The murk of a day before sunrise, hot tea. I let The Talking Heads finish singing this must be the place before I hop out of my car. Across the street, I meet a man who is standing outside. “I knew it had to be another masochist,” he says as I approach.
“It’s a beautiful day,” I shrug.
Slowly more people begin to arrive. The dojo is filled with tired and clumsy, four days of the early morning push wears away at a body who is not used to it. Today is laughter, work with the Jo, light randori.
Twenty minutes after sunrise, I am standing in a half full strip mall parking lot, holding a pair of hiking poles and hoping for the best. Half a minute later, a car pulls up next to me and a woman, somewhere near middle age calls out, “You’re here for west tiger mountain?”
I nod, we introduce ourselves. “I’ll drive” she says. We learn that we grew up in the same place 2,900 miles away, and have shared some other towns. There’s one more stop to pick up another stranger.
One hour later we’re at the beginning of a 9 mile hike, up into the frosty hills of clear cut and 25 year old forest. Small mushrooms poke out from the mud and snow, and we marvel over their forms-one woman with some hesitance. “The oyster mushroom,” I say, “not only feeds off of these logs, but snares ants in it’s hyphae and absorbs the nitrogen from their bodies.” A glorious feeling it is, with the cold air wrapping around my body and the snow cascading off of trees above in ascent.
As we descend from the mountain, through a white world of nucleated water droplets, the three of us strangers drink in the beauty of the pure white snow, while recounting strange near death experiences of others. Horror stories of the news, apoptosis, and what the most and least painful forms of suicide might be.
Returning home, I spend the rest of the day trying not to fall asleep as I revel in the company of friends. The seams of the world gently ripping open.