Monday, November 11, 2013

A Found Festival In The Japanese Woods (Photo Essay)

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I was crouching by a river contemplating the infinity of a single leaf when I realized I no longer knew the year or the day. It could be any year, any day, any time. None of it mattered. These waters were timeless waters, I slipped and fell into the universe. Starbursts of love exploded around me. I wondered: why had I not noticed this before?

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I looked upwards, as if beckoned. What was the sky trying to tell me? Serene sunshine blesses the autumn leaves. But why shine on leaves destined to fall? Why give to those whose fate is sealed? And yet, I knew it was right. I could feel the joy of these glistening leaves soon destined for drowning dirt. I knew I must find their secret so I followed the shores until I was led to the legendary Lake Biwa.

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In the distance I heard festival drums serenading the woods and waters. They too sounded joyous in their beats. Not a one is lamenting the oncoming barrenness of winter! I felt a beautiful truth missing from me, my soul wrestling in ignorance, a endless dream lost. When I looked back to the sky she had turned grey with silhouetted bare branches. Suddenly, I realized there is a time for all seasons.

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I knew not the forces that drove me by I knew to surrender. As if out of a dream, a tea house on the lake's edge appeared with figures of graceful kimonos inside. As the door slid open so did my long closed heart. I was being invited in. They were inviting the world. A brave and noble deed in these times of war. I viewed the ceremony from a nearby cloud.

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I found myself absorbed in the details, the small movements. I noticed a reed swaying in the breeze and I became one with it. What is this spell that has come over me? I knew better than to question. Just accept - and be grateful. The falling leaf does not hate the wind. It may not last but for the moment I wallowed in this peace, transfixed by the tiniest of things.

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The drums called me home. A man possessed in my enchanted state, I rushed through the forest to find a festival running free. Like the leaves in the sun I saw souls in a continuance of that celebration. I closed my eyes to the stream of sound and let it carry me away.

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Lying beside a strategic route on the way to the capital (and why I was on the road that day), Lake Biwa still has castles of old ringing her shores. One can still see the ports from where deadly arrows flew into the flesh of their victims soon to lay rotting in the same sun that blessed this day. Amidst the joy I found I feared an underbelly of violence clinging below just as my ignorance clings to me. Then I came upon a man with a sword.

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But the swordsman did not first touch his sword, but a brush!

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He called his katana the "Sword of peace". Then he demonstrated his art to reflect his state of mind as the brush had before. He must look into the mirror and face himself. This is the first step to all peace and understanding.

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Merchants came to show their wares. Festivalgoers searched for a piece to take home to bring harmony into their abodes. The wa of my own home is in turmoil, holes left by loves found and lost. I could only imagine the day I could take my own trinket home to rest in peace. But for now I must rely on the melody of the flute to heal my wounds of loneliness.

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I spotted child blossoms who bring their own special color to a browning world. They do not see a demise in the falling leaf but rather the gift of finding it. There is a wisdom to that I have forgotten.

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Martial artists came to demonstrate their discipline of the inner search. The ultimate goal of learning to fight is to never fight. It is said a true master cannot be angered. He merely smiles as he watches you battle yourself knowing the final outcome can only be your surrender. Am I fighting myself as a leaf clinging to the tree? I know to let go but fear has me clasping with bare white knuckles.

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When the dancers came I cleared my mind as I entered the void. There are no circles in Japanese writing. The circle itself meaning a "void". Better no thoughts at all than impure ones. I entered the void leaving lingering questions behind. For these few moments, there was only these moments.

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What a wonderful interlude in my journey. The thorns of the world spare no soul and I know I must continue onward. To those whose clutches I must woefully submit will never know - or even understand - what I experienced in this happenstance festival. They may wonder at my private smile in the face of their torments. But even if I were to explain, they would still not know. They have not found the joy of the falling leaf that passes all understanding.

In the end, it's the details I remember, my new traveling companions on my afflicted path.

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Click here to view the entire set.

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