№ 20: Ghosts and Moonlight

Early plum blossoms at Chomeji Temple, Nerima Ward, Tokyo

35°44’37.84″N 139°36’48.89″E

If ghosts exist, I am likely in their midst, sitting as I am between the main hall of a seventeenth-century Buddhist temple and the large cemetery just next to it. If they’re here, though, they’re not letting on.

The ghostliest things here are the plum blossoms, which I know aren’t glowing, but all the same somehow seem to be transmitting from within the moonlight falling on them from above. Behind them, everything recedes quickly into blackness. And in front of them, the stone pavers of the walkway shine clearly.

I have been sitting here in the darkness, in the dead of night, for about thirty minutes now. There are no lights on anywhere nearby, and most of the ambient light is coming from the moon. I knew where to sit and could find the place easily enough, despite the darkness, because I had made a plan in daylight to visit these blossoms on a clear night if I could.

Our eyes will adapt much better to very low light than we might expect. They need time, is all.

After 10 minutes in the dark, I could already make out my surroundings more clearly. Now, after half an hour, what I see before me seems much more like a painting than the material world I know it to be.

Moonlit surfaces reveal contours of temple buildings that I had never noticed in daylight. The stone lanterns and statues lining the path seem poised to come alive.

The trees rustle quietly in the cold breeze and sway ever so slightly, whispering something I am not wise enough to understand. Or maybe I simply don’t know the language. It’s entirely possible that they are murmuring with the nearby dead.


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