Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Top 5 Christmas Joys of All Time

After having read my last post, my husband called from work and wondered, had I screwed up dinner? "No...well, at least, not yet," I replied. After all, it's not rare for something to go terribly wrong while I'm in the kitchen. There is a reason why my two-year-old daughter always screamed, "Pizza Guy!", when the doorbell rang. Two Christmases ago, I beat the sugar cookie recipe in with the butter. You can see why he might have concern...

No, no, no, I'm not considering offing myself during Advent. I just decided that this year, instead of dreading everything I have to do for Christmas, I would fully explore Advent. Not only does it signal the start of the new church year for my faith community, it is also an occasion to spend some time in the dark while waiting for the light of the world to be born/reborn.

I recently blogged about my top Christmas gripes. I also wrote about not noticing the sacred or the joyful in life and how that ends up desecrating everything. So, in the grand spirit of recognizing all that is good, here are my top 5 (really, five) Christmas joys of all time...

1. The lights. I love Christmas lights--the subtle white ones nestled in fresh greenery and the kitschy Las Vegas ones that cause light pollution. Although I would never outline every angle of my house (I don't like ladders and I'm lazy), when I see an over-the-top production down the street, I think, OHHHHH YEAAAAAAAAH!! I also think, SUCKAS! HAVE FUN GETTING THOSE DOWN!

2. The cards. Like Charlie Brown, I wait by the mailbox. I love them all--photo montages, cheesy brag sheets, religious ones, funny ones...even the ones that rain excessive glitter on my floor. (Recently, I read that glitter is the "genital herpes of the crafting world". It still makes me happy.) I simply like hearing from my friends and family this time of year. Of course, this is the first year I've gotten my own out in recent memory so I don't receive as many as I used to. That's Stop Number One on my Anti-Grinch List for the years to come.

3. The baking. I am not a joyful cook but I do like baking for the holidays. Baking reminds me of my mother who was no Martha Stewart either, unless it was for Christmas or our birthdays. Although I hated being her sous-chef and chopping nuts, I loved it when she made gingerbread men. I would decorate them however I wanted with raisins and frosting and candy. She used to compliment my artwork and then hang them on the tree...

4. The tree. Oooh, the sight of the brightly lit Christmas tree with silver tinsel and a bizarre menagerie of hand made ornaments and a mismatched light-up star...aaah, the comforting smell of homemade gingerbread cookies festooning said tree...eeeek, the sound of mom's blood-curdling shrieks as she came down one morning to find the cookies and candy canes covered inky black from a swarm of ants. That was the first and last year we had a live tree with a root ball. (To add insult to injury, we planted it in the back yard. It died.)

5. The music. Nothing, of course, by Mariah Carey, Celine Dion or their ilk that can get stuck in your mind and cause cerebral hemorrhaging. I'm talking The Messiah, by Handel or The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky, or the entire soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, and/or especially "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin" by the blues great, Albert King. My kids are strictly forbidden to listen to or sing Christmas music between New Year's Day and Thanksgiving. Some might consider this harsh. But, I think this music is joyful because, like all joyful experiences, it is transient, fleetingly appreciated...not in our world for long.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Joy of Cooking?

There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.-- Wendell Berry

I have a friend whom I love and I have only met her once. We met online when she commented on Big Harmony. We exchanged some pleasantries and thus started a modern epistolary friendship (facebook, email, comments on blogs) much akin to the one between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, excepting for the fact that I am not very fond of cooking.

The aforementioned quote resides on the margins of her blog. When I visit her site, I always smile when I read its message but have failed to actually approach it, pick it up, turn it around. I think this is why my efforts normally fall flat in the kitchen. I don't pay attention. I don't notice when I'm missing an ingredient until it's too late and then I just have to make do with a substitute. Or, I add too much of an ingredient, and when I realize my has already incorporated into the greater whole. The dish is never quite spoiled but it's never quite memorable, either.

I remember a few meals in my life that were a "religious" experience, perhaps even sacred. The chef, the restaurant owner, the servers all combined their love of and dedication to food to create an atmosphere of, well, profound love for others. I loved the careful combination of flavors. I loved being surprised by the chef's creativity. I felt welcomed and appreciated by those serving us. Humbled but lifted high at the same time, for me to share this friendly contradiction while in the company of people who really know me (and still love me) made for a transcendent experience.

During this time of Advent, this time of "coming towards", I am embarrassed to say that, in my life, I create few of these experiences for others. I seem to be coming towards nothing in particular except my own pleasure and comfort.

The cold, hard, dark truth is that this inclination permeates, violates, desacrilizes absolutely everything in my world. Here I am, awash in a world expressly created to be full of meaning, relationship and joy, and I can't be bothered to recognize it unless it brings me comfort and joy.

Damn. No wonder I no longer look forward to Christmas. With all the missing elements and substandard substitutions, I've let my inattention become the main ingredient in my life. With few exceptions, I have made almost every aspect of it incredibly unspecial, unnoticeable, blah.

