Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Under the Ume

Is it crazy over there in Japan?
How are the Japanese people coping?
Are people scared? Anxious? Sad?
What’s the mood in Kanazawa?

*            *            *

Last weekend, I went to Kenroku-en Garden to see the plum blossoms, called ume blossoms. Ume blossoms pop before sakura, or cherry blossoms. They are one of the first signs of spring.


The flowers stay close to their branches, hardly altering the shape of the tree. 

The garden was alive with people marveling at the flowers, using macro lenses to capture their anatomical details. It was like going to see a rare Picasso exhibit on opening night.

Under the ume,
Couples cozied up on benches and stones.
Children danced.
Families picnicked.

A respect for renewal.
A sigh of relief at regeneration.
An appreciation of impermanence.

*            *            *

“So, what are you doing this weekend?” I ask before our lesson is over.
“I’m driving to Fukushima.”
Surprised, “Really?”
“Yes.” He bows his head and continues, “Driving truck of food and medical to shelter. My company give to Fukushima.”
Silence, but my heart weeps in awe at his generosity.
“The other day I talk to shelter person. Very difficult situation. Many old person.”
Worried, “What about the radiation warnings?”
“Japan is small country. We have to support each other. My name means protector. I live up to my name.” He bows his head again, glasses slipping off his nose.
Silence…and a hand over my chest.
It seems unreal that my heart with these exploding sensations can fit into a cavity called my chest.
Silence…because what I will say is better expressed with my eyes. But I say it anyway.
“You’re a very good person. I respect your decision.”
“Thank you.”
Two smiles. Four eyes. Two hearts. Two currents of breath spiraling around each other. I teach English, but in these moments, the body prefers to speak its own language.
Silence…and then a smile.
“April is happy time in Japan. Hanami, cherry blossom viewing. Will you see sakura with me when I get back?”
Immediately with a smile, “I’d be honored to.”

*            *            *

In less than one week, the cherry blossoms will bloom in Kanazawa.
People will eat and drink and laugh together under the trees.
They’ll walk their dogs on paths of pink petals.
The wind will continue its inhales and exhales, tossing old flowers this way and that, making way for new shoots.