The rain has begun. I don’t mean the little spring showers of Idaho. I mean the rains of Japan’s rainy season. At times it is like God is dumping a bucket, other times He’s turned on a sprinkler. I recently learned the Scott’s say “its pishing rain” which also describes accurately a type of rain I will experience today. At the end of such a day, everything is soggy, even the concrete. Escaping the sogginess of my apartment I sit on my balcony, people watching. Students ride by, heavy book bags glistening. Some skillfully hold an umbrella AND their phones. Usually you hear chatting or sometimes even singing, not today. Heads down, their backs arched against the elements peddling as fast as they can, homeward. (Actually they are probably headed to cram school. Sigh.) The boys are sleek, one with the bike. The girls all wear pleated skirts so their driving is erratic because on top of everything else, they have to contend with a billowing skirt. Homemakers scurry by hunching to make sure everything is under their umbrella. Produce sticks out of their canvas bags and I long to be at their table.
I soak up the details of my surroundings. The cherry trees across the way are green, their pink blossoms a memory. I have recently discovered that the fragrant trees with the clustering white flowers are the Black Locust. Its blooms have also disintegrated. There is every hue of green lining the river. Voluptuous spiraea fill the space between these buxom beings. Blue brown river water rushes by headed to the bay. The grey herons’ flying the opposite direction are easily seen, white feathers aglow against the stormy sky. They hurry to their roosts high in the grove of trees in the fork of the river up stream.
We return to Idaho on September 3, 2017. Three years and a day from the day we left. Leaving this home is incommensurate to leaving my Idaho home. My numbered days focus me. The days leading up to our departure were a blur. I was numb. Now is the opposite. I am soaking in everything I can. And just as I nested right before each of my babies came, I am doing the opposite. I am clearing away.
A strange thing is happening as I read the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo, I am shedding obligations and relationships that don’t click. As a person who takes people and responsibilities seriously, this is not easy. For example, in January when I looked at my schedule I realized a conflict. There was not enough Thursday to travel, attend cooking class, ikebana class, and teach two classes of conversational English. I asked around to see if any native speakers wanted to pick up my classes. Nothing. So like a tiny piece of sand in my sneaker, I carried this worry to Idaho and back. And while I showed my friend around this beautiful city, it gnawed at me.
And then it grew into a stone. My worry fed it until its weight became unbearable. The first morning of Golden Week, I lay in bed listening to my soundly sleeping husband. We had changed plans at the last minute. With this weight I knew I could not face the crowded, expectation loaded, Iwakuni Antique Fair. Although I have waited all year for this treasure hunting, I knew I could not do it. I could carry this stone in the wide-open fields of tulips in Sera. Even breathing in my bed, it grew heavier. Until I realized I was barely breathing. And so I did. I took deep breaths. I could feel my lungs struggle for space. With each struggling breath my heart wrestled the stone of my mind. Was I, solely, responsible for finding a teacher? And then the stone slipped off my back. Just. Like. That. I was not solely responsible.
We head north to an area in the prefecture that hosts fields of flowers and orchards. The sun is shiny and the sky big and blue. Rich immediately pulls out his camera and gets busy. To my surprise, he really gets into photographing the tulips. Or more accurately capturing people in the tulips. We take our time and soak in the day.
Then off we go downtown. It is time to switch the all weather tires for regular tires. This will be our third time and how much we have learned is apparent to everyone including ourselves. Rich doesn’t even use the navi to find the tire center from entering the city in a different way. To cap the day we head to our favorite watering hole Bistro 45. The first year here we visited it every weekend. Our lives are full now and have not been for a while.
We walk through the Peace Park. It is getting ready for the flower festival. All seems familiar. This is our home. We don’t look at a map or use the translator. We stop to watch the workman construct the band shell, each sounding out the katakana characters. We notice there are lots of foreigners walking around. It’s funny that we think of them as foreign.
These were taken the last night of the festival a few days later.
Our old friend Arita is not cooking, but Hosokawa san is. There is new wait staff. They don’t know us, another tale-tell sign that we have not been around. We order what we always do-chicken skewers with wasabi. We people watch and reminisce. Our most precious memory is the first time we brought our sons here Christmas 2014. We were so happy to see them and they were so excited to be in Japan. As we chat, a young woman across the bar keeps catching my eye. She is Caucasian and talking with a Japanese man. There is this weird thing that happens here in Japan. Lots of foreigners will not acknowledge your presence. They won’t smile or make eye contact. But this woman did. Not only did she smile back, but before we know it she is walking over to us.
“Hi, I’m Jade, are you American?” she says in a lovely Australian accent. “I just had to come over and introduce myself.”
I am so surprised. I am used to friendly Japanese strangers, but not friendly foreigners from the West. We easily swap stories of how and why we are here. Rich asks her what she does. “I teach conversational English at the university.”
My mouth drops. “Get Out!” I shout. (I had had a couple of glasses of sparkling wine.) She looks at me with her big eyes through these crazy thick, dark rimmed glasses.
“Would you be interested in two conversational English classes that have to be taught on a Thursday?” I ask, holding my breath.
“Sure” she says enthusiastically, “Thursdays are my only day off!”
“Whether you believe in God or not, you are an answer to a prayer!” I whisper, wanting to hug her. “Can I buy you a drink?!”
There is magic in tidying up. You just can’t do it alone.