As a kid, many of the sleepovers I attended at my friends home had nothing to do with sleep of any kind. If I remember correctly, and I think I do. The goal was to stay up all night in order to get a head start of the next day’s badly mapped out journey into areas and neighborhoods that often resided outside of the borders or imaginary lines our parents often forbid us from wandering past.
Years later I still have a love and admiration for those pre-dawn hours and minutes where much of the world still sleeps. The streets and adjacent pavement have yet to feel the impact of rush hour cars and hustling feet. Aside from the fact that I have to actually go to bed earlier and be aided by the sound of my alarm. Not much has changed. Upon learning that Thanksgiving morning would allow the sun to rise and proudly show itself. I once again set my alarm early enough to join in and watch as the sun peaked over the horizon.
As early as it might have been and as much as I may have waited to enjoy watching the night become day. I was not the first one on the beach. Waiting for me were two separate groups of fishermen, a loving couple, a surfer and someone who found the perfect time and place to reflect and/or mediate. While returning to my everyday responsibilities on the West Coast may not present the same opportunities to watch the sun rise. I’m sure I’ll find similar joys within time.
With plans to walk to the beach. We made a point to leave earlier than usuaL. Then, just as we were finishing breakfast Kayuri’s mom asked if it would be alright to walk there with us. Before long, two became three and with the addition of her Dad Kenichi. Our duo became a quartet. Not to complain, but I was a little bit worried they wouldn’t be able to keep up with us. The walk itself is a long one. One that, much like most of the rural areas we’ve visited, is one climb after another. It’s a steep climb whether you’re going up a hill (Like it almost always seems) or downhill. Yet, before we knew it. They were leading the path and leaving us in their dust.
Now an outsider might view staying in the same rural area for more than a day as “Taking it easy”. I can assure you, the terrain here has helped me rediscover my once lost balance while giving me strong, durable hiker legs.
After a long, twisting walk, we arrived at the beach where we did a lot more walking and climbing. Overall, it was an exhausting day. Making it back up that last hill at the end of the day took all that I had and more. As we head in to the New Year and the last four days of our trip. I begin to think of the people and things I’ll miss the most. We ended our day with another great meal that took up the entire table and more. I had the biggest cuts of sashimi I’ve ever had and got to sit and drink with my Father-in-Law when we were done.
After a fourteen hour flight from Newark to Narita Airport and a two hour train ride to Hayama. I wanted nothing more than a hot shower and some much needed sleep. So after a little catching up with the in-laws, some dinner and some shots of “Damn if I know” with Kayuri’s dad. It was off to dreamland. With a good eight hours of sleep in us we were able to rise before the sun, have breakfast and head to the nearby beach by foot.
While it had been a good fifteen years since I had been to this particular beach. I remembered the pathway quite well. However, as we came upon the gates of the Hayama Imperial Villa we stopped to ask one of the guards in order to avoid any imperial entanglements. With a smile and a joyous “Hai”, we were pointed towards the entrance the the beach.
As we arrived, about a half dozen surfers and paddlers were finishing up their morning routine.One man in particular finished his morning surf by using the plastic bags he had brought with him to clean the beach of any debris or litter. My wife and I were so moved by the gesture. So moved by the gesture that we soon found ourselves accomplices in his very mindful attempt to keep the small beach free from others carelessness.
And while the day itself was very laid back. The amount of ground we covered gave us quite a workout. From the winding streets to many hills we had to climb on the way back. Perhaps the best part of my day was avoiding any vehicular trappings. No trains, planes or automobiles. Just the sun on my face, the wind on my back and my best friend at my side. Until tomorrow.
As much as I enjoy spending the day admiring art of any kind. Being able to watch it in progress take my admiration and appreciation to new heights. For, as important the finished product remains. The creative process is where the soul lies. In the handful of times I’ve seen a work in progress or installation. I’ve found myself somewhat transfixed in awe. With graffiti and murals being my first exposure to art. Watching a piece go up on the wall can bring chills. On this particular summer day at Asbury Park. I became a bit restless after a few hours on the sand. My decision to head back to the boardwalk to stretch my legs was a good one. Watching her admire her own work as she applied little touch ups was just an added bonus.
While my wife and me are nowhere near retirement age. Our thoughts about the next step and where we see ourselves in the future remains a constant topic of conversation. More and more these days. I find myself looking to simplify my life. Less things, less people and less worry about the things that keep my mind occupied from one day to the next. When I look at the future. I see myself living in an environment opposite to the one I’ve lived most of my life. Another country, a different culture and mindset. Something close to the water, the country or even a farm. True, the future is unwritten. However, that will never stop my from composing the script.
This Saturday April 18th marked a celebratory return to the beach for my family and me. It also marked one of the first times since I was a child that I walked the shores with my Father. While there were childhood trips to the Vegas Strip and post teen jaunts to Lake George. The beach is something my Dad and I rarely shared. However, on this particular Saturday a visit to my Dad’s new home in Toms River included a trip to the nearby shore os Sunset Heights. In those hours we had our share talked, walked and bonded over things both old and new.
It wasn’t until the ride back to Toms River when my Dad asked “Do you remember when we used to go to the beach with Jack?” “Yeah!” I replied excitedly. As deeply receded as that memory might have been. It came back to me so quickly that I could recreate an image crisper than a new pair of Martha Stewart bed sheets. By now, if you’re actually still reading this. You might be asking yourself who or what was Jack? Jack, for lack of my father’s imagination when naming people, places or animals was our first dog and only pet in our family history with any staying power. A beautiful and independent spirit. Jack was a very rare breed, being a saluki. Saluki’s were know as a Persian Greyhound or Royal dog of Egypt. Jack, much like his greyhound cousin could race at speeds up to around fifty miles an hour. Letting Jack off the leash in a park, lot or beach was like an event. To watch him stretch out as he raced gracefully from point A to point B was something that I wish everyone could experience daily, if not but once in their life. Trying to get him to return or get him back on the leash was something I would only wish on my worst enemy. As we returned to my Father’s place. He revealed the secret of his success in getting Jack back on the leash and back into the car. While I’ve seen many a greyhound and whippet since. The Saluki, just like Jack himself has yet to be spotted since. My guess is he’s still running along the shore somewhere. And while my trips to the shore will certainly become more and more common in the coming weeks and months. A memory as deeply recited as this one is a sure rarity.