Many times I find that some unpleasant experience comes along that serves to kind of clear my senses kind of like wasabi clears my sinus.
Since Friday we had been tracking what could have been a very mean and nasty typhoon that was on course to bull-dose through our region. The Japan Meteorological Agency has a great weather website that’s useful for tracking storms. We were on it every three hours tracking typhoon Namtheon as it crawled towards our area. It was one of the slowest storms that I’ve ever seen. Like a little old lady riding a jitensha up here.
Almost two weeks ago a typhoon hit the Tokyo, Tohoku and Hokkaido areas causing chaos and widespread destruction. They are still reeling from that storm.
Since we have lived here we have had several storms but they all kind of fizzled upon approaching our area but, you never know. The terrible disasters that we lived through in Saipan have taught us that the best thing to do when a storm is approaching is- prepare. So, we did.
We put quite a lot of energy into preparing.
While we were hauling our potted plants indoors and storing everything else in the crawl space under the house I was thinking about the terrible storm that had just hit north of us. I recalled the photos I’d seen on internet-bridges washed out, houses under water, landslides….
I stood outside in the yard and looked lovingly at our old home. I appreciated all the wonderful memories it had given us these past five years and I wondered…would this be it? Would the wind come and tear the roof off of it and destroy everything inside?
I wondered if anyone else was thinking the same thing.
As we were trying to prepare the inside of our home by securing big trash-bags over our computers , plastic bagging books and packing important papers and documents in ziplocs, I remembered my ordinary day last Wednesday. The weather had been so nice that I decided to take a long walk over to Daiso and get some things for my grand kids.
I stopped by the local shrine just because I love the old buildings. Somewhere a mosquito coil was burning- filling the air with the scent of fading summer. Mingled together with the the scent of old wood I felt comforted because I’ve come to associate these smells with normalcy.
The semi have gone silent now and the only sounds were the ever present crows calling to each other from the old cedars towering above me.
I hung out at the shrine for a few minutes just enjoying the quiet. While I was up there I thought about the fact that I was very fortunate to be able to have these experiences.
Walking through town that day I was keenly observant of life going on around me.
People out tending their cottage gardens. Wash drying in the sun. A stray cat grooming itself on top of a stone wall.
I noticed that the sunflowers were drying. I wondered if people collected the seeds like we used to do back home when I was a kid.
Walking down the sidewalk it was evident that autumn was here. The shadows fell differently and autumn wildflowers were peeking out here and there between the clumps of now dried summer grasses.
I walked through several swarms of friendly red dragon flies that were hanging out near the river. Stopping for a moment I leaned over the rail to watch a bright blue one hovering over the water.
I lingered for a bit in front of one of my favorite houses on the block and noticed that the momiji was already turning color. How often I’ve wanted to walk right up to that gate and grab hold of it like a little kid, pressing my face against the wood slats to peer inside the garden.
I was startled out of my daydreaming by drums and what sounded like three-hundred kids shouting. Just up the road was the high-school and as I walked past I saw that there were about three-hundred kids shouting in unison as they exercised together. I think they were warming up for a sports event.
All these things going on in our community. Every creature going about life as usual.
From old ladies tending their gardens to white herons fishing the rice fields for their lunch.
Trucks and cars roared past me. The postman weaved crazily through the Family Mart parking lot and an old man bent almost double over his cane made his way slowly down the opposite side of the street.
As we packed and prepared our home for possible destruction I remembered this ordinary Wednesday and I deeply appreciated it.
As the storm made its way up the coast towards our town we spent the night with Okasan and Ottosan (my husband’s parents) as they can no longer cope with these sorts of situations alone anymore.
I lay on the futon in the butsudan tatami room in the dark listening to the sound of the wind gust. Again I savored the ordinary around me….years of burning incense on the butsudan altar had left a permanent sweet smoky aroma that permeated everything in the room and mixed with the smell of moth repellent that wafted from the kimono cabinet.
I think I fell asleep for a few hours. The early light of dawn filtered through the rice paper shoji screens and woke me up. Everything was calm. The storm had passed without incident. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
Today, as I unwrapped my books and returned the potted plants to the garden and bit by bit got things in order around the house I thanked God several times for being able to return home and “back to normal”.
You do not know when “normal” will be pulled out from under you and crisis and chaos become the new normal for you.
Really appreciating the ordinary today.