Perhaps I need to stop wondering when my own personal Joy of Cooking will arrive or where the joy of Christmas went. Noticing, nurturing, serving--combined in unexpected ways, this is the food for the soul I've been craving in a world where everthing tastes so bland, so joyless.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Top 5 Christmas Gripes of All Time

I'm seriously considering giving up on Christmas. Not Advent. I like the waiting, the preparing, the expectation that the light is coming back, that the darkest night of the year is over. But, I'm worn out from all the Christmas crap. In the spirit of the movie, High Fidelity, here are my top 5 Christmas gripes of all time:

1. The ubiquitous commercialism that implores me to buy, buy, buy my and my family's way to sublime happiness and cheer. If I get one more Kohl's flyer shouting that ALL KITSCH IS 50 OFF...TODAY ONLY...AGAIN, I'm going to puke red and green at the front of their store on Christmas Eve.
2. The mind-wracking searching for the perfect gift-that's-in-my-small-budget-for people-who-can-afford-to-buy-what-they-want-anyway. Seriously, are there any surprises after 16? Do you know anybody in your circle of family or friends who actually NEEDS something? Nine times out of ten, I fret about a gift and the person already owns the stupid thing.
3. Stepping around people's religious or atheistic/agnostic mine fields. I am way weary of sorting (in my already DEFCON 5 brain) to whom I should be wishing Merry Christmas or just Happy Holidays. Will this person think I'm a religious nutball if I mention the peace of Christ? Will that person judge me for taking the Christ out of Christmas if I don't? This makes me want to take the Lord's name in vain. Even for someone as irreverent as me, I think that's a bad thing. Especially this time of year.

Okay, I lied. I only have three major gripes.

After my dream (see previous post), I am pondering whether I should just cut out the kvetching and do something about my vitriol. This makes me extremely uncomfortable, even afraid, because I have a choice. It might not go over well with some folk.

Do I stop buying stuff for my extended family, excepting the children for whom I think the magic of Christmas Day was actually created? They might think I'm cheap. Do I write my adult family and friends a letter telling them not to send me gifts and instead take the time to explain to them how much they mean to me? They may think I'm a hippie do-gooder. Do I take all the money I would be spending in the stores and donate it to people who desperately need things, like coats and blankets and food? I know I don't give enough to the poor, the oppressed, the hopeless. This makes me feel poor, oppressed and hopeless, too.

Do I enthusiastically wish people the peace of Christ on Christmas and just hope that they understand that I am not some mindless zealot trying to oppress them with my beliefs...I'm just wishing them some love and joy because they are my neighbors? They might think I'm one of those Christians. You know, the kind that is oblivious or dismissive of all other religious holidays.

The cold hard truth is, at 40 something, I'm still afraid of what other people think of me. I've mostly gotten over caring about how others might judge my parenting style or my appearance. But I still care about what the "cool" people, the intellectuals, think about me. I want to love God with all my heart, mind and soul because I believe in a divine force. Yet...

I don't want to look like a fool in front of others. I don't want to be embarrassed about my beliefs in front of God. I just want to be me. So, this Advent, I could care less about Christmas day. I am commmitted to the waiting...waiting for the light to shine into my life and show me what to bring forth and what to let fade away into the darkness.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Dream

I had the strangest dream in the wee hours of the Saturday night before Advent commenced. It was peculiar in several ways. First, nothing wakes me up at night, especially dreams. Second, I hardly ever dream except for wacky little vignettes that usually start right before I wake up. Third, if I do dream, I rarely remember the plots at first light.

But on that curious Saturday night, I awakened at 3 a.m. with a start. Neither scared nor upset, I sat up in the dark...surprised, yet serene. The most peaceful feeling had overcome me in my sleep, something I have never experienced in my dreaming life.

I think I was talking to God in my dream. Yet, it wasn't a conversation. I was listening, not communicating with anyone. The narrative, the voice, seemed like it was originating in me, but then again, not. The dream offered no setting, no tangible clues as to where I might be. It was as if I were in a deep, friendly...void. I was not afraid.

Because I have no other words to describe a conversation that was neither with myself nor with others, I would have to describe the experience as an epiphany unfolding gently, as a lotus flower slowly opens when the light coaxes it to accomplish what is in its very nature to do.

This is what my dream revealed to me: We humans are always looking for miracles. They elude us because we don't know what they really are.

I want to witness seas parting, people surviving in the bellies of whales, oil lasting an astounding eight nights instead of just the one...a human walking on water or turning it into the finest wine. I want "signs". My Epiphany, however, seemed unconcerned about such things or whether they actually, factually happened or will happen again.

It wanted me to understand that the greatest miracle in this worldly life is not in overcoming our physical is in not fearing it.

