All posts tagged: flowers

water dragon roma street

Handsome Little Devils: The Water Dragons Revisited

Hey, all. I’ve bitched about Summer on here more than once: the energy-sucking heat, of course; the harsh, high-contrast, drama-killing, colour-draining light (photographically speaking); the insanely early start required to reach the waterfront or creek bank in time for sunrise (just made it this morning by heading out the door at 4:10am); cricket; bad TV (I mean badder than usual, and not in a good way); Christmas… So why bludgeon you with more of the same? Let’s focus on the good side of the Sweltering South-East Queensland Summer: the basking. Not mine — I don’t bask well, except in my own glory. I’m talking about the lizards: I’m still slogging through the pictures from Japan and have completed the editing of half a dozen days’ worth from that 47-day epic, plus several shots, at least, from each of the others. When Day 28, for example, starts to drive me crazy, I jump over to Day 13 for some variety. At least six hours a day goes by like that. When my eyes start to hurt, …

magpie standing on person's foot

Back Among My People

G’day, all. The standard apologies for the long time between posts, the tardiness of my response to always-appreciated comments, and for just generally being an awful human being. I’ve been back in the Bayside suburbs of Brisbane for a couple of weeks now, and am pretty well adjusted (by my standards), though there’s been a fair deal of lonesome soul-searching… ..and I do miss the feeling of short- and longer-term purpose that a multi-week walk provides, not to mention the simple daily routine of morning coffee, walking, vending machines, convenience stores, photography, nightly beer, and eating anything I damned well please in between. (No wonder I actually put on weight despite walking around a thousand miles in those three months in Japan…) I also miss the constantly rewarding 88-temple photographic project, though the editing and displaying aftermath of the actual picture-making is keeping me busy, as it will for several months to come. Meanwhile, there are occasional storms to keep me entertained back here in the subtropical Summer — including one predicted for tonight — and I’ve resumed …

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The Backwards 88, Day 47: And Then, Suddenly, I Ran Out of Temples

Hey, all! Yes, the circle will be unbroken — thanks for asking. At 4:50 this afternoon I entered the temple gate at number 1, bringing me back to where I started, completing a 1,200- or 1,300km loop of Shikoku and a 47-day tour of 88 freakin’ temples. I guess I’m in pretty good shape for an old bastard as my sum total of aches and pains after all that tarmac-pounding and mountain stomping is: zero. In fact I was seldom tired for more than five minutes on the whole walk. Injuries: three missing toenails (keep your eye out), some degraded toe skin, aching knees when I woke yesterday — but they’re fine today. I think I’m getting good at this stuff! As Matt (a former henro along with his wife Nori) at Sen Guesthouse back in Matsuyama said when I was there, you’re just starting to get good at the whole thing and then you reach the end. A damned shame. I have all my rituals and routines down, and have nights in my tiny tent/bedroom/ office/base camp …

motorcycle buddha

The Backwards 88, Day 40: Pilgrim Postcards

[You might have received this post in your inbox erroneously titled “Day 39”. I just realised I’d lost a day! It happens on the blurry path to wisdom!] A LAWSON’S STATION KONBINI, KAINAN, TOKUSHIMA PREFECTURE ~  Morning, all. As threatened, here’s another batch of shots from the last week or so, mostly of scenes and subjects encountered between temples. I enjoy both my subject areas, the temples themselves and the stretches of road and path linking them, for different reasons. The temple one is far more challenging. My aim is to capture a sense of the place that is different from the others, and respond to it artistically in the conditions in which I find it. Believe me, with 88 of them to deal with, that can get pretty tough! As someone who doesn’t believe in anything, I’m obviously not reacting to the places in any spiritual sense. I’m interested in them as places, and judge them on aesthetic grounds, how they relate to their environment, their architecture and landscaping, historical elements etc. Avoiding repeating …

