Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thank you, Kyoto

Kyoto is narrow streets and tall buildings, a foreign city that could become a friend given more time. The station, a black marble behemoth, is the main island of familiarity. There are other islands—a large cluster of shrines and shops in the Kiyomizu-michi area that I have fond memories and funny stories from a sleep-deprived daytrip, for example. Vast and evolving as cities as cities are, Kyoto had changed a great deal in the four years between my visits.

We—Hel, Scott, and I—had a map. It was supposed to take us from the station to our hotel. Only the map was a series of lines and corresponding dots, with all of the information in helpful English. Kyoto is not Tokyo, and the carefree way we stumbled through our favorite city with the occasional stop for directions was challenged by a lack of people to ask.

Faith failing, as we had taken a different street than the one the map told us to, we were searching for any indication of where we were or how far off we were from the landmarks we had been provided. Great, I remember thinking, we're lost three blocks from the station in a city that none of us really know. Just before panic fully set in, an older woman turned and said to me, in the first truly bit of helpful English Kyoto offered, "Are you trying to find the temple?"

Our hotel was supposed to be near/in between Nishi-Honganji and Higashi-Honganji, the famous Buddhist temples.

As we explained that we were trying to find our hotel, then puzzled over our poor map together, the woman and her husband concluded where we were and where we needed to go.

"Come." She took my arm firmly, like I was her daughter or grandchild. "We will take you there."

We had only needed to keep walking another block or so and we would have found the cross-street as indicated by the provided landmarks (a camera store and "spaghetti" restaurant.) One more block of blind wandering, when we were ready to turn back.

There are many things that can be learned from this—trusting in the kindness of strangers, and understanding that internet maps provided by hotels in other countries may not be the most reliable come to mind.

More importantly that we don't always follow the map to get where we need to go. Sometimes, as the Dixie Chicks say, we take the long way around. We get lost, learn how to find our way, and even charge our minds about where we want to go.

While we're taking the long way, we often wonder if we'll ever reach the destination, and in focusing on that doubt and fear we fail to see how close we are. Instead of giving up, if we'd just trust and walk that one more block, we'd find what we were seeking.

Sometimes, just when you need it most, life will grab your arm firmly and say "I'll take you there."

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I love that the Kannon sent someone to help you just when you needed it.