heart and makes it ache with sorrow. Solitude is the ally of sorrow as
well as a companion of spiritual exaltation."
Her name was Luz, but those closest to her called her Luna, so named by her grandfather who said she was the child of the moon. As an infant she had never cried, and from the time she could walk she would unlatch the door at night and wander outside by herself under the stars.
Her grandfather, Daijiro, a Japanese, who had been a fisherman before the war had emerged from the thick jungles of Palaui island, in the Phillipines in 1948, two and a half years after the war had ended. Returning to his homeland to find it devastated, he was treated as something of an odd curiosity and a folk hero. One of the last to surrender. Hounded by media as well as various Japanese and foreign agencies he fled, to Chile.
Nobody knows what he was doing in the jungle all alone. His uniform in tatters, but his rifle oiled and in proper working order, his bayonet without a trace of rust, his Guntō cerimonial Katana as razor sharp as the day it was forged by the bladesmith in Toyokawa.
The general rumour was that he was guarding a cave filled with gold that the Japanese had looted from mosques and buddhist temples throughout South east Asia. He had been left there, then in the culminating throes of the war as the United States unleashed the catastrophic power of the atom he had simply been forgotten about.
Unable to live peacefully and after an assault and interrogation about the gold as the sole guardian of the knowledge of the caves whereabouts he chose to vanish. He took a ship to San Francisco, working for his passage on a trawler he arrived in Concepcion. Then taking the summer of 1953 to walk the 600 kilometres to Puerto Montt.
In Chile he found a new life, in the southern fishing port which reminded him so much of his home before the war. He settled down and found a wife, Vanessa. The beautiful only child of a local fisherman and musician. A few years later they had a daughter, Isidora, Luna’s mother. Then at the end of the winter of 73’ in the midst of the junta, Vanessa’s father had been ‘disappeared’. Fearing for his Family Daijiro fled again, on foot across the Andes with his wife and young daughter.
That preceding winter had been a particularly harsh one, a thick blanked of snow lay in valley that would normally by now have melted and flowed into the manso and out into the Pacific. They made their way up the valleys from Cochamo towards Argentina. Daijiro did his best to keep them going, but sometime in the early hours of the 5th night, Vanessa succumbed to the cold and died. Daijiro carried her lifeless body two more days with Isidora in tow until they reached Puelo. Broken hearted he went no farther, and settled to raise Isidora in this peaceful valley within sight of Chile.
Luna first told me this story not long after we first met at a festival here in Puelo. A story so much stranger than fiction you couldn’t invent it if you tried. The summer had long gone, autumn too was ending, the hops had been harvested, these fertile valleys the largest hops producing reigon in the southern hemisphere, gave rise to countless artisanal breweries. Culminating in a harvest festival as the roan coloured leaves begin to fall from the trees with the onset of winter.
Winter. That season that knows your name, your greyness reflected in her shallow sky when nothing grows. You wait for the spring sun to rise above the ivy wall and penetrate your seasonal sloom, to awaken thoughts of lust and sow the seeds of want in your heart, to shake a foggy dew of depression from your otherwise joyous soul. The season of solitude. The season for lovers to wake from their gilded slumbers and pay the cost of borrowed passions. The burnt yellow sounds of summer giving way to that most beautiful of seasons, autumn, then that too subsides to the crisp cold black and white quietude of winter, as the arcane memories of past loves dance flippant in the wind.
The school gym in Puelo had been converted into what resembled a german beer hall. Stalls around the the walls, offering a degustation of the finest beer in all of South America. To say that I was in heaven is an understatement. The centre of the hall became a sort of arena, occasionally troops of musicians and groups of dancers would perform. I noticed the face of one of the dancers unlike those of everyone else in the room, not Mapuche, not Argentine, just different.
She danced a traditional Argentine folk dance, after several of which, the couples broke off to accost victims of the opposite sex up onto the dance floor for a quick lesson in embarrassment. She had grabbed my hand and refused my protestations that I didn’t know how to dance. everyone thought it was hilarious, afterwards she linked my arm and walked me to one of the stalls to buy me a beer for being such a good sport.
“Your not Argentine are you?”, ‘claro!’ I replied. We spent the evening walking around the stalls talking, sharing our story’s with one another. She invited me to lunch the following day, where I met Isidora and learned more from her about her father, Daijiro. Though Luna knew little japanese, Isidora was fluent, Daijiro teaching her since she was a child and we found it a more amenable language to chat. Though my japanese is limited (teaching myself while convalescing after my motorbike accident in 1998) its a little better than my spanish at the moment, or so Isidora jested. In truth it was a melengé of Japespanglish. She showed me paper cuttings and photocopies of microfiche prints documenting her fathers life, his celebrity in Japan after the war, even his obituary printed in a local a newspaper in 1945 when he failed to return. These Daijiro had kept when he fled to Chile along with one other item. After we had eaten, Luna took me by the hand and led me into Daijiro’s old room. He passed away only in 2009 at the age of 93. Taking out a long wooden box and placing it on the bed she opened it. Inside was Daijiro’s katana. I would never have believed it had I not seen it with my own two eyes. A second world war Guntō, right here in Lago Puelo. It brought the startling reality of war, of Luna’s family’s story to reality. The blade unspoiled by use. Daijiro had never used it in acrimony. But it was the only thing he had from before Japan changed forever. I guess for him it was a symbol of the old Japan, a country he barely recognised on his return.
Luna would come to visit me several times over the next few weeks.
When I wasn’t working with Gustavo or up in the hills by myself, she would come with me and Faluche the dog to the river, or to the weekend market in El Bolson. One afternoon I came down from the mountain to find her waiting for me at Crux.
“What do you do all day up there on that mountain?”
I told her that when I was here in summer Ed and I would walk up there occasionally. There was the ruined foundations of an old hut about a 2 hour hike up the trail. I’ve been spending my spare time kind of rebuilding it. ‘Really?’ ‘sure’ I said. ‘Take me to see it will you?’ ‘When it’s finished, theres no roof only an old canvas tarp to keep the snow out’, ‘You know you can see al the way to Chile from up there’, ‘ I don’t believe you.’
A week later we hit the trail, It was a little slow going, taking us three hours to get to the ramshackled hut. A little farther on there was a mirador.
‘See, I told you’ I pointed my finger out across the Lake towards the isthmus with lago inferior nestled between snowcapped peaks a mere 8 kilometres away. ‘Thats Chile’
She sat for a while in a sort of stunned silence. Though she lived a stones throw away she had never been to Chile, never been up this trail to witness the glorious splendour of the Andes from up high. The sun was going down, painting everything with pastel shades from winters sombre palate. Pale pink clouds sailing across a yellow sky. I sit beside her. She takes my hand and looks into my eyes. She is crying. For the first time in her life she’s looking into the homeland of her grandmother. Down along the valley where she lost her life, the valley where her grandfather Daijiro carried the woman he had so loved only to bury her in an unfamiliar land. So he could be near to her.
‘Gracias’ she says.
I have no response, her eyes are like that of a muse from an Audrey Kawasaki painting. Dark pools, nothing can escape them not even light. Im transfixed by the child of the moon.
“When the winter ends, will you take me to Chile?”..................