The revelation was quite clear in its intent--If I want to witness the sacred on this earth, I can not let fear transform me. Instead of waiting for God to give me a sign, I have to create the miracle myself. When faced with "my people" being hurt or destroyed, I have to boldly plant my staff in the ground and transform my fear into something more powerful than the natural constraints of this world. I have to let go of everything that scares me and simply surrender to trust. The miracle, after all, is not in the survival but in the living through the fear, with dignity.

I have been turning this revelation over and over in my mind for a few weeks, now. Although I tend to be a trusting person, an independent and modern woman in charge of her own destiny, I am coming to the realization that fear has been flourishing in the dark corners of my mind for too long. It has kept me from being who I have wanted to be and who I think I am, presently. It has been barring me from being the person I think I can become.

Was this dream just a little nighttime pondering of the subconscious or was it a message from God? Or was it both? I suppose it doesn't really matter if I ever know the truth. All I know is that, right now, during this Advent season, I feel compelled to look in all those dark places where I've let fear grow unnoticed and unchecked.

I'm truly afraid of what I might find. I'm even more scared of what I might have to do once I find it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pondering Veterans' Day

Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul. ~Michel de Montaigne

Some people, myself included, struggle with the concept of Veterans’ Day. At first glance, the parading of war heroes and lofty political speeches about sacrifice and honor can seem a bit, well, militaristic. Even as a spouse of an active duty sailor, I struggle with our nation’s obsession with glorifying the hero’s sacrifice in the pursuit of “shock and awe”. War is deeply unsettling to me because it is so unholy…yet here we have a “holiday”, a marked holy day on our calendar, commemorating those who have served in the very system that violates the sacred core of the Golden Rule.

No matter how conservative or patriotic we might be politically, at the heart of every good human is a pacifist--a person who does not want others to suffer the twin indignities of shock and awe, wrack and ruin. A multitude of reasons exist for why a person swears to uphold the Constitution of the United States and enlists in the Armed Services. It has been my experience that few soldiers, marines, sailors or airmen join the fight in order to destroy others.

Most service people do have one thing in common, however. No matter what their economic, social or political reality, they are ultimately willing to do something most of us are not…act holy. Like Gandhi, even though they may be terrified, they still act bravely. Like Jesus, when there is a paucity of hope, they remain faithful. Like Buddha, they are committed to the present, to the task at hand, with no regard to what suffering the future may bring.

How many of us walk the same walk in our daily lives? For this reason, I would like to thank all the veterans, past and present, who have shown us what valor, what strength, really means. For those who have paid most dearly with their lives, or those who are willing to do so at this very moment, we salute you as heroes. Not war heroes. But human heroes. Not just because of what you have sacrificed or may sacrifice in death, but rather, because of the way you have lived…exceptionally.

I wish you all a happy and most soulful Veterans' Day!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nocturnal Confessions

The Bat that flits at close of Eve
Has left the Brain that won't believe.
The Owl that calls upon the Night
Speaks the Unbeliever's fright.
--William Blake

I am a sound sleeper. Upon reading this statement, some of you are undoubtedly laughing quite heartily because you have, at some point, tested the veracity of this fact...and suffered the ugly consequences. When I say "ugly", I'm speaking about my countenance AND attitude. My children learned at a very tender age to never, ever, ever wake mommy because whatever their ailment or nightmare, it wasn't half as painful or terrifying as a prematurely awakened moi.

I also routinely sleep through natural disasters. One time, during one of those impressive midwestern late-night thunderstorms, lightening struck our house. Tim recounts the awful cracking noise, the blinding light, the sharp smell of ozone...and the equally horrible realization that, as he was floating mid-air over the bed from the fright, my breathing hadn't changed, nor had I flinched. Years later, in Japan, when an earthquake would strike before dawn, I would only awaken to him shaking me, shouting, "Did you feel THAT?!" The fool. The FOOL.

Currently, we live in a rental house that backs up to a busy freeway. For the past 8 weeks, we've had no need for air conditioning and have slept with the windows open to let in the cool Colorado night air. The traffic noise does not bother me a bit. The other night, though, I heard something that put me instantly on alert.

Although I had never heard it before, live and in person, I instantly recognized an owl's forlorn call...its deep, repetitive who whooooo, who whooooo, was being answered by another creature of the night nearby. "Oh, isn't that nice", I sleepily thought to myself, "Along with mountain lions, we have owls in our suburb." Then, in response to the two owls, came this high-pitched whistle, like a coach blowing through his middle fingers to get his players' attention in the backfield.

I sat up in bed. The noises repeated two more times: hoot, hoot, piercing whistle. I stumbled out of bed and looked out the bedroom window. Nothing moved. Not even the traffic. I ran around to the windows in the front of the house and peeked through the blinds. It was dark but the moon illuminated the driveway and front yard. I started to worry that the windows weren't locked downstairs and that the intruders might be communicating about how to get in...

Tim quietly called from the bedroom, "Are you okay?". Hovering in the doorway, I nervously responded, "Shhh! Can you hear that? They're talking to each other. They're casing the house."

