It’s just a little Shinto shrine: a strong woman could pick it up and carry it away. It sits in a niche in a wall on a nondescript corner of an alley in Kyoto that I pass by every morning, in an otherwise soulless neighborhood of the kind often seen around train stations in cities, especially that early in the day: monolithic apartment blocks, closed-up shops, empty streets. But there is always a flower in the vase, and sometimes when I’m zoning by in standard commuter zombie mode I’m all at once alive, awake amid the fragrance of a wonderful incense like an invisible cloud of god, and am immersed in the faith of another, in the simple but beautiful and sharing act of tending this humble shrine for the benison of all those passing by, who, without their ever saying so, are blessed by this reminder of the beauty that is everyhwere and always in the soul, as far as we may somehow seem to get from that beauty, and by the realization that simply passing through a cloud of god can awaken the god in ourselves, at least until we get to the office.
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