bamboo & road sign shikoku

The Backwards 88, Day 37: Peace, Hope & Pilgrim Smokes

Hey, all. Well, this one’s coming to you from a dark bench at a michi-no-eki (“road station”) called Tano-eki-ya that — so far (the night is young) — is my favourite of the trip. It’s right on the main street of the coastal Kochi town of Nahari/Tano, but it’s a sleepy town and no trucks are rattling past. There is an elevated railway line not many metres above my head, but this is the boonies and the trains are rare. The good points: dark, my tent is set up under cover right on the “porch”, there’s a Lawson’s Station konbini 50m away, toilets are close and clean (already washed today’s shirt, socks and unmentionables), and there’s this bench, with a power outlet right next to it. I can’t tell you how rare and delightful a discovery that is. All this beauty, insight and art from the oriental road requires a certain amount of elec-trickery to make it to your device of choice. Oh, and get this: A couple of hours ago, just after I arrived, a …

iwaya temple shikoku

The Backwards 88, Day 27: Beyond the Difficult Place

SOMEWHERE NORTH OF KONGOFU TEMPLE (#38), EAST COAST OF CAPE ASHIZURI, KOCHI PREFECTURE, SHIKOKU According to legend, this location was given to Kūkai by a mysterious female recluse named Hokke-sennin. Kūkai carved two Fudō-myōō statues and created this temple which is considered a hansho (difficult place) ~ from Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, my guidebook Hi, everyone. It’s been a while. It’s always been a while… How long’s it been since the last post? At least a week. This post will cover quite a lot of ground in more ways than one, but I’ll try to keep ‘er lighter than that last one. Shouldn’t be too hard, since, as the title suggests, I’m in a far better condition emotionally this time around. Firstly, for the sake of clarity, that header shot, which I’m unable to caption, is from Temple #45, Iwayaji, the place referred to in the quote above — not Kongofukuji, which I visited yesterday. Kongofukuji must also be considered a difficult place, since getting there nearly killed me, yet again. (Once again, there aren’t many temple shots here, as …

henro trail marker at dawn

The Backwards 88, Day 17: Under the Big Stone Hammer

MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREFECTURE Hey, all. Well, I’m 38 temples into my journey, having visited #51, Ishiteji (“Stone Hand Temple”), the day before yesterday, here in Matsuyama, and numbers 53 and 52 yesterday. Yes, out of order, which is due to some unforeseen good fortune two days ago. What we used to call Trail Magic on the Appalachian Trail. It was about time my luck changed. Let me set the scene. Overall, it’s been a rewarding journey, though one of the hardest I’ve done and I’m only a couple of weeks in. I do remind myself sometimes that I’m not the 42-year-old who finished the A.T. feeling the strongest I’d ever felt years back; I’m also lugging the kind of pack weight that helped me develop stress fractures back on the A.T. But it’s one of them thar lonesome trails you hear about, and even for me, a man used to solitude, this one pushes the boundaries at times. Doing the pilgrimage in reverse order would challenge the social life and sanity of even a Japanese person …

henro stone marker shikoku

The Backwards 88, Day 8: Sandal Power in North-Eastern Shikoku

Greetings, folks, from rainy Kan’onji City on the western fringes of Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku. If you’re the kind of weirdo who prefers kanji (Chinese characters), I’m here to help: 観音寺市. It’s the name of both the city and one of its two principle temples (the suffix -ji means temple). Kan’on or Kannon is a Buddhist goddess of mercy (and pets, apparently), much venerated along the Shikoku pilgrimage route: 29 of the 88 temples are dedicated to her. One unusual thing about this temple, #69, though, is that it adjoins #68, Jinnein, which meant a delightfully easy double whammy with which to start Day 8 today. I’m presently squandering that advantage by sitting here on my Z-Rest outside a 7-11, typing this long-overdue post and stealth-charging laptop, wifi hotspot and one of my arsenal of camera batteries. I haven’t tapped into a convenience store’s power outlet since I last wandered through Shikoku in 2008… (I don’t like supporting the evil 7-11 Corporation, currently in the news in Australia for ripping off their student workforce, but their stores are …