He sat up, rubbing his eyes: "What the hell are you talking about?" I started to explain that there were three people outside talking to each other in...owl...and...they were going to break...into...our house?...through an open our...laundryroom? I believe it was in the moments following his utterance of the Lord's name in vain, that I realized that my fear seemed an eeensy bit loony.

I felt a little more sheepish the next morning when I did some quick research on the web about native Coloradoan owls. The lurker was most probably a Horned Owl. They hang out on rooftops in suburbia, prefer to hunt right before dawn and happen to shriek...sometimes eerily like a human.

Surprisingly, I could not find any information indicating whether or not this breed has a propensity to break into suburban homes in small gangs and steal valuable Asian knick-knacks and dirty laundry. Just look at the little thug's smug face, though. You know he wants to.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Seasons Behaving Nicely

Would that life were like the shadow cast by a wall or a tree, but it is like the shadow of a bird in flight.--The Talmud

In Oklahoma, where I come from, summer can be a petulant, passive-aggressive jerk. Every year, millions fall for its easy-going charms and laid-back lifestyle. Hang out with it enough, though, scratch its surface a bit, and one quickly finds out how neurotic it can be. Complain just once about its annoying habit to go to extremes and it digs its heels in and refuses to budge. I always feel a bit guilty about this change of heart since I had seemingly, just moments ago, embraced it with open arms. However, when lengthy negotiations to talk it down from its ledge carry into late October, I secretly wish it would just jump already.

Imagine my surprise this weekend, in the Rockies, when I watched summer bow out...gracefully. There were no histrionics or middle fingers tossed as it left. Like a pleasant house guest, it graciously made its bed, started the coffee and then quietly slipped out the back door while everyone was still sleeping. One summer afternoon, we drove into the mountains and marvelled at the uniformly green slopes and then, magically, the next day, the verdure turned to lovely golden and amber hues. The change coincided efficiently with the calendar year's symbolic end to summer, Labor Day.

During the drive back to Denver, I contemplated how quickly and quietly summer had exited. The whole experience reminded me of a sunset I saw in Maui--so gorgeous, it bordered on obscene. I remember trying to will the rapidly slipping sun back into the sky in a vain attempt to prolong the pleasure of watching it settle into the ocean. I could have kicked myself. Why hadn't the same sun and ocean captivated me as profoundly for the previous 13 hours? Why, in the last fleeting seconds, did it not allow me to look away?

It's funny. We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to build solid, lasting shadows in this life but it is usually the ephemeral that ends up capturing our attention. When something overstays its welcome or hangs on unnaturally long, we oftentimes bristle at its impertinence. In our core, despite our wish to prolong it, we fundamentally understand that life is fleeting.

In the end, I guess that I am ultimately comforted by gorgeous sunsets and the efficient change of's strangely soothing to get a brief glimpse of a bird's shadow in flight.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And Pfffft, It Was Gone

Thanks to a recent Facebook thread, I can't get the Hee Haw song, Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me, out of my mind. It has been repeating in my head, over and over, just like my old Rhinestone Cowboy 45 with the skip in it. My brother gifted me that record for my 6th birthday because it was all the rage in our neighborhood to have memorized the lyrics in entirety. That same birthday in 1975, I received a record player with an uber hip "denim pocket" carrying case. Life was sweet and complete.

It seemed simpler back then, too. Every Saturday afternoon, I used to watch Hee Haw reruns with my brother on our couch with the scratchy red cushions ("Wool is so durable!", mom exclaimed when we complained about skin breakdown). We had different reasons for tuning in to Hee Haw. Six-year-olds could understand the corn pone humour whereas 17 year old boys could appreciate the country girls in their Daisy Duke shorts and tight tops. The cast, who I am sure were actually drinking moonshine from their prop jugs, seemed to be having such a good time being cheesy. Still, to this day, I watch it and just can't help giggling. Although not particularly funny, it remains ridiculously fun.

We watched the show in the den, almost always having to jump up and adjust the heavily tin-foiled rabbit ears to get better reception. Remember dens? Those mismatched rooms with furniture and decor cobbled together from wildly disparate eras? The carpet, and there was always wall-to-wall carpeting, was usually blue. Or green. Or red. (You know, to hide the dirt.) These rooms provided the prototype to the family room and then, the more illustrious, Great Room, where everything bought on credit goes together. Perfectly.

While we relaxed in the den watching syndicated boob tube delights, my parents would take a much deserved nap in their room, formerly known as the Largest Bedroom, now referred to as the Master Retreat. We didn't dare bother the masters in their retreat, for surely that would have meant premature death. We knew that, they knew that...everyone was happy, or, at least, content knowing their place in the world.

I wonder if this is the source of our country's current conservative malaise? To be conservative means that, well, you want to hold on to or conserve the past. This strikes me as a normal response to modern life. Somewhere deep inside, each generation secretly yearns for the practical sofas of its youth, for TV shows (or books) that are silly instead of edgy, for rooms that are a little messy. We miss knowing our place in the world as it was once defined.

