ON HOME GROUND

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2007

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Five hours on a bus out of Takayama you’ll hit Osaka. Plucked from a life of mountain trails and endless vistas I was dumped back into a noisy, bustling, sensory overload of neon and congestion. Where subways spewed sullen faced commuters out into underground caverns hued a grim shade of fallow.  Screaming pachinko parlours. Hollering night hawkers. Car horns and wailing sirens.  I felt out of place, disconnected with those surrounds.

I found my apartment and fumbled for the keys in my pack I’d carried from there to Hokkaido and back. Recontact with something familiar. That musty smell.  That sofa. That bed. Two floors up, I had beers with Kristian and Megumi and their angry cat. A job, my old one, virtually lined itself up for a late November start. “Come in and see everyone in a couple of days,” Kristian said.

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Water, electricity, gas: reconnected. The lifeblood of a home rushed into the void and a hospitable nest hummed, whirred, dripped and blinked back to life. A life support system deep in a concrete wasteland.

In bed, my bed – after hard mattresses, lumpy futons, cold floors and colder ground, buffeted tents, noisy hotels, cramped huts, insects, snores, leaky roofs, wind, cold, heat, scrunching plastic at three a.m. in the morning – it felt good…but not right.

I still had the drive. The urgency to climb. The desire to breathe that mountain air, volcanic gas, the sweat stench wafting from my underpants.

I stuck around for the weekend, had beers with old aquaintences, repacked and headed out again early the following week.  The backpack felt better against me than the back of a computer chair.  My boots more comfortable than room slippers.  Another timetable, another bus, another long road trip.  From the snows of Kasa I had fled west and I continued on that trajectory, racing the seasons back into autumn.

There was one mountain I didn’t want to spend the long, cold winter, cooped up in Osaka, having nightmares about.

Daisen’s time had come.

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