kumano kodo kohechi sign

The Backwards 88: The End of the Beginning, Beginning at the End

Hey, folks. How’s that for a mouthful of a post heading? But it’s a pretty good summation of where I am right now on this circular pilgrimage journey — one of the very few circular pilgrimages in the world, by the way. (By the way, I’ve just added a new post category, The Backwards 88, so all forthcoming posts about my Shikoku walk will be accessible from the “Recent Posts” section below.) It’s barely 6:00am and I’m recovering from one of my worst night’s sleep in the month I’ve been in Japan. Ironically, perhaps, it was here at Ryozenji, Temple #1, in a pavilion provided to pilgrims (wow, say that phrase really fast) where I was the lone guest. Unfortunately the bench I lay on closely faces a country road which, despite its narrow width, seems to funnel every speeding truck in Shikoku past the front gate. Also, I was a little drunk on the bad wine I shared with the head monk. Other than that, it was a great kick-off to my Big Walk. In …

deer todaiji nara

Pilgrim Country!

I, KUKAI, WAS FOND OF WANDERING OVER MOUNTAINS IN MY YOUTH. WENT HIKING TO THE SOUTH FROM YOSHINO FOR ONE DAY AND THROUGH TO THE WEST FOR TWO DAYS. CAME ACROSS A SECRET ELEVATED PLAIN CALLED KOYA… ~ from a very fortuitously situated poster (a copy of which I immediately bought to send home), here in the tourist information centre in Koya where I am tapping out this post — and tapping into some free wifi & electricity — before hitting the pilgrim trail. *          *          *          *          * Hey there, folks. There’s an old monk tapping sporadically at the free PC here in the info centre. Things have changed a tad since Kukai (or Kobo Daishi as he was posthumously renamed) founded the place in the ninth century. Another example: there are a lot more foreigners on the streets these days, including this one. And my pilgrim staff is made of aluminium… I could go on, but I have …

alpine wildflowers in rain hokkaido

Boulder-Hopping in Wildflower Heaven

Well, folks, here I am again in my de facto Tokyo office with the soft-jazz soundtrack and the students frowning over their papers and textbooks with the single caramel frappuccino they’ll ride till the ice melts and beyond, and the convenient power outlets spaced along the window bench — my main reason for hanging here (apart from the tobacco-free policy). Su-tā-bakku-su.  I’ve been busy, and it doesn’t seem like my posts on this trip will ever be less than a week older than the events they describe. Here I am about to talk about Day 3 of my Daisetsuzan adventure and since then I’ve already done two Tohoku hikes and returned yesterday from a magnificent (but very hard) three-day trek through the Minami (South) Alps, highest range in Japan. It nearly killed me, but it was worth it! You’ll remember the busted tent pole from last post. Well, at a little ma-and-pa outdoor store just around the corner here in Kichijoji, an energetic youngster in jeans tight enough to break bones was able to decipher my problem …

chubetsu-dake wildflowers

Just a Tiny Bit Lost in the Big Snowy Mountains

“I wasn’t lost; I just didn’t know where I was for a few weeks.” ~ Pioneer mountain man Jim Bridger This morning I was able to wash my one set of clothes for the first time since I’ve been in Japan — not counting the odd river-rinse or campground-sink cycle. I feel like a million dollars — or should that be 92,026,068.88 yen? I’m back in Tokyo as of last night, where I bunked down again at the first capsule hotel I stayed in (I’ve since slept in two other pods in Sapporo). Another night there tonight, this time in the mixed dormitory, since the male-only one was full. I don’t know why so many Japanese businessmen stay there, since the atmosphere is very western youth hostel, though pretty quiet, with European longhairs lying about and piles of crap all over the hallway floor. But it’s cheap. Even with all those transient gaijin, 30 bucks for a night in Tokyo is pretty damned good. Today’s a rest day — a zero as we’d say on the trail. …