Maybe all this gloom, despair and agony being touted by the Tea Party is just nostalgia for what once was and can never be the same again. Realistically or not, life seemed more simple, somehow better, in our youth and then....pffft, it was gone. I get that. Although I am an unabashed progressive, looking forward to what is to come and become of our great country instead of focusing on our excessive misery, I have compassion for those who like to "remember when".

So, to quote the ending line of that silly, syndicated, piece of TV perfection: "May your pleasures be many, your troubles be few." THAT'S ALL!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Honorable Intentions

What does the word "honor" mean to you? How do you define that which is honorable? Is it merely a combination of lofty principles, such as honesty, fairness and integrity? And/or is it the action of integrating these principles into one's life in the service of others?

I ask this question, of course, because Mr. Glenn Beck has planned a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, 47 years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream Speech". He has explained that this rally is not political. He intends to only honor military families, past and present, for their steadfast sacrifices in the line of duty for the citizens of the United States. For a more noble cause, one would indubitably have to search far and wide.

I wonder, though, why now and why there? If this rally is to honor service people, why not on the anniversary of VJ Day that just passed? Why not on Veterans' Day in November or Memorial Day in May? These are all fitting occasions for launching a fund raising event for military families. A few steps away from the the Lincoln Memorial, lie the memorials erected for those who served and lost their lives in the Vietnam and Korean wars. They are stark, beautiful and haunting--perfect backdrops to showcase honor in action.

You just can't beat the significance of honoring military personnel and their families' sacrifices in front of that endless, shiny wall of names. I get goosebumps thinking of what it would mean to those who have served to be recognized in front of those statues of American soldiers in the Korean War. Fanning out in formation, with worried concentration permanently etched on their faces, knowing that their time is coming very soon but still having to move inexorably forward...these men are a powerful symbol of honor, indeed.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln offered up their lives, too, after decades of living their principles. They did not stoop to slandering their political opponents. They did not paint their political and ideological enemies as miscreants and idiots. Their Truths were self-evident and lived every day, publicly and peacefully, for all to see.

I am also confused why the rally would be named, "Restoring Honor", when honor has not been stripped but rather heaped on the military by both political parties. The United States government and citizens have made every effort to praise military sacrifices. However, if the rally's organizers are intending to give honor where honor is due to the Vietnam vets, I would enthusiastically applaud this gesture. These men and women, who gave everything in an unpopular war and then were summarily ignored, deserve some public applause. Their standing up to demand recognition for their sacrifices led to our citizens being more aware of supporting our military personnel in wars they cannot win. Now, that's honorable.

I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that what Mr. Glenn Beck wants to really restore is his own ideological beliefs. If this is true, more power to him, that's politics. But if he wants to talk about honor, he has to act honorably and with integrity, himself. He has rarely judged his political opponents fairly. He is being untruthful about his political agenda at this rally, or he would have named it something like "Revealing Honor" instead of "Restoring Honor". The choice of the word "restoring" is intentionally leads his followers to believe that honor only rests in their convictions, under their watch.

Mr. Glenn Beck and all the other political pundits, conservative and liberal, may understand how to manipulate the principles of honesty, fairness and integrity for their own gain but they haven't the first clue about how to live them. Those who are honorable are willing to sacrifice their very lives in order to serve greater principles that benefit all humankind. Political pundits only serve their own self interests under the guise of serving others...and you can't get any more hypocritical, any more dishonorable than that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

Despite missing Engrish and onigiri, I'm enjoying being back in the United States. It has taken me some time to write about reentry into the American atmosphere, but not because it has been overly fiery or bumpy. There is simply no rushing recovery from the disorienting effects of watching solid ground rapidly greet a craft, that just a few hours ago, was languidly floating in space.

I think I've been in quarantine long enough and life is almost up to normal speed. I know this to be literally true because American drivers have stopped flipping me off for going under 60mph...and figuratively so because I can go into Costco and Target without suffering sensory overload in under 10 minutes. Sadly, I still have not mastered The Mall.

My perspective has also started to center. For example, when we first got back, Tim was walking with the girls to the grocery store when they spied an old dude with a beer and burrito belly driving his riding lawnmower down a major Denver artery. He finally reached his destination--a 7-Eleven parking lot, where he puttered into a handicapped space, got a Big Gulp and headed back home. You don't need to ask, he was indeed wearing tidewater overalls.

Perhaps a few years ago, I would have been indignant about the nerve, the cheek...the utter laziness of it all. But now, I revel in its unadulterated "joie d'Americaness." People may arrogantly complain to the salesclerk that the local American Girl shop is not as big as the one in New York, and therefore, "disappointing". They might even loudly ask their preschooler in TJMaxx, for people to hear aisles over, "Will you stop whining if I buy you something!?" God bless them all, for they know not what they do.

