Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nature's Paradox

Three weeks ago the late winter sun splashed its brilliance across the Kanazawa sky. I walked home extra slow that day.

Two weeks ago I opened my curtains to let in the morning, and a white heron skirted past my window. It left me breathless.

One week ago a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Tohoku region of Japan. Shortly afterwards, tsunami waves over 20 meters in height hurled themselves onto the land. Shock turned to fear. Fear turned to sadness. Sadness turned to compassion.

Yesterday morning a swallow followed me to work, dancing to the rhythm of its tweets. I gave myself permission to smile.

I’m confounded by the paradox of nature—simultaneously playful and dangerous, continually giving and taking life.

Today the air smells of melted snow and new earth. Spring has come. The weight of wool clothes and whipping winds has lifted. I'm liberated.

I'm also chained. 
Chained to the news. Every day the death toll rises. Every day more people are displaced.

For Japan, spring has ushered in new shoots and the promise of pink, but these gifts of nature cannot easily be received in customary celebration.

“I’m sending food to my family in Yokohama.”
“My friend in Chiba is trying to leave, but the trains are full. She’ll have to wait another week. She has a baby, so she’s worried about radiation.”
“I feel guilty hoarding canned food and bottled water, but I’m afraid.”
“I’m angry at the government.”
“The Japanese media is hiding the truth.”
“The situation isn’t getting any worse.”
“Do you want to go back to your country?”
“I’m thankful for the help of the US military.”
“Will people stop buying Japanese goods because they are worried about contamination?”
“I’m moved by the generosity and humanitarian efforts put forth by so many people to help Japan.”
“We will rebuild.”

*            *            *

Cherry blossom buds continue to stretch and grow.
Soil is turned inside out.
The cycle of the seasons.
An old woman hobbles past kids playing ball in the street.
The cycle of a generation.

I inhale everything and sweep my arms up to the sky. I exhale everything and bend forward. Elongate my spine. Hinge and fold. Step back into downward dog.

More than ever I use my yoga to cultivate peace and radiate compassion.

When I give to Japan, I’m also thanking Japan for its many gifts to me.

*            *            *

If you want to help Japan with relief efforts, please visit these links:


  1. This is a beautiful post, Brenna. I've just found your blog - this is Charlie from the Writing Center at USC - and I'm glad I did.

    I know everyone has said this already, but since I've just found out you're in Japan, I'll add to the chorus of people who are glad you're safe.

  2. Brenna that, too, was beautiful. You are starting to sound a little like a poet named T. Roethke. You might give him a look. He used plants as his principle motif.

  3. This is truly lovely Brenna, as has been said. In Jivamukti yoga here in the city we are routinely devoting our classes to the people in Japan, and one teacher in particular, Satyavira, has really done an amazing job of bringing attention to what we can do to help. Thank you for this reminder of how we can and should continue to help.

  4. Beautiful post. The Japanese people are truly remarkable. It comes through even in the media we see here and we can learn a lot from them. I'm impressed with their strength and composure, and your personal response to it all.

  5. It seems your soil too has turned in side out, while you have been letting in the mornings rather then the sun through your curtains.
    You have been painting with words and then have this art of outlining it with a one liner.
    I am enjoying your blogs,though I have never read any other.
    About the Yin and Yang that nature is playing out on the Japanese soil,I must admit that the world is taking notice about the orderlyness, patience and compassion that the people are displaying.
    Had this been in any other country there would have been anarchy, looting and lawlessness.

  6. Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments and words of encouragement. This blog posting only captures a fraction of what I feel right now in Japan. The emotional ups and downs are difficult to express in words. But it makes me so happy to know that perhaps something I said had an influence on you or inspired you to hold Japan in your thoughts. Love and peace to you all.

  7. Brenna, you have captured and expounded beautifully on our e-conversation, with your on-the-ground and from-the-heart perspective. With your permission, I would be honored to share this at home with those who are gathering to support the Japanese community.
    Much love,

  8. Gina,

    I would be honored if you shared this blog posting. Thank you for the inspiration and for your efforts to support Japan!


  9. Dear Brenna,
    Times like these demand the soul of a poet to express them; you are doing a fantastic job! I especially love the way you put it about using yoga for maintaining your personal peace while radiating compassion. To me, this is Highest Spiritual Truth summed up in fewer words than a Haiku.

  10. Janet, your words of encouragement mean so much to me! I am happy that I could touch you with my writing. Thanks for reading my blog and for keeping Japan in your heart.