train spotters hamanasu

Flying by Falcon, Rocking with Rose

Travelling in Japan is all about the trains — well, except for those annoying mountain-hiking parts. The whole country is a train-spotter’s paradise, with prizes including the almost obscenely streamlined Hayabusa, one of the fastest shinkansen (“bullet trains”) in Japan… ..within which I sped yesterday from Tokyo to Aomori in the extreme north of the main island of Honshu, and the Hamanasu… ..at the opposite end of the train-technology spectrum, which rocked and rollicked through the night, beneath the Tsugaru Strait to emerge onto vast Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island. Even the names are cool. Hayabusa means peregrine falcon, and Hamanasu is the Japanese rose, Rosa rugosa,a name which captures its rambling, exuberant energy, even if it’s not especially macho name for a train. I’m typing this aboard the final phase of my Daisetsuzan-bound railway odyssey (there’s still a bus to go after that), a Super Kamui Limited Express from Sapporo to Asahikawa. A quick check suggests that kamui translates as “divine or powerful”. This seems like a favourable omen before my upcoming excursion. That ride aboard the falcon …

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A Korean Flashback #3: At Peace Among the Korean War Dead

The Korean War of 1950-1953 is probably more obscure for most non-Koreans — especially younger ones — than the older but far crazier, bigger, badder war of 1939-1945, and definitely than the more recent and oft-Hollywoodised Vietnam conflict. And what many westerners do “know” about Korea, they probably gleaned from eternal repeats of the M.A.S.H. sitcom. I never liked M.A.S.H. and anyway, it always seemed to me to be more about the Vietnam War than the Korean — I would even guess that many viewers thought they were watching yet another Vietnam show. The only time during my stint in Korea (as a teacher, not a soldier, although there were similarities) I was reminded of the sitcom war was one hot afternoon midway through my 13-day “Goat Killer Trail” death march up the roads of the Korean east coast. Passing this beautiful little ridge beyond some paddies as the sun-baked road hooked mercifully back towards the sea… ..I was reminded of those scrubby, arid hills stretching away beneath the dusty bubbles of those M.A.S.H. helicopters. In other words, it looked like a …

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What I Did at the Seaside: An Aimless Thousand Miles #1

Hey, y’all. For — what? — a couple of months now I haven’t been able to write. Hell, for much of that time I was barely even walking, by my standards, and no walking obviously means not much to observe and record, or whatever it is I do here with the camera and the keyboard. Admittedly my ambulatory standards are pretty tough. Since I haven’t had much else to fill my days, little money and no work, with a torrent of confusion and doubt raining down, I set myself the target in July or August of a seven-mile minimum each day. That number had a nice powerful feel to it, and usually I was able to achieve most of my Magic Seven before breakfast. Those miles were often the highlight of the day. I was rising early and alternating between two main local routes. One lead directly to the waterfront and either out onto the mudflats if tides permitted or along the beachfront walking path if the brine was lapping at the seawall. Low tide was my favourite, and I …

dawn spider web korea

A Korean Flashback #2: I Was a Rice-Paddy Spider Man

The spiders were everywhere over there. When westerners talk about Korea as a destination or somewhere they lived and taught for a year or two, they often lose me pretty fast as they rave about the food or K-pop or the high-tech wonderlands to be found in the big cities. Well, I disliked the food, and Busan, the second-biggest city, just an hour or so from where I lived, will stay with me more for its decaying maze of hillside alleys and the really rather squalid seafood markets on its waterfront than any technological buzz it might have had. (Don’t get me started on the music.) Flashy, cutting-edge, Korea undoubtedly exists, but it was the half-made Korea, the good-enough Korea of the countryside, coast and city fringes that I spent most of my time in. Sometimes I wonder if I would have loved the country more if I’d been stationed in bustling Seoul with its mix of the gleaming-new and the mothball-antiquated, its countless options for diversion on weekends, holidays and before and after work. Certainly I would have been …

