Thursday, December 15, 2005

along the tracks

Almost every day I ride south toward downtown Kyoto along the Eizan Line train tracks. About ten minutes into my ride I come to a little three way junction separating jumbles of old wooden houses from rows of new pastel cut outs. Situated in the center of the crossing is a rusted oil drum which, depending on the time of day, is either hosting a roaring blaze or seeping campfire-flavored smoke. The caretakers lounge in the immediate vicinity; they have established a sort of garden by lining the fence with planters of all shapes and sizes, among which they chat quietly on a warped green bench, occasionally leaning forward to warm their hands in the radiated heat.

I imagine they are all retired citizens who have nothing more to do than build a warm and cheery place to gather with friends of the neighborhood. There certainly seems to be a core group in charge of maintaining the woodpile, sweeping up the ashes, and watering the plants. They give me a friendly nod everytime I rush by on my bicycle, and I try to return the gesture while maneuvering around the oil drum and its flying sparks. Someday I’d like to sit down with them and talk about the weather, the frivolous youth of this generation, and the correct way of drying persimmons. Someday maybe I’ll take the time.

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