All of this really bugs me for a second or two. Then, I remember where I am. And why people do what they do. I'm in the promised land...a place whose population has not directly suffered the physical effects of war in over 150 years. I live in a country where people can afford to bribe their kids but don't have to bribe their politicians to get basic civic improvements. I belong to a people who can freely let their freak flag fly and enjoy some amazing freedoms without too much static from their fellow countrymen. Incomprehensibly, mysteriously, bizarrely, it works for us.

In the end, even if someone has hung an ugly picture or moved a favorite chair to an inconvenient spot, I am pleased to report that you can go home again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Baffled, anyone?

baf·fle (bfl)
tr.v. baf·fled, baf·fling, baf·fles
1. To frustrate or check (a person) as by confusing or perplexing; stymie.
2. To impede the force or movement of.

[Perhaps a blend of Scottish Gaelic "bauchle", to denounce, revile publicly, and French "bafouer", to ridicule.)

This verb has been bothering me. Recently, in response to the controversial subject of the Muslim community center/mosque being erected near Ground Zero, I have seen numerous facebook entries using the word baffled. It has been used to express astonishment in response to those opposed to and supportive of the building. For example, "I am baffled that people are unable to differentiate between moderate Muslims and those who perpetrated the attack on 9/11." Or, "I am baffled why the Muslims need to build their center there, of all places."

My gut response to this bafflement was to become baffled myself. And as a result, a little frustrated. And then a bit angry. How could anyone not understand why people might make a connection between the moderate Muslims of New York and the terrorists who have declared war on the West? After all, as a recent reader questioned, "What about the London bombings? The Madrid bombings? The Bali bombings? What about the Turkey bombings a few years ago? All Muslim." Oh, let's not forget the Lockerbie plane bombing, either.

On the flip side, how could anyone not do a little reading (myself included) and realize that the plans for this center/mosque were in the works before 9/11? And that American Muslims also died in the bombing? And that the center will incorporate recreational spaces for all kinds of people to convene in peace? With a little poking around, you would think a person might figure out that there will be a contemplative space for all people to access that will honor the victims of terror. And as for the mosque? Don't the Muslims who live and work in that area, who raised the capital to buy the space, like every other Christian congregation, deserve a space to worship quietly?

At the heart of being baffled is a judgment. It's not the same as confusion, which is a lack of clarity. Rather, bafflement starts simply with a person becoming frustrated when he or she hits a barrier of understanding. This person becomes stymied by an opposing person's mindset. Generally, this block impedes the force or movement of the person's own "logical" ideas. The Baffled One ultimately judges that the other person's viewpoint is worthy of ridicule.

It's interesting that the original French and Scottish Gaelic meaning of the word was to "denounce or revile publicly." We humans (not just Americans)have a hard time being just confused. Instead of seeking clarity through discussion, it is infinitely easier to be baffled, to be stymied and then fill in the obscurity of understanding, the blanks, with judgment.

We almost always fill in these dead spaces with a negative, with revilement. Humans rarely believe that the "The Other's" intentions come from a good or positive place. Most recently (okay, probably always), conservative AND liberal politicians have used these lapses of understanding to their own advantage. At the moment their constituents start to wonder why...they quickly fill in the gaps with ridicule of the opposition's intentions. Modern high-speed information media just help them get the job done faster and more efficiently.

Today's powers and principalities, aided by the media, would like everyone to believe that a "liberal" viewpoint does not care about solid principles but only vague, emotional concepts. Liberals are selfish and not to be trusted. Likewise, the "conservative" viewpoint is too obsessed with traditional principles and could care less about how those rigid beliefs affect real, modern people. Conservatives are all bigots and are not to be trusted.

What would happen if we stopped trusting the media (liberal and conservative) and the politicians who have honed these stereotypes to a sharp point? What might happen if we gave The Other the benefit of the doubt until his or her intentions are clearly stated? Unless the opposition says, "All Muslims are scum" or "People are so stupid, they need to just get over it", we ought to pause a minute...30 minutes...24 hours...a week. If a person is not being impolite, we could take that time to get some more information. We could seek out and kindly questions someone who doesn't agree with us.

Americans are not just liberal and conservative stereotypes. We are generous and demanding, impatient and caring. Instead of baffling or impeding the good yet competing forces of one another's best intentions, we could just take some time to listen to one another. As Americans. For America.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Killer Grizzly!

I am scared, pardon my French, shitless of bears. Some people might call this fear "irrational". They are correct. Chances of me being consumed by an Ursus Arctos are exceedingly slim. But in my defense, bears are oftentimes quite hungry.

Do you remember that horrifying 1970's "film", Killer Grizzly...the one where a maniacal 18 foot grizzly bear goes on a rampage through a national park? Well, I do. That's why, even though it seems like a quaint notion, I refuse to camp in the Rockies. Also, did you know that there was a 1983 planned sequel to this movie, aptly named Grizzly II: The Predator, starring Charlie Sheen and George Clooney? Thank goodness it wasn't realized because then my feeble mind would have linked terror to George Clooney and that would be devastating. I am already spooked by Charlie Sheen, so that's no loss.

