Waking up in October
Waking up in Tokyo is just like waking up in Guelph. I am not terribly fond of it, and sometimes I forget what day it is and have to lie there in my futon pondering the matter before it comes to me - usually a shocking recollection accompanied by some bitter thoughts. When I was growing up in Guelph I had cool Beatles posters (more than one) tacked to the ceiling directly above my bed that could comfort and inspire me when I opened my eyes. Or, at least, that’s how it felt to me: comfort and inspiration. It might have been something else. Here I have none of that. (My daughter has a Beatles poster tacked to the ceiling directly above her bed, but honestly, it is not as cool as any of the posters that adorned my bedroom thirty years ago.)
I usually like to wake up much earlier than I actually have to so that I can go about the routines of showering, dressing, eating and reading the papers and then return to bed for another quick snooze before leaving the apartment. October - my favorite month and smack in the middle of autumn - is much the same as August in Ontario. At least, that’s how my experience intersects with my recollection - and it’s not entirely a good thing. October here is when the fall weather settles in. I mean, cool nights and warm days that chase away the awful summertime humidity that East Asia is infamous for. Just like Guelph, that familiar autumn sunlight infuses everything with its telltale low-angle, warm orange aura. I wake up in the morning to dew on the ground and a penetrating early morning cold, like what I remember from the Midland YMCA’s August camp (that I detested) in Georgian Bay in 1972. Then within a couple of hours, walking about, I could almost imagine I am walking about Guelph streets again.
I wake up early. I go to a convenience store and pick up a couple of English-language morning newspapers plus something to eat. Before the sounds of the morning traffic have risen it is still quiet enough to hear the last of the nocturnal insects and the first morning chirruping and cawing of various birds (not just the ubiquitous garbage-scrounging crows that start staking their territory early, but others as well). I smell the wet leaves on the trees - not fallen and rotted yet, but getting there. I imagine that if I stand still and listen carefully, with enough Zen-like concentration I might hear the hissing sizzle of evaporating dew, just like Guelph from August-through-October. I can’t, of course, but what I can hear later in the day from the high school across the street are the sounds of the kendo fencing team screaming their piercing martial cries. It sounds like teenage slaughter from a Halloween splatter/horror movie and it fits the season by strange coincidence. What a strange thing that a Guelphite should be here, walking these streets, shopping in these stores, smelling these odors, hearing these sounds and observing all these things amid these foreign people. How did it come to this? Is it the end of the world? Of course it is, but that’s not the point. How did I come to this?
I hate it when it rains in the spring or the fall and then turns humid just when it is supposed to be either warm or cool. (That’s a bad combination that recurs in October. I have come to think that such weather catalyzes illnesses like seasonal colds while continuing to keep my strict line that the weather itself does not cause illness.) I remember the awful smell of my wet rubber raincoat from elementary school. It was reversible: yellow on one side and green on the other. Yellow was the usual color because being more visible made it safer for children walking the streets. What horrible coats! Canadian children probably still use them. Here the smell of the wet is the same: dank, decay, mold, sweat. Everywhere in the world is basically the same as every other place. Everywhere in the world I have to ask, Is this the end of the world? and, How did it come to this?