Joseph Anderson

Japan: Waterfalls

This weekend as part of a trip to see my family in Portland I revisited Latourell Falls, in the Columbia Gorge about 30 minutes from my dad’s place in East Portland. The water drops 250 feet in a free fall in front of spectacular undercut basalt formations. To give you a sense of scale those tiny figures to the right are normal-sized people. It’s really special!

In Kyoto there is at least one famous waterfall I expect to see, Otowa-no-taki. As you can see from the picture this links to, it is a very domesticated place, enclosed by the human energies of devotion and intention such as is very common where the natural landscape interfaces with a big Japanese city like Kyoto. This is something I want to pay close attention to on this trip.

The roots of shamanic practice and insight come from direct encounter with nature in-the-wild by our ancestors. Nature in this state is very powerful and speaks very clearly. But that’s not the world many of us live in, and increasingly we need to come to terms with the reality that wildness is likely to have a limited presence in our collective future for quite some time. So, the question I am pondering is, how do we bring contact with wildness into the well-civilized environments most of us live in? How do we find healing and blessing and wisdom in the hidden places, cracks and crevices of an urban landscape?

For the Japanese, even today, nature is a very real and powerful part of spiritual consciousness; it is at the very least a highly visible and public option for spiritual engagement. Although my grasp of the language is very limited (more on that here), I will have my energy-feelers out: watching, listening, vibing out the physical environment of the gardens, temples and shrines, as well as the water, earth, plant and animal beings we encounter – but also paying close attention to people and the ways they express their relationships to those elements. And hoping to learn some things myself, and maybe some things I can teach, about how we can better interact with, gain strength from, and honor the sacred nature-beings that pop up unexpectedly in our landscape, sometimes only a few minutes away.