It's a shame, really. Bears have cute noses. They also like to hibernate which, lately, I can totally relate to. I admire my industrious beaver friends, who, when faced with environmental stressors, just get busier. Me, I prefer to eat a lot, head for the cave and live in my PJs. I used to beat myself up pretty consistently about this inclination but now I am mostly at peace with it. I can do a lot of uninterrupted thinking about what I would actually prefer to do after the winter of my discontent has passed. As a result, I can make real changes in my life instead of change making me. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

So, after five years in Japan, change has come with the shocking force of a freak blizzard in the fair month of October. My recent mental snooze has produced some results...I know I need to blog more. Without being able to detail the many ways I am "enamorated" (long live Engrish) of the Japanese, I was at a loss about what to discuss. As it turns out, though, we Americans are a quirky folk, too. I think I'll attempt to make Big Harmony out of what I am experiencing as a quasi-foreigner in my own land.

Also, I will begin the process to become an accredited high school English/French teacher. Hopefully, by the time we hit DC next year, I will be ready to take my final coursework and do my student teaching. I've decided that, other than writing, I absolutely adore those darn kids and teaching them above all else. My greatest wish is that, at some point, I can combine all three passions.

So there you have it. My plans. If you catch me indisriminately stuffing berries (or nachos) in my mouth and looking sleepy, please gently remind me that winter is still a long way off. And for heaven's sake, don't let me rampage through campgrounds. That's just rude.

grizzly photo compliments of

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hallowed Ground (The Fear of Talking About Fear)

I’m a religious person. I consider myself a Christian, not because I believe in some stock credo that Jesus died for my sins but because I believe he died, bravely, for his beliefs. His unwillingness to give into fear and loathing, even unto death, inspires me and always will. But, this is not a religious issue.

I’m an unapologetic liberal. I believe in and defend all the issues important to any good little liberal--a homosexual’s right to marry, a woman’s right to an abortion, and the right for all Americans to have basic health care, to name a few. I don’t believe that taxation is necessarily evil or that walls should keep out Mexicans. But, this is not a political issue.

It’s an American issue. The current hullabaloo over the Muslim center being built near Ground Zero has deeply disturbed me, as an American. I feel for the peaceful Muslims in NYC who long for a quiet and dignified space in which to worship and convene. I feel for those who compassionately support their fellow Americans’ right to this space. I feel for all of us who were traumatized by watching thousands of innocent people be terrorized and then ultimately killed in the twin towers’ collapse.

We Americans have been running scared since that terrible day in September, nine years ago. Currently, we don’t need to be reminded that all we have to fear is fear itself. We are not the World War II generation, isolated from the world and skittish about entering a global conflict. For better or for worse, we now literally attack problems. And, unfortunately, one another.

Currently, there are two camps pitted against each other concerning the Muslim center’s position near Ground Zero. The first perspective is that, as Americans, Christian or Muslim, liberal or conservative, if we start to place restrictions on a citizen’s right to practice his or her religion freely, we invalidate the Constitution and indeed, our core American beliefs. This is fact. If we eschew our core national beliefs, the radicals have “won”. This is not an irrational fear. Every American should sit up, pay attention and acknowledge this as a legitimate threat to our national identity.

There are others who believe that Ground Zero is “hallowed ground”. To place a mosque in this area dredges up our worst fear that we will be attacked from the inside. Many people who oppose this building are being labeled as xenophobic zealots and/or anti-Islamists--people who think that Islam is out to destroy Christianity and thus “American values”. Surely, there are a few of these folks in the debate but, as a whole, I respectfully disagree. I think the vast majority of those who are voicing doubts about this structure are just afraid.

For example, I read a recent blog that took issue with Sarah Palin’s assertion that Ground Zero is a “hallowed” space by pointing out that the surrounding area is also home to “profane” delights such as adult entertainment, gambling and fast-food franchises. In the blogger's defense, I also distrust Ms. Palin’s reasoning and intentions. However, the author might also be missing the point that for many Americans, this “hallowed space” is not in the physical blocks surrounding the site--it’s firmly fixed in our emotional memory. Fear is a natural and logical response to a known danger. It is not political.

Make no mistake about it, radical Muslims live in the U.S., train in the U.S. and are constantly trying to gain access to this country in order to destroy it. This is a fact. They are becoming astute at infiltrating moderate communities. Although we shouldn’t think that blocking the center will protect us from terror, we also ought not to gloss over the obvious: Radical Muslims will stop at nothing to destroy us, our families and our friends. This is also not an “irrational” fear.

