts balance each other, I am neither hot nor cold. I am in peace. And maybe I can understand Yin and Yang.
I lay there for awhile. Dozy, so dozy. I have sunken into the space and I feel weighted into place like a deep bag of rice. After a good while I slowly open my heavy eyelids in a lazy manner. I see the clouds above me. White and puffy. I roll my head and gaze across the river and see all the Machiya. Kyoto!
I must be dreaming.
And I don’t want to wake up.
A nap at Tofuku-ji
I walk barefoot around the covered wooden porch ledges at the Tofuku-ji temple. The worn planks are soft and warm on my feet. Gardens surround the four sides of the temple. It is mid-afternoon.
The front temple garden is a rock garden of large stones, with more than that of Ryoan-ji. Concentric circle patterns have been carefully raked into the white rough sands around the various rocks giving the impression of the sea surrounding magnificent mountains - and also reminds me of rain drops. It interests me and I sit down to be. Noise from other visitors becomes a distraction so I leave to move to the other side of the temple in a clock-wise fashion.
The garden here is more geometric with sheared shrubs and sand creating a grid - but still, it feels very soft and stilling. I admire it, contemplate it - but do not stop to stare or become entranced.
The garden on the back of the temple is curious to view. I feel comfortable here and could study the patterns created by stone and moss for hours. But after taking several photographs, I keep moving through the covered porch.
I come to the fourth area - the fourth side of the structure. It's so simply made - almost like it wasn't designed at all, but just became. It has a different feel and look from the other three gardens of the temple. It's almost peasant-like it's so simple. The wooden floors span out into the garden on this side without any railing. With the generous overhang of the roof high above, this space feels open and of comfort, like the garden wants to sing me a lullaby. It invites me to sit and stay awhile. I do so and rest against a large wooden pillar. But sitting with legs stretched, gazing out into the garden doesn't last long. I am soon resting with my back on the wooden porch staring up at the intricate woodwork above. Eyes close. I let the garden sift me to sleep.
When I awake, I wake a new being as having passed from life to death, to life again. But as I rise renewed, I leave with a feeling of that space and moment intertwined into my soul. Today that happened. Today I napped at Tofuku-ji Temple and it changed me. It will always be a part of me.
I nap randomly and in random places when I travel - or when I am out and about. A bench, a grassy slope, a large rock. It's something I started doing quite a while ago - and it's been a constant since then. It actually has become a highlight and a strong memory of my travels and adventures. When I am asleep in a space I become a part of that space - and it becomes a part of me. It changes me. As I lie in sub-consciousness I become aware of everything and nothing at the same time. A calmness overcomes me, quiets me in meditative tones. The history and the culture that hangs in the air passes through me, leaving traces in my being. Experiences from times past seeps up from the ground and into my body as we meld together. I am becoming a part of the space, and it a part of me. A bench in a Rio de Janiero Palace park, a piece of driftwood on Cannon Beach, a temple porch in Kyoto....