While watching Hope building a tower with her blocks, in between changing diapers and cleaning the kitchen floor, or when mindlessly moving my hands under running water in a sink, my mind canters along a path I remember dearly. It always starts with a brook in the middle of a road that is outlined by a procession of trees on both sides. Along the path, there are little shops–colorful, coy, self-contained. I let them pass me, thinking I would stop by one of them if I would ever return to this place. I am always running out of time.
One day I asked TH about this path. I asked him if he could tell me where we had walked this road. “Was it in Minneapolis, near the park of Minnehaha fall? Was it some French town near Geneva? Or somewhere in the suburb of Philadelphia?” At first TH said he knew which place I was talking about. I vaguely remembered that I was not alone, but I couldn’t see the face of my company. I just assumed it would have to be TH. “Where were we going?” I asked again, and more questions asked, TH seemed to get more and more unsure.
On my fourth day in Kyoto, I looked at the city map for the first time. Until that point I solely depended on my friend for directions and choice of activities. Since my friend had to spend the afternoon in a library at Kyoto University of Art and Design, I had to plan my afternoon alone. Since the University was in the upper east side the city, I tried to find something near, and I spotted an interesting name for a road. Philosopher’s Road, as written on English map connected couple of temples nearby.
“Philosopher’s road! What a romantic name!” Jisun exclaimed. A flashback to eight years ago. Jisun, wanting to take a few days off her work, persuaded me to come to Kyoto with her. She and I were a good match for traveling in a city that we had never been before. We both loved things from history, and we both appreciated art. It was destined that we both fell in love with temples of Kyoto; colorless zen gardens, green moss, wooden floors that you can feel under bare feet, and paintings enshrined in meeting rooms—we soaked them all in.
I knew where to spend my last afternoon in Kyoto so I take a bus from the art school to Ginkaku-ji bus station. In there middle of the road, there stands a wooden sign with carved white letters, “哲学の道 Tetsugaku-no-michi,” literally translated as a path to philosophy. Behind a sign starts a passage, two parallel roads and a canal in-between. A path is laid out in stone that stays cool under overhead foliage. Tree trunks, wearing summer green moss become a corridor that feels safe to walk in. Shops appear here and there along the road, selling coffee, souvenirs, soft ice cream, and handmade things, but they are not at all demanding. They entice you with possibilities to find something personal to make your day special.
There is a wooden doll in red dress placed on steps that lead to a small gallery. ‘I had been standing in this place.’ I said out loud to myself. With this realization, the trees, stone paved road, cafe, and canal became known to me. Yes, I have finally returned to the place in my memory.
At times when my alter-ego brought the image of this road to me, it was perhaps trying to tell me something, the same message over and over. I’d rather linger inside the image, as in daydreaming. The frequency of random appearance of the image increased in the past two years. Perhaps in those moments when I wished things were different, the image was my longing, as bare as it can be.
Do not doubt
“There is a deep satisfaction in watching things change while being still. Perhaps it comes from knowing where I am and accepting changes that come with the passing of time.”
-from “Old Man Reflecting on Water”
becomes a word, not just a carrier.
Watching it flow, I am an ancient wise woman meditating.
If I stand in water it would only come up to my thigh,
weed can wrap my torso three times
fish, length of my forearm, keep growing in size
so long as trees make blossom each spring.
I am my own stream, I too
have growing weeds and fish.
Where it starts, the stream—
and where it heads, I do not know. Only this moment
where we gathered under a bridge from which a child looks down
is an my validation.
Do not doubt.