As I lay soaking
in the tub this morning getting ready to go to uni for the start of
a new year, I realized how lucky I am to have a job that I absolutely
adore. The holidays are also a wonderful part of being a teacher,
but too much unstructured time makes Brenty a dull boy. Especially
this spring break... For days and weeks after the quake, I did nothing.
I couldn't concentrate. I didn't read, I didn't embroider, I didn't
study; I didn't do anything except stare into space and wait for the
next aftershock. My husband Shun (rhymes with "moon") and
I still aren't sleeping well, but at least we have a roof over our
heads and someone to sleep with. Occasionally, I would watch the quake/tsunami
videos over and over again for hours at a time. That was it, though.
Suddenly the cats would be meowing for their dinner, and I'd realize
that another entire day had slipped by. Waste...
The spring season
this year is especially poignant, because the
cherry blossoms, which symbolize the beauty yet shortness of life,
arrived shortly after the twin disasters. Every year, millions of
people across the country spread out picnic sheets under the glorious
pink and white trees, and drink and sing and eat for all hours of
the day. Not this year. There was a "debate" as to whether
or not to have "hanami" (cherry-blossom-viewing parties)
at all. But he editorial from Monday's Japan Times said, "Now
more than ever, hanami can offer strength, insight and comfort to
a nation grieving over its worst tragedy since World War II. Hanami
is one of the symbols at the heart of the Japanese culture. The annual
spring rite has always helped to throw off the winter blues and let
people get away from their stifling routines."
I can't stop thinking
about all those people who were going about their daily routines on
March 11th, but at 2:46 p.m., within seconds, or minutes or an hour,
their lives were over. Finished. Forever. My friend Satoko lives in
Tokyo, but is from Kamaishi, one of the cities wiped off the map.
I mailed her to see if her family was alright and she mailed back
that she was watching the news and watching her hometown get obliterated
by one of the tsunamis. It was five days before she found out that
her sister, brother-in-law and two little nephews were alive. The
tsunami washed everything up to within two houses of their home. Walking
back to the station after school today with a British colleague, he
told me that his wife's aunt's body was only recently recovered still
in her car. She had apparently been trying to outrun one of the monsters
Time is just as
valuable a commodity as water. Don't waste it. Tell a loved one that
you love them. Call a family member you haven't spoken to in a while.
Do something special for your partner/spouse/ child/friend. Smile
at a stranger; it might be the best thing that happens to them that
day. Do something you've always wanted to do.
Don't put off taking a family trip. Don't go to bed angry with someone
in your family; you, or they, might not wake up the next morning.
One of the saddest stories I remember from 9/11 (one of thousands),
was a widow saying that on that horrible morning she and her husband
had had a fight and didn't say, "I love you" when he left.
He didn't come home. In the spring of 1941, Alison's and my grandmother
kissed her husband goodbye and sent him off to war. In May of 1941,
Grannie was suddenly a 24-year-old widow with two little girls (our
mothers). Send your parents or grandparents a card. Shop for someone
who is housebound. Volunteer. Visit a nursing home and make new friends.
Limit the time your children play with their electronic gadgets and
computers. Spend an hour a night playing board games, or cards with
your spouse and children. Take turns reading aloud to each other.
Play charades or Twister! Little kids LOVE watching their parents
play Twister!!! Act silly. Throw a costume party. Turn off the lights,
light some candles, turn on the stereo and slow dance with someone
you love. Get rid of the television! Shun and I don't have one, and
when it died two years ago, it was the best thing that could have
happened. We would waste HOURS just sitting there glued to the set.
For decades my mother wouldn't allow a TV at the cottage. After dinner
we'd go out in the boat or the canoe, or maybe play Scrabble or four-handed
Lie on the dock and look for shooting stars. Toast arshmallows.
Hook rugs. Read. Just BE together. Don't waste your time or any chances
that come your way! You might not be here in a second or a few minutes,
or an hour...
finished with, "Hanami has always been a reset button for people's
mental attitude and emotional outlook. Now, it can serve as another
step toward finding the inner strength and positive attitude needed
for Japan's recovery. Meditating on the brevity of live and reassessing
the beauty of each passing moment is not such a bad offering for those
who have no way to see the blossoms this year."