[Molly Radio: I’ll Be Seeing You, Billie Holiday]
I spent the last 24 hours tucked into the Kanamean Nishitomiya ryokan in Kyoto, a stone's throw from the bustling Nishki Market.
Wooden-framed, paper-thin sliding doors announced my backpack-laden arrival. My sartorial host guided me to a room with Western-style seating and shelves full of architecture books. He asked me to fill out a registration card and as he moved out of the room, he made a motion with his hands and said,
"no go fast, go slow"
I was a speedboat humming along the surface of a lake and with that simple phrase, he killed the throttle of my mind - my thoughts rippling out until finally settling into my new surroundings.
It was silent.
The sort of silence that has a quality of spaciousness, rather than oppression. Tatami mats covered the floors. Sliding doors separated the rooms. Socked feet shuffled past in a corridor behind me. There was a faint smell of cedar.
Rather than numbers, the rooms have names. Mine bore the moniker of Matsukaze, which roughly translates to some amalgam of pine wind, wind in the pines and pining wind. After a bit of a Google to explore this name, I stumbled upon a line: "Matsukaze evokes for Japanese a feeling of exquisite solitude and melancholy.”
Exquisite solitude captured the ethos of the place. It surrounded me, such that I carried spaciousness with me as I wandered out for a ramen lunch. Billie Holiday sang lightly in the background as we patrons happily slurped our noodles. I didn’t know it was possible to enjoy a bowl of soup so much.
Back in the womb of Matsukaze, I found a cedar tub filled with steaming water. A cooler with cans of tea and beer within reach - perfect companions for a good soak.
Dinner was an insane journey through 10 courses (completely alone and in silence) in which I ate bear meat and actually wept over a preparation of globefish. (a story for another time)
As the day drew to a close and my bed roll was prepared on the floor, I wrote:
I will balance my need to roam and my need to stay
I will love my inner artist right up from the depths to the surface
a pining wind and all that entails: a chance to let go, an exquisite solitude and a deep connection to source
Grounding and healing of water and wood
of sweat and skin and breath
of hot and the gasp of cold
of cotton on a canvas of skin and blood roving through veins
of drinking tea that excites my cells as they shout, "that's for me!"
with great joy and glee
a sip a stretch a sigh a rest a gasp a sob a smile
Of slowing down enough to see the beauty in places you never thought to look
and feeling comforted to know that beauty didn't leave, simply because you didn't see
She was always there, surrounding you - even with your eyes so tightly shut
She waited, because she knew you would open, you would blink and you would remember