It came as a surprise. The sound of the ancient forest. The shadows under the trees. The mosses and ferns.
A river forms the border of this sacred space. Isuzu River. While all was old and older yet, the riverbed was formed by stones, placed by humans. The water feeds and protects, brings life, purifies. Seeing this river, I felt a longing for all rivers to be like this.
The pilgrimage to Ise is today done by more then 10 million people annually. 300 years ago already more than 3 million pilgrims set out to visit the shrine of the sun goddess Amaterasu. Built more than 2000 years ago, the shrine buildings are rebuilt every 20 years with the same method. No nails, no colours are used. Everything is crafted from wood. While one shrine stands, the trees for the next shrine grow in a desiccated part of the forest. To visit Ise means to witness a living tradition.
My own pilgrimage was to feel into the connections we have with water: the sea, rivers, canals, estuaries, waterfalls, sacred lakes, mundane ponds, aquascapes and street aquariums. The lives they hold; our estrangement from their flows and the loneliness this stirs within us. These weeks have taken me to places and thoughts I had not foreseen. The flickering reflections of liquid worlds, echoed by the silences of fish, the kelp forests where sea and land meet, silver scales left behind on fishing boats and abalone encounters in caves beneath the surface. Somewhere, in a river up in the mountains, an ancient salamander waits for all of this to pass.
This shrine of Ise, the waters of the Isuzu River. Sometimes I do not know what other paths will cross mine. That night I read about squid fishing and the industry behind the seafood we consume. The black night around a fleet of boats. How the dreams of the fishermen become one with that last translucent glow of the squid they pull out of the water. The whizz of the squid`s last exhale. Then night again.