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A Very Big Walking Website

Ridgeline Transmission 068


Walk-at-homers —

My week has been going something like this: Definitely going to launch on Monday. OK, definitely launching on Tuesday. OK, OK, OK — DEFINITELY LAUNCHING ON WEDNESDAY. Time in Japan has now ticked over into the baby hours of Thursday. Close enough — time to launch.

This is the Ridgeline newsletter, and I’m Craig Mod, and I’m very excited / delighted / nervous to present to you a 15,000 word website about walking a costal pilgrimage route in Japan:

Ise-ji: Walk With Me

This is absurd, I know. A 15,000 word website about a walk. There is no sense to this, do not look for any. Please revel in its senselessness.

As I wrote last week, my hope is for this site to serve as a point on our out-of-doors horizon, something to consider plopping in the calendar, bookmarking, a future dare. It’s very long, very geeky, but I hope it provides a nice little escape from our current day-to-day.

This is the first so-called “Explorers Club Special Project” — that is, an object (book / website / et cetera) completely funded and inspired and aided by my membership program. In fact, roughly 15 hours of the production on the site happened over members-only livestreams. Needless to say, I grossly underestimated the amount of time and energy required to produce a 15,000 word website, whittle down thousands of photos, and build out/implement the technical aspects of a high-resolution image gallery. But the good news is: It’s done, and it’s live, and I now have a template for future endeavors like this.

My ask to you all: If Ise-ji: Walk With Me delights you, please share it with a friend. And if you find a spelling or factual mistake — invariably there will be many — please ping me@craigmod.com.

As for this week’s Ridgline, here’s the intro from the website:

Allow me to share what I love about a good walk in Japan: I love the small villages, coming across a rusted and worn down kissa, still open, improbably, sipping a ¥200 cup of the dankest coffee around, listening to an 80 year old mama relay debauched stories of love lost over a slice of pizza toast. I love those Japan-walking clichés, the moments in the forest, alone, uguisu birdsong above, winds shifting the bamboo treetops like a Ghibli film loop, stopping to catch my breath next to a grave marking the spot where a loyal horse conked out two hundred years ago. I love coming across the remnants of teahouses at mountain passes, foundation stones blocking off volume for the mind to fill in. I love cutting through rice fields, greeting suspicious farmers in all their various stages of planting or prepping or harvesting depending on season, photographing their weather-gouged faces, dubious dentistry, the clockwork movements of steam-punk planters dropping seedlings into the shallow ponds of their fields. I love walking past an abandoned and roofless forest shrine in May, returning in December only to find it glowing with fresh hinoki wood — Whoa, someone still cares. And I love the plainness of life on display: The bedsheets and museum-grade underwear drying in the sun, cars washed before jagged mountain backdrops, the maintenance on homes, plaster walls, kayabuki thatched roofs, the squat pulling of weeds from moss gardens. I love all these seemingly insignificant details, but details that, en masse, form the fullness of a time and place, both in the historical aggregate and of that very moment in which you’re stepping. It’s a helluva thing, the gift of walking the world.

Until next week,

Fellow Walkers

“In England’s rural south; a fortunate and pleasant youth spent exploring the countryside, the chalky soil rich with stories, paths, and trees that reach back through time. Now in London; it’s a nice paradox to enjoy the city whilst simultaneously trying to escape it - each state gives context to the other. A good life overall I think.”

“I wasn’t so much of being torn, but rather, I was spat from the shell. Growing up in a concrete jungle, I was still sore from the fact that I’d never climbed a tree in my life. Trees around me were public properties and out of reach. That, together with the apparent and sublime incongruities with the environment I grew up in, convinced me that home might just be a fairytale. The psyche of a lost childhood propels me to walk with my shell to find a home now. And I’ll walk rather than ride ‘cos I’ve more confidence in my legs bringing me to my next destination.”

(“Fellow Walkers” are short bios of the other folks subscribed to this newsletter. In Ridgeline 001 I asked: “What shell were you torn from?” and got hundreds of responses. We’re working our way through them over the year. You’re an amazing, diverse crew. Grateful to be walking with you all. Feel free to send one in if you haven’t already.)


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