i think sometimes i believe i'm perfectly happy until a dazzling fall day like today, warm and breezy with dotted white clouds, blows the clutter and stuffiness from my mind. the summer haze, the summer heaviness has finally lifted, and i feel light and full of energy. i head to the gym on my bike, taking my time and letting the wind swirl my hair around. i stop to snap yet another picture of the rice field by my house. i don't know why i have such an obsession with this particular field; i'm sure the proximity has something to do with it. the neighbors must think i'm crazy with how much i ogle it. right now the rice heads are growing heavy and beginning to bend as the leaves turn from brilliant green to yellow.
i'm disappointed to realize the sycamores lining the street have been trimmed back to nubs before they could drop their leaves. they still smell faintly like the sweet "honeydew" that coats their leaves, a smell that takes me back to childhood visits to tlaquepaque in arizona, where huge, smooth-barked trees grow slowly through the adobe walls of the courtyard. i'm gawked at by some oldsters on incredibly squeaky one-speeds. it's no wonder they can't hear me coming over their own bicycles. after four years in japan i'm still conspicuous, and i still don't mind. i have to try a lot harder to stand out in the US, but with the lolita dresses i'm bringing back with me, i shouldn't have aaaany problems there. *grin*
as i ride through the shadowy, aging shōtengai (shopping arcade), i smell one of the particular mixes of scents that has come to mean old japan in my mind: mothballs and cigarette smoke. i emerge back into the light in front of masumida shrine and go around the corner past the burning incense to the gym. as i park my bike, i think about skipping the gym. it just seems too nice to go inside, but i need the exercise, so i do. i greet the front desk ladies with, "great weather, huh?" and they say in unison, kimochii! which means, "it feels good!"
the gym has a couple old guys and me, but as i'm stretching, a girl with a long, beautiful ponytail shows up. i smile to myself; i recognize her. i've nicknamed her "Thumper" because she runs like she's trying to wake the whole block with her pounding footfalls. it amuses me to see the old men start to stare as she thumps heedlessly on. after a good run alongside Thumper, i meander down the street and decide to stop for a japanese sweet or two. i've been to this shop a few times, and the owner's son, who's probably in his late 30s, acts like he's about to fall over from excitement when i'm there. he hovers nervously, eager to explain what anything is. i decide to get a black sugar (molasses-ish) sweet and a chestnut one.
finally i ride down the dilapidated alley past rumour burger--a restaurant name i find fascinating but mildly disturbing--and fly home.