Harvesting Shadows

They say the mountains in this land are so numerous that the smallest of them have no names.  This is not true; it is just that mountains are circumspect about the people they tell their names to.

On one of these mountains, where snow lies in wing-shaped drifts beneath the sweet pines, there is a temple.  Its timbers are painted with the emblems of lantern and candle, sun and moon.  Most importantly, it has windows open wide, so that whatever light travels through the pines can find its welcome there.

The priests of this temple are diligent in their worship, which centers around harvesting shadows.  Nothing escapes their notice: the shadows of tumbling tiger cubs, the shadows of the great boulders that record the passing seasons on their faces, the shadows of fallen azaleas.  The shadows of discarded straw sandals.  Lost celadon pendants grown over with moss.  Mismatched chopsticks worked into magpies’ nests.

It is a common misconception that the temple serves some god of dark places, as even mountains have their roots in the earth’s hidden halls, or perhaps the queen of dead things.  But the truth is simpler than that.  The dead have no need of shadows.  It is the living who require them to remember the importance of sunlight and moonlight and heartlight.

for chomiji