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Byodo-In, the Phoenix Temple

Byodo-In, the Phoenix Temple

When I first came to Oahu with Tawny in 2013 I was entirely at her mercy. This was her island. She was born and raised here, with family still living on the leeward side. I am a professional adventurer however and wanted to make sure that I left no stone upturned. I never expected to find a hidden location that Tawny had never even heard of.

 

 

Byodo-In Temple is a replica of the temple of the same name just outside of Kyoto, Japan. It was built in 1968 as a way to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. Byodo-In actually means, “Phoenix Temple.” This is delightful because the phoenix is a personal emblem of mine. I’ve worn a small phoenix pendent on a wrist cuff for the majority of my life.

The temple grounds are tucked at the base of the Ko’olau mountains. Curled like a tiger at the foot of the sheer cliffs this hidden sanctuary is a perfect spot for reflection or just to escape the chaos of Oahu. At the entrance to the temple there stands a massive bell, like a sentinel. You can pull back the large log hanging before it and ring the bell for good fortune.  Personally, my favorite part is to buy a little bag of koi food at the gift shop and feed the fish and birds. It is supposed to bring good karma, but it was is a sweet way to spend an hour in the heat of the day. The low peal of the bell pulses through the grounds, filling each corner with its music.

When Tawny and I stumbled into this little spot back then I didn’t know what an impact it would have on us. As Tawny stood in awe of the old growth bamboo forest that laps at the edge of the temple I snapped a shot of her.

Today, this shot is our touchstone for Oahu. It the line by which we measure our lives.

Tawny Clark at Byodo-In Temple on Oahu

Now, we come back to Byodo-In every time we return to Hawaii. That ends up working out to be around 2 to 3 times a year. Each time we take the same shot.

 

Tawny at Byodo-In Temple on O'ahu

This errant quest for something new has turned into a tradition all our own. Something from her island that we discovered. This last week we took our usual picture and it was markedly different. We have a new addition to our crew and a part of our story that is fully unwritten. Six months along, Tawny looks a little bit different now. The reality of us having a baby is starting to hit me like the clear ring of the bell at Byodo-In.

Tawny Clark at Byodo-In Temple on Oahu with baby

It is impossible for me now to not consider what traditions our little man will consider important. So many of the traditions and stories that my own parents gave me are navigation aides in my adult life. Every time I go on a hike in a cedar forest I take a piece of bark from the trees for protection, all because of ghost story my father made up when I was a child. I double honk my horn each time I drive away from a friend of family member’s home before a big trip because my mother always did on the family ranch. These little customs are part of the fabric of my life and are woven into the folklore of my existence. Soon they will be my son’s too. Will he come back to Oahu, years after Tawny and I are gone, and mark his life by the growth of the bamboo? What will he glean from us?

Some day my son will inherit my phoenix pendent, as well as the tradition of this temple. The symbolism is too thick not to savor.

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Travel is intrinsic to my life, and to Tawny’s life. It is who we are in so many ways. As we chart our next year I need to start considering the unforeseen echos that each journey will have on shaping the form of my kid, on the man to come. It’s a little heavier than just looking up cheap airfare, but wildly more exciting.

While I have no idea what is to come, I do know (with complete certainty) that I am excited for it. I am proud of this tradition. Whether it resonates with him or not, I am happy to give this little piece of us to him for his own story.

 

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


 

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

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