During the months we stayed with family in my hometown my husband and I walked (several miles) to “the lake” nearly every day.
We sat and stared – a long time - across the water…
And then we lay on the grass or snow and stared at the sky. And sometimes at night we heard the coyotes howling. Or the ice cracking.
It was so very centering. Nothing in my North American experience was as healing at that lake.
Definitely a favorite place!
But what is my favorite place here on the other side of the world?
There’s Takayama – which my sister says we love because it reminds of us our hometown and the lake. I’m not sure how exactly, since its salt water and pine trees. But she’s right somehow.
But Takayama is a long way from my everyday life.
There is a special place along the Nakamura River, where we walk the dog. We cleared one of the sets of stairs going down from the rice fields to the river and when we walk along the river we always pause for a few moments to sit and stare – much like we did at “the lake.”
But in these days of uncertainty when we are so often elsewhere I realized that the place I go back to center is usually the “rotenburo” – that is the outdoor bath.
At Suigun no Yado (in Ajigasawa) the bath is shaped like a boat and built of fragrant wood. The water is pleasantly salty – it’s from a real hot spring. There is a little garden – softly lighted at night – at which to gaze. Definitely BEAUTIFUL.
I often feel, on the other hand, that the water at the bath house in Aomori City which we frequent most nights is a long way from the hot spring from whence it claims to originate! The outdoor bath is made of old cement and there is no pleasant garden to gaze at.
So why do I like it so much? Why do I go every night? Why do I find it so centering?
I think the thing all these places have in common is the sky. Lying there looking up at the vastness of the sky I realize my place in the universe. I am so small and God is so big. Yet I am not forgotten. I am loved.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God"?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
- Isaiah 40:26-29