Wednesday, November 22, 2006


THE PROMISE OF THE ROAD


Today before our walk we went to buy our eggs at our egg-buying place, a farm up in the foothills north of here where they give the chickens fresh well water and natural food and the shells are strong, the yolks are golden, the eggs are reasonably priced and the chickens are so happy they laugh all day. They only stop laughing to lay eggs.

While we were there (the monkeys had just been through and the persimmons were lying in bright orange chunks all over the ground, I'm not the only one who has monkey trouble) we decided to take our walk up toward the mountains along the tree-tunneled road golden and red with the glow of the leaves from the sun shining through. We had never walked that road before, and new roads are the stuff of promises.

We saw some pretty fancy but unattended old graves way in the woods as we went up the road, and no houses anywhere along it, just forest. After a time, as it began to get cloudy we came to a long - and in places high - stone wall on the left, with nothing visible atop it, just the sound of water. I climbed to the top and saw a vast pavement of stones, large stones, some of them as large as a car, an arrangement of stones unlike anything I had ever seen before, just a long platform expanse of stones laid out in no particular design, right in the middle of the forest. It wasn't a foundation, but had been carefully made, the naturally shaped stones arranged to fit together but not tightly, and without cement, so it was old, but it was clearly not an aesthetic endeavor, so what was it?

There was a waterfall off in the forest beyond, and a small manmade self-contained pond just above it, that was clearly now used to collect and direct water for use lower down, but that had nothing to do with the stone structure. Out in the middle of the stony expanse was a wooden sign, painted in the old style, with a writing brush in sumi ink. We walked out to it.

The sign said (rough translation) that this arrangement of stones had been built in 1852 after an unusually long and heavy rain had caused a landslide from the mountain above us, that had killed many in the village below. (It was a landslide dam!) To build this wall , thousands of local people worked for 5 years and 8 months. Male workers received 10 cups of rice per day, female workers received 5 cups of rice per day.

And there it stood, just as it had been built using nothing but human and animal power in the middle of otherwise nowhere, a sort of historic edifice to tragedy, collective endeavor and sexual inequality on an untraveled byway, no signs pointing to the structure, you just have to find it by chance like we did, and there hasn't been a single landslide since they built it, over 150 years ago. So in a way, it really worked.

And that road sure kept its promise.

3 comments:

Maya's Granny said...

Isn't it amazing, the effort that human beings go to for mutual benefit? And the totally unthinking assumption that men are worth twice as much as women?

Robert Brady said...

The amazing thing is that the women assumed it too, after doing stuff like this!!

Trace said...

Very interesting story Robert; as always, I very much enjoy reading about your life's adventure where you live...