A chance encounter in the land of the rising sun.
Richard nudged Carrielle awake. “Time to rise and shine, honey!”
Carrie groaned. “But it’s dark! Is there coffee?”
“The full moon is out there waiting for you,” Richard replied, “and dawn’s in half an hour. Come on, grab your camera and let’s go!”
Carrie lifted the sheet. “Come here and give me a cuddle before we start.”
Richard had turned away, fiddling with his tripod, and Carrie gave up, swinging her long legs out of bed. Yes, she had promised to take a few shots of the Japanese dawn. Definite commercial possibilities there.But that had been last night, when a glass or three of a sweet red wine had put a glow on the prospect.
Outside, the moon was round and golden, sinking through the pines. Richard clicked a long lens onto his Canon and aimed it like a rifle. Carrie pulled her jacket tighter. Her Leica had a wide lens, and she was after the big picture.
“Let’s get out into the rice fields. More room there.”
She slipped her hand into his as they walked out of the hotel garden. Two foreigners in a fantasy land. A little way down the street, the village houses stopped abruptly, the fields began, and Richard broke contact, raising his lens like a dog sniffing the air, taking a few quick shots of a rousing bird, a distant mountain, a sleepy monk.
It was beautiful, Carrie admitted to herself. The dawn’s growing glow put a golden filter on the mist rising from the rice paddies, and the moon was almost on the horizon, dropping beyond the jagged peaks of the western range. She looked through her viewfinder and made a few pictures, searching for balance and harmony in the pastel shapes.
Japan, discordant beauty
It was strange how the crowded jumble of the village behind them contrasted with the serenity of the surrounding countryside. The folds of land rolling in the distance, a small shrine beside the road, the darkness of a pine grove silhouetted against the fog drifting in from the hidden sea to the east, now pierced with the first gleams of the sun.
Oh, these spring days!
A nameless little mountain,
wrapped in morning haze!
— Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694)
And yet, here was a laneway, not a building in sight, just a square grey transformer box and a row of vending machines. They both pointed their cameras at the incongruity, the hard forms lit from within, the colourful logos, the lines of bottles and cans, and beyond the machines nothing but nature in soft greens and dreamy pink sky.
“Coffee…” sighed Carrie. Even a self-heating can of Boss Black would be good.
“Later,” Richard said, gazing around for his next target. “Look, the trees…”
The small forest was drawing their eyes. Carrie could see the photograph now. Something for a tourist brochure, a calendar, maybe. If she got everything just right, a shot at Landscape of the Year award.
They trudged up the road, the slope giving them a glimpse of the ocean, the pale disk of the sun a ghostly presence in the bank of sea fog.
The light was changing by the second as the sun rose higher, the tendrils of mist drifting through the trees, the moon now vanished behind the mountains.
“Look!” Carrie breathed. “See, in front of the fence?”
As we clear a hill
Three deer bodies fill the dark
Between trees, still, bent
— Calvin Olsen (2017)
Three deer lifted their heads, regarding the intruders with suspicion. Richard clicked off a few rapid shots and the deer moved forward. Any second, and they’d bolt.
Carrie pushed his lens down. “Just enjoy the moment, Ricky. You’ll spook them. Maybe we can get them closer.”
She clucked her tongue, holding out a hand as if it might have a treat in it. It had worked with the temple deer two days ago, maybe they would trot within range of her Leica.
Instead, the deer took fright and she sighed as they bounded away, their graceful forms lengthening as legs stretched and they soared away and over the fence.
Antlers folded in against their streamlined necks, thin wings extended from their flanks, rockets burst into roaring flamestreaks as they shot out over the ocean. Three contrails against the pale blue sky.
Richard stood gaping, his camera aimed at the ground. He had missed the shot of a lifetime. Carrie jingled a few yen coins in her pocket. “Buy you a can of coffee, dear?”