Japan Field Notes PT. 5

The joy of kids is everything. Life for them is play. At the park, at sundown, a man in a button down has his shoulder bag across his body. He’s sprinting across the grass from his daughter, lost in play.

That makes me happy. I often catch glimpses of humans embodying that childlike spirit, parents acting out the curious wonder of their kids. Maybe it’s for the kids. I think it’s really for us.

It makes us come alive, truly come alive, to see the world through childlike eyes.

You can’t tell me that’s not why we’re on this earth.

What if everything is exactly as it’s meant to be right now? The worry and the fear that you’re not doing enough in the five minutes as you’re heading from A to B — imagine that it doesn’t make a real difference what you did in that time.

Because the person who you are — reflected not necessarily in the transient choices that you make, but in the way you live your life — will take you where you’re meant to go. It isn’t your choices, but the way your soul radiates.

That’s hard to see when you’re caught up in the minutiae of daily living. And that minutiae often takes up 90 percent of your mental capacity instead of 10 percent.

That 10 percent of genuine thought, reflected in moments like this, considering this paradox, means everything. The bottom line: don’t worry.

Our time on earth is short. You’re doing your best, right? So enjoy the ride.

The red bridge reflects hazily on the surface of the pond, vacillating in the gentle rain like a radio signal. Why is red a prominent color in Japan?

To ward off spirits; a symbol of protection, strength; but what is red? A stark contrast against the earthy colors. A torii gate catches my eye like a fire in the woods.

Growing up, my older brother Duke and I would choose a character from the shows we watched, and that was our character. Duke always chose first, obviously, and he always chose the red character.

Colors make you feel a certain way; the red characters always had an edge to them like a blade.

Colors are more than just the way things look. Colors are memories and emotions, beauty and substance; colors give the world meaning, for I watch the quivering bridge reflected in the water and I think of an identity, a place, a story.

I look up at the bridge, arched over the dark green pond, bare against a cold, steel world, and my upbringing falls like rain into the present.

My story and interest in essence and color has brought me here to Japan and to this pond and to this point in time.

Colors serve as a bridge from my past. On this bridge of identity, I may journey joyfully forward.

What if you gave everything to the task at hand?

What if I could be the best that I could possibly be while being a teacher in Japan? Because it doesn’t matter what the job is. It matters who you are.

Show that you care, no matter what you’re doing.

Yesterday, while walking around my neighborhood at dusk, I smelled the nostalgic scent of burning wood. I inhaled deeply as thoughts flooding me.

Summer’s here, I thought. But the smell, as much as it makes me think of bonfires on the beach, also brings to mind the winter, the fireplace, family.

I considered how much I love the seasons, how each one holds its own sort of meaning; I’m excited for the summer. It always brings good things, and I feel I’m in a good place, on solid ground.

Seasons mean change, and life is flowing.

It’s pouring rain at the gym. Few things make me happier than locking it in here when the world feels abnormal. I’ll never stop man. This is only the beginning.

This man taps me on the train, asks if I speak English. We start talking for a few minutes. He says he was in the army, and they provided Japanese lessons but he figured the way to actually learn was to move here.

That was over thirty years ago. Then he steps off the train and I continue. I’m left actually wanting to know more.

What if everybody — everybody — has something to teach us?

Act as if everybody does, because in some way, they do.

Walking behind a couple of kids in the station. They have white button downs with their sleeves rolled up in the heat; baggy black slacks, big school bags over their shoulders with dangling keychains.

Ah, to be a kid.

We always have our problems, but life seemed simpler back then. Girls don’t take you seriously, and that’s okay because you don’t really care.

You don’t know who you really are. You’re reacting to life. I just wanted to play video games at that age.

One kid threw his arm over the other; I smiled.

If you’re lucky you have a friend to throw your arm around. The girls don’t matter (or whoever you’re into).

Your troubles don’t matter. A friend — that arm around the shoulder as you stumble through your childhood — means more than anything else.

Picking up pizza from an Italian spot near my house. It’s a stormy night. Thunder booms, low and near, as I wait for my order. The waiter’s Italian and is fluent in Japanese.

I want to know why he’s here; every time I’ve wondered.

As I wait to pay, I ask where he’s from. He smiles. Roma. Moved here for his wife who’s Japanese. He’s lived all over Japan.

