Saturday, January 28, 2012

To the Kingfisher

Recently a friend of mine from Montana started a blog. One of her first posts was about running and how it was one of the constants in her life. After reading her post I got to feeling guilty for not having run myself in over a week. Admittedly it's been cold with the occasional snow flurry or light rain, and I've been busy — but those are just excuses. When you're in a groove and running every day there are no excuses. You just go.

So today I got my running gear on and headed across the neighbor's field to the bike trail which conveniently cuts through our neighborhood. I followed that for a ways as it sliced through small fields lined with winter vegetables, then on past the graveyard which runs hard against the hills.

At the first chance, I turned off onto a side street which winds though a residential area tucked into a tiny valley with a nursing home at its far end. After the home, a small road veers upward into Taki-no-miya park, running past a dam much too large for the trickle of water behind it, before turning into a dirt trail.

Now I'm feeling comfortable. The trail ascends, humping over a second, smaller dam, then throwing me into the forest where the trail does a little dog leg then heads straight upward for almost exactly the length of Candela! My legs are burning as I reach the ridgeline, but now the trail plunges back downward, zig-zagging first through cedar, then an assortment of bushes and suzuki grass.

The trail does its best to lose me, but I stick with it, dodging branches at eye level and roots and rocks at my feet. Deeper into the forest last year's brown leaves litter the ground. I plunge downward, following the trail to its terminus as it throws me out onto the wider, main trail which runs through the park.

I keep ascending. Off to my left, the higher mountains across the valley are partially obscured by clouds. Below me lies the perfectly manicured though winter-brown country club. The trail bottlenecks and off to my right I can see the Setouchi Sea, an island or two floating on the horizon.

Soon I come to a little gate which I carefully close behind me, putting me onto the country club road. I run past the club, then the groundskeeper's sheds, before the road ascends once again, winding up into the clouds. Mercifully it tops out and I know that the rest of the run will be all downhill or flat. I ease into the run, and work my way downward, out the country club onto a back road which follows a stream down the hillside.

At the bottom of the hill I turn and follow its contour though fallow fields along canals. I've just rounded one of the turnings when I see it in all of its iridescence — a kingfisher, swooping down from the edge of the canal over the water then back up to perch on the canal edge, stopping briefly again on the cement to eye me, then flying off into the bamboo thickets.

It's the second time I've seen the little guy in exactly the same place, so after I get home and eat lunch I decide to go back out to see if I can photograph him. I get on my bike and head back on the bicycle trail in the opposite direction from which I had left earlier. I pass the lake, and the takoyaki stand and the batting cages, then follow the river along the base of the hill past more grave markers.

I don't feel like humping my bicycle across the river, so I leave it at the edge and jump across on the stepping stones. I retrace my earlier run along the field edge hard against the canal. Presently I come to the kingfisher's domain, but he's either not about now or in hiding. A few other nondescript birds peer out of the bamboo thickets, or rustle in the grasses down below, but not my guy. In the canal only clouds.
All right. But what about that shrine on the hillside. You've never been up there. And you haven't really climbed all that much today.
I dig the stonework. Obviously the people here care about their little shrine. I tromp up to the torii (you see the white stone entranceway at the top of the stairs?)

So now I'm ready for life to start talking to me. At the base of the torii is a sign warning the visitor not to touch it owing to its general crankiness. I'm immediately struck by the fact (I don't think I ever noticed it before) that the the kanji for torii (鳥居) literally means "bird resides".

A nice little irony. I may not have found my kingfisher today, but I can always return.

So I move round back to admire the view.
And make a little offering.
To the kingfisher.


  1. It felt as if I were running (OK, well, hiking in my case) with you. That last photo and sentence are just perfect.

  2. Oh, good. That's the effect I was trying to create. Maybe today I'll get some kingfisher pics.

  3. I was going to skip my run tonight because of a sore neck. However, having read this entry, I now feel I need a run in the wild. I will drive up the Keys and run along the old road where we use to jump off a bridge into the canal.

  4. I'd love to be back in the Keys right now — though spring shouldn't be too far off for us here. You're going to have drive a ways to find any hills down there though!

  5. After being thoroughly trounced by you last summer on a run over a rock and grass covered precipice in Montana I have stuck to the flat. I have learned my lesson.