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The Most Beautiful Day of My Life

Friday, May 26, 2006
I have less than half the time it usually takes me to write a full-length post, but I need to get this up before my boss takes me drinking (seriously, the scariest thing ever.)

So about a week ago it was grey and rainy all day. There were those great clouds down in the mountains, and I enjoyed out the windows of school while I was at work. As I drove home, I noticed that I could see the top of Kannomine (the big mountain on the island) above the low clouds I like so much. I decided it would be a good idea to drive up, and see if I could see anything from up high. I called Mori and told him to stop cleaning his nets and come with me. I picked him up and we were off.

On the way up, we saw this. I thought it was beautiful, so I took a picture. I had no idea what was in store.

As we went up higher and higher, it got grey and foggy as we went into the cloud. I figured that was probably what we would see at the top as well.

I was wrong. As we reached the top, on one side we couldn't see much, but when I turned around and looked across the parking lot, this is what I saw.

Mori and I both took pictures and decided the trip had been a success. We decided to look off to the right, which involved walking down a path and getting to my secret spot to see the sunset.

Even along the path was pretty amazing. Huge flocks of crows circled on rising currents of air, and in the distance it was crystal clear.

Ron was with us too.

As we came around to the sunset spot, nothing really prepared us for the view. I expected some more clouds, maybe some islands. What I got was this:

Pretty good, right? Wait.

We stopped and stared. The clouds rolled slowly, breaking like waves over the mountains, blowing in the wind. The view changed every minute.

As we stood there, it started lightening. Breaks started appearing in the clouds, and a couple rays of sun hit the clouds covering the island. For what it's worth, my house is down there in the middle right somewhere. It was raining and foggy down there.

It kept changing, minute by minute. The clouds started breaking apart, and the sun got brighter and brighter.

Standing here and watching this, Mori and I were speechless. There really is nothing you can say to a view like this. We just sat in silence and watched it change.

Meanwhile, off to the left, this was the view of Shikoku.

It just kept getting better. A view like this isn't fair - it's too beautiful. I'm spoiled now.

As we watched, the clouds opened up fully and bathed the island in sunlight.

The clouds started evaporating, rising up in long tendrils and disappearing.

Seriously. Can you believe this? I still can't.

The few words we did find while we were watching this were about how it was too bad that photographs could never capture what we were seeing. It's true. These are fine pictures, but what we saw was more beauty than I knew existed. It was breathtaking in a literal sense. As I sat watching this change, I found my heart beating quickly, my mind telling me to remember this, because it wouldn't last.

Just look at that horizon. Between the layers of clouds it was perfectly clear, and in the distance we could see the sun shining through other breaks.

I couldn't ask for a single thing to add to this scene.

The clouds started clearing over my neighborhood. I still sort of chuckle in disbelief when I look at these pictures.

The sun passed over, and the clouds were nearly gone. A new wind picked up and started blowing them off the mountains.

Above us, the sky was a deep blue.

And just like that, it was over. The whole thing, from the moment we got to the parking lot to the end, was probably no more than fifteen minutes. We were just phenomenally lucky, there's no other explanation for it. When I think about this sort of chance happening, I am torn. On one hand I am crushingly sad at the thought that I'm leaving this behind, but I'm also so glad that I had a chance to see this and share it with someone.

As we went back to the parking lot, I noticed there still was no view off the observation deck.

The view off the left was completely obscured by cloud. One stubborn cloud remained stuck to the wind shadow of the mountain, and it was right against the parking lot. The view over that railing is this:


As we pulled out, you could see the cloud blowing in over the railing.

That's good right? The most beautiful day ever? I was ready to call it a day and have good dreams, but that wasn't it. I had been home all of ten minutes when Mori called me and asked me if I wanted to go fishing with him, his father, and his father's friend. Of course, I said yes.

We got on the water as the sun was starting to go down. The low clouds had cleared, but a thick cool layer of fog still lay across the water. We headed out into the sun, and I had that same feeling - the one where you can't believe what you are seeing because it's so beautiful.

Above us was clear, with sharp clouds lit by the setting sun, but all around was the fog, spilling over islands and rushing around us.

Looking back home.

I used to constantly be pointing my camera at the sky and taking pictures of clouds, and I haven't done it in a while. I'm not sure why, but when you get a sky like this, you photograph it.

I was standing right at the bow of the boat, the water was rushing under me, the fog was making my face cool and damp, and the late afternoon sun was shining on me. I don't really know what else I could have asked for.