Think he respected me asking. Brought me a water while I wait, smiling. Damn, he’s suave. Italian, Japanese, lethal combo. That’s my dude.

On my way home, I say waddup to the huge fella who works at the 711 where I get my coffee in the mornings. He’s out front of a different 711. I’ve seen him around the neighborhood. His laugh cracks me up.

I often say good evening, konbanwa, to the dog store owner near my house, as well as good morning ohayogozaimasu to the cheerful elderly woman who runs the corner grocery store. She says itterasshai as I walk to work, which is like see you later, to which I respond ittekimasu, I’ll be back safely!

Characters of my community, and I’m one of them.

Laying on a bench in a park on a Sunday, looking up at translucent green leaves fluttering in a rush of wind.

Green — the color of life. And life’s all around me — birds and families and the sweat rolling down my face which tells me I’m alive. There’s the sound of a crowd cheering in the distance. I don’t know what for.

The ornate slanted roof looks striking against the blue sky, and I can’t believe how blue it is. Is the sky really that blue? Brilliant blue. Vast with wisps of clouds, but in the emptiness just bright, clear, blue.

It’s a summer day and the sun feels good. I’m dripping in sweat and it’s what I need, for I’m alive and I need to feel it. And life is good. There’s a blue sky, expanding endlessly above us. If only we can grasp that, without the rest of life getting in the way.

A little kid, probably two years old, runs over to me and points into the tree. I hear you kiddo. I don’t know what the trees are telling me either.

He’s holding a net which he dragged over; it’s about three times his size. Other kids with nets are catching the cicadas in the trees. The little kid puts his head inside the net and his mom tells him not to. Possibly the cutest kid I’ve ever seen.

Butterflies flutter through the sun drenched streets and I pass interesting homes I’ve never seen and neighborhood restaurants with animated patrons eating. The sun is up. It’s warm; golden.

I thought that life escaped me. I guess that’s the feeling of losing our grip on ourselves, the progress we’ve made; but I haven’t lost anything. If anything I’ve gained. I can see again.

The wide open sky, bright and blue, the grass and trees and weeds; if anything I’ve gained; how does the poet see?

Blades of grass in the curls of each letter, my head down low amongst it; life, brilliance in the shadows of the paper — the world speaks through the words I pen.

What’s it say? Slow down, kid. Kick off your shoes and stay a while.

Chill out and do you. You’re gonna be fine.

Alone on a blanket in Tennoji park. A crisp, hot, blue Sunday. 4:39 pm. Life can feel like a goddam roller coaster. That means I’m in it. Battling. Grappling. Striving. Learning in my striving, gaining incremental wisdom as I implement my flawed plan.

The pen in my hand, images and shadows and light and smiles pour through my open heart and find their place in ink, distilled in the image of love, forever, no matter how I hurt or feel.

The ink distills my effort to understand not just what I see but what I feel, or else these notions leave, remaining as much of a mystery as when enacted.

I can’t conceive of how the sky’s so blue. Endlessly flowing love as the infinite. That’s all it can conceivably be, and I try my best to recognize that, as challenging as it feels at times.

The infinite is that which guides our lives. It’s gotta be. I’m lost without days like today — where everything evaporates into sense once again — lost amongst what could never make sense, the grass beneath my feat and crisp, fading daylight.

I’m not doing this, any of it, for any reason but to perceive that. A simple day beneath the sky is all that really matters. People and love. Dirt beneath my toes. The falling sun, leaving, life and lights and summer, and a feeling that it’ll all be okay. No matter what.

It’s pouring rain. Lightning flashes on the train heading home from work. Rain splatters the windows. My reflection looks back at me in the glass.

I walk through the rain, drenched, dancing beneath lightning and booming thunder. I dry myself off and sit in bed, listening to the steady rain as lightning flashes through the window. A lot on my mind, I’ve been reflecting on what I want and who I am.

Been trying this meditation of just sitting with my eyes closed in the morning letting my thoughts run around. Not trying to suppress or focus, just allowing them. And it feels cleansing.

I feel at peace, listening to the steady rain. I have it all within me. The lightning strikes, and I wait for the boom of thunder. Odd. It never comes.

Japan Field Notes PT. 4

Japan Field Notes PT. 3

Japan Field Notes PT. 2

Japan Field Notes PT. 1

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