So, we are caught between two scenarios, equally terrifying. One allows complete religious freedom but could arguably allow enemies into our house to attempt to destroy it. The other doesn’t include all Americans in the “pursuit of happiness” and therefore encourages our enemies to start disassembling the house, brick by brick. We could just continue to point fingers at one another. We could throw up our hands in frustration and disgust. Or, we could stop a moment and acknowledge each other’s fears as legitimate.

I sincerely believe that this “war” will not be won in the dusty foreign terrain of the Middle East, but rather, here, in the fractured American psyche. If we are weak today, it neither has anything to do with the strength of one religion over another in our country nor which political party is in power. It’s because we refuse to acknowledge one another’s legitimate fears, discuss them intelligently and then purposefully act on them. We can be accepting of religious diversity AND recognize that extremists might be hiding in the shadows of our freedoms. To be eternally vigilant and protective of our freedoms, we must start to work together for each other.

Recently, moderate Muslims in New Jersey heroically ousted (and reported to the FBI) a young man from their faith, who, despite counseling, still became radicalized. I would expect the same out of Christians if one of their believers were plotting to bomb an abortion clinic. If moderate Muslims continue to seriously ramp up the information about their faith and their efforts to discourage radical thinking among their believers, those among them wishing to do evil will be driven from the shadows. Other Americans, religious or not, could also begin or continue to build strong and lasting ties to moderate Muslim communities. In this way, perhaps our national fear could be neutralized…our national identity solidified, in this little space in Manhattan.

If so, it truly will become sacred ground.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Button Box

I entered the NPR 3 minute fiction competition, but with 3,800 entries, it's highly doubtful mine will be chosen. We were required to write a story in 600 words or less that used the common words fly, plant, button and trick. I thought I would put it on Big Harmony and see what you all think. Thanks for reading!

If I asked permission, on rainy days, I could play with it. Everything else in the tidy bedroom was off-limits; the dainty Victorian perfume bottles stained amber from scents long evaporated, the oversized clip-on earrings resting in crystal dishes (only gypsies get their ears pierced was her credo) that ladies of a certain age like to wear, the dresser drawers that were never left ajar, not even in haste.

From time to time, my feet would trick me and I would suddenly find myself in this religiously quiet space, its air as still and lifeless as a mid-afternoon sanctuary. I oftentimes stood by the bed, paralyzed with indecision about whether to quickly open the velvet-lined jewelry box, the nightstand drawer, the writing desk with all its private, mysterious compartments.

My hand on the slender handle of the mahogany dresser invariably paused…it seemed wiser to drift over to the drop-leaf table under the window to furtively look at pictures of family members, stoic-faced in the distant past, brightly smiling in the present. A mundane house plant, dutifully watered for decades, sprawled its tendrils among the photos.

Before the bully twins of guilt and fear ushered me out, I would head for the button box in the corner. It wasn’t really a box. It had no corners. Formerly a metal cookie tin with a snug lid, the round container held hundreds of spare buttons dating back to the first days of a marriage; a leather pea coat button emblazoned with an anchor, a clear, teardrop shaped jewel loosened from a party formal, the diminutive, pearl-toned button that once belonged on the neckline of a baby’s smocked dress, a nickel knob that fastened a teenager’s button-fly jeans.

In my own room, as rain lashed in spasms against the windows, I was allowed to leisurely inspect and sort each one. My whim decided how the piles would form; by shape, size, beauty, or some hidden character I recognized at that moment.

But on sunny days, in the silence of the violated room, I had to hurry and pry the fussily flowered cover off the box. Raking my fingers through the heavy depth of buttons, I felt a different kind of pleasure.

The sound of footsteps would slowly start at the bottom of the stairs. Before they could reach the top, I would have replaced the lid and slipped into my bedroom. I knew that no one would discover whether the buttons had been touched…a thought that always gave me great comfort but no satisfaction.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bump of Chicken and Super Mattress Games

Tim and I enjoyed two amazing days in Kyoto last weekend for many reasons that you might easily imagine:

a) The sight of Mount Fuji in its winter kimono from the Shinkansen
b) The ancient temples and shrines in the snow
c) The delicious noodles and tofu (Kyoto is known for its creative use of soy beans)
d) The shocking lack of children whining (ours, in particular)

You can't walk 60 seconds in this town without encountering a sacred space...Kyoto has 17 World Heritage sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines as well as several castles and major gardens. It's truly the Rome of the Far East.

These visual delights are indeed mesmerizing in their own right, but holding equal rank are the more profane and less well-known pleasures of Japanese culture, namely Japanese Pop (J-Pop) names and hotel porn titles.

On the way back down from Kiyomizudera, a profound temple nestled in the hills surrounding the ancient capital, snakes a narrow street of souvenir shops and eateries. I was admiring the local pottery when I spied a bumper sticker of my favorite J-Pop band, BUMP OF CHICKEN, in a tiny music shop. Granted, I've never listened to their music, but how can you not be a fan of that name?

I must have picked up some good luck in the temple, because they also had one copy left of HIDE (pronounced heeday),currently touring with...SPREAD BEAVER.