lizard & topiary

Topiary Reptiles: A Water Dragon Trilogy #3

Hey, folks. Some Goat that Wrote trivia for you: This is my 11th post to contain the word “dragon” in its title. You read it here first. You’re probably tiring of water dragons at this point, and that would be very sad, but with this short final episode we’re leaving our reptilian friends behind to bask and swim and otherwise squander their Summer in standard Queensland fashion. I’ll be back before long to catch up and share festive season stories with them — no doubt theirs will leave mine for dead. This was an interesting little visit to Roma Street… ..when for the first time I had a good look at the topiary garden. You don’t see much topiary in Australian gardens, although there’s no shortage of poorly pruned hedges. It seems very “eccentric English” and olde-worlde, and kinda ridiculous when it’s done badly — well, even when it’s done well (Stanley Kubrick omitted the topiary-animals-come-to-life bit from his version of Stephen King’s The Shining, probably a wise move), although there’s a quirky Australian take on …

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Spiders in the Sky: A Water Dragon Trilogy #2

Hey, folks, so my Korean kitty-kat post a little while back has broken — vaporised, really — all my personal records on TGTW. As this post goes to the presses, the tally of “likes” from other WordPressers stands at 330, way more than 10 times my average number. Unbelievably, comments have reached about 75 and it’s been re-blogged a dozen or so times. Evidently there are a lot of cat people out there in the blog-reading world. If I’d known that, I would have carried a bag of dried fish with me on my Korean rambles. But without a zoom lens it was only due to good old dogged (catt-ed?) persistence (and having nothing better to do with my time) that I got the shots I did. Anyway, as a thank-you for all the nice feedback, here’s yet another picture of a certain devilishly handsome feline: Cheers, 山羊 *          *          *          *          * “I might grow old in Brisbane, but I would never grow up.” ~ …

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Stalking Dragons: A Water Dragon Trilogy #1

Hey, so, it’s my blog and one of the biggest kicks it gives me is coming up with the post titles. I’m aware that “dragon” and “trilogy” are encroaching on fantasy novel territory, but there’s more than a touch of fantasy in this post (and the two follow-ups). (Plus I’m kinda hoping the post titles will turn up in occasional Google searches by fans of fantasy literature: folks feeding their love of all things Dragonslayer, Dragonlord, Dragon Hunter, Dragonpanties et al…) But the post itself: I’ve been so overwhelmed lately with a) general living and all its uncertainties and b) keeping my head above the constantly rising floodwaters of photos and post ideas (I have a dozen or more in mind at any point) that sometimes un- or partially edited pictures and post material get left behind and one day I come across stuff that’s relatively old, swamped by weeks of other stuff, forgotten. The other day I discovered photos from three excursions to Brisbane’s Roma Street Parkland: January 10, August 8 and August 28 this year. …

frangipani blossom after rain

Seasonally Flamboyant Sandgate

flam·boy·ant1  adjective (of a person or their behaviour) tending to attract attention because of their exuberance, confidence, and stylishness. (especially of clothing) noticeable because brightly coloured, highly patterned, or unusual in style. flam·boy·ant2 noun another term for royal poinciana I’m closing in on my second documented multi-month thousand-mile ramble to take place largely in the Sandgate area. It’s cool, and I’m grateful I get to do it in such pleasant environs, but I do get tired at times of stomping the same footpaths (“sidewalks” in American), walking paths and tidal sand flats, month in, month out. But one thing about walking your own patch of turf for years is that you are keenly aware of how it changes throughout the year. You watch out for and relish the seasonal changes, the subtle tweaks and the stark transformations. Here’s a sample of the refreshing colour that’s enlivened my urban trails over late Spring and early Summer. If you happened to peer through the curtains to see the weirdo with the backpack leaning over your fence with …