Sometimes I wonder if I might accidentally end up driving into a ditch because I was too distracted by all this beauty. It always seems to swallow me as I outline the roads with this small, roaring Mitsubishi. I’m still trying to get used to driving here, a substantial task on its own.
This part of Japan – Okayama – is an old one, but old with wisdom imbued in the antiquated, wooden houses with thatched roofs characteristic of a traditional Japanese postcard; in the vastness of the golden fields with the soft silhouettes of the mountains in the distance as its guardians; in the periwinkle sky with cohorts of grey clouds hanging low, casting a faint shadow in all the land. Yes, she speaks to me, this land. When I become plagued with nervousness and worries, my thoughts treading for dear life, she reminds me to be still, to know that He is God. And suddenly, my inside reflects her outside.
Driving here does make me nervous though, so sometimes, I truly have to stop if I want to admire this land’s beauty. Many of the countryside roads are claustrophobically narrow and ridged, often framed with streams, sometimes swampy rivers. Often times, I would get lost, and I would have no choice but to follow these roads that mysteriously snake around a collection of scattered floating houses, making it official that I’ve entered a labyrinth. Without GPS, all I could hope for was that this labyrinth would spit me out onto a main road. Eventually, it always does, but it usually takes awhile. But even through such instances, I would manage to approach these scarily attenuated roads and my shaky driving with an unwavering calmness. I think it’s a way this land gently tests me so as to grasp the value of true stillness, even in moments where it’s supposedly acceptable to panic. I think maybe I’d aced these tests?
Every so often, I will haphazardly stop driving and stand at the edge of the road, scanning the meeting of earth and sky. In these moments, I would wish I were a painter – like Monet or Bob Ross, that guy from the 90s who painted “happy trees” – so that I could capture all this that stirs a sweet aching – nostalgia. But I’m not. So, I simply capture it with my phone’s camera. That would have to do.
I want to be like this countryside when I am old and wrinkly and can barely walk – contentedly tucked away in the stillness and quiet with the wisdom of the ages as I sit by the window, thinking back to when I’d seen the world.
The placid pond reflects the mountains…and me. All I can hear is the faint chirping of birds in the Japanese bonsai tree nearby. And then, even fainter, I hear: Be still and know I am God. Then, be still and know. And then, be still until there was nothing left to hear but…be. Perhaps that is what I’d been yearning to do, gently unlocked by this land of the rising sun: to be.