That wasn't it either. As we came to where we were going to fish, suddenly we broke out of the fog. It got hot and humid instantly. My lens and glasses fogged up immediately, We were in a circle of clear air, surrounded by a wall of fog.

I don't know what one says for pictures like these. Maybe just "wow."

As the sun set, the sky took on some very Hudson River School painting qualities. I feel like I can't emphasize enough how much a photo doesn't do this justice. It struck me dumb.

Also, I caught two fish.

Mori was not immune to it either. As we headed back, he positioned himself for maximum viewing pleasure.

As it got darker, we turned the lights on, and it didn't stop being beautiful.

Back in the fog, navigating to the dock.

The ferry port in the fog, arriving back home. What a way to end an absolutely incredible day.

It wasn't the most beautiful day in terms of the most lovely weather. For most of the day it rained and was pretty cold, but in terms of what I saw and the way I was able to appreciate it, I have never in my life had a day that comes close. I think it must be really rare to have a day like this, and it's something I hope I'll never forget.

I like how this Monday-Wednesday-Friday thing is working out. I'm going to keep it going next week, and until I get caught up.

Two Schools, and Battles in the Home

Wednesday, May 24, 2006
This is going to be a quick update - I'm just back from work, and I've got a little birthday party soon. Thank you to everyone who sent me e-mails and messages, I suppose I am older now.

Last week I had some free time at Nishino Elementary school, a tiny elementary with 30 students, and I went out into the schoolyard with the third and fourth graders. I wanted to use the new lens a bit more, and the kids at Nishino are incredibly cute. I'm sticking with the black and white for a bit.

Rina-chan. One of my favorites.

Maho-chan, hysterically crying while holding her unicycle. I didn't find out why she was crying until a couple days ago. Stay tuned and you can find out too.

My new favorite photographic subject. This is Hatsune-chan. She is a third grader who is cute, bright, and fearless. When I show up at school, if she sees me, she usually tries to tackle me. Sometimes she warns me not to take pictures of her. This is one of those occasions. Here are a few more of her.

My favorite one.

This one was mostly taken by accident. The lesson learned - take more pictures by accident.

This next picture is by a guest photographer.

I left my camera on my bed one day, and came home to find this picture on the card. I had no idea what had happened, and then I realized that while I was at work, Neko took this picture. Nice work, Neko.

The next school is Higashino Junior High. They are the same school that did the Hokkaido visit, and by an odd arrangement of outside events, my schedule, and the way the weeks line up with vacations, I'm there an awful lot. Now I've been hired (pro bono, but still, hired!) as the photographer for their Undokai - Sports Day. I've been to four practices now, and the actual Undokai isn't until June 4th, but I've photographed them all. This is an indoor one.

I love the kids' indoor shoes. Thin little sneakers with blue stripes on them, boys and girls all wear the same kind, most of them have their names written in kanji down the back.

They have this awesome race where one guy runs along the backs of his teammates, who have to keep sprinting ahead of him and making the bridge that he walks on. They usually have to go through some figure eights and such, and they have to wear a special outfit. The kid on the right has just about a perfect runner's pose, no?

They use a regulation-length long bamboo pole to stabilize themselves.

Next up was feats of strength. I'm not sure how else to describe them. One teacher suggested "Tumbling" but that's not quite it.

Are you noticing that every single teacher and student has an awesome track suit? I definetly need to get one.

The human pyramid. They are really super serious about their human pyramids here, usually a kid stands on top, ten or more feet off the ground. They do come crashing down quite often too, I tried to photograph it, but the dim light in the gym made them all blurry. Trust me, it's a site to see when one girl's elbow just gives out and the whole thing caves into a writhing mass of arms, legs, and shrieks.

I will post one more set of pictures from rehearsals, and then you'll get to see the actual Undokai - won't it be fun? Today I photographed marching practice, and I started feeling Undokai photography fatigue. There are only so many ways you can photograph kids on a sandy field marching in formation around a track to bombastic music.

In other news, I woke up a few days ago and found what at first looked like a giant ball of lint on my floor. When I went over to it, I found that it was not a ball of lint at all, but a giant spider - the latest victim of my awesome, awesome cat.

That is a huge, hairy spider. the watch is there for scale.

My cat - too cool for school.

After determining that she didn't want to eat it, I threw the spider out the window, where it may have broken the car windshield it landed on.

As a note to end on, this may be odd - but isn't this just the nicest package of mushrooms you've ever seen?

I've been excited to post Friday's pictures since the day I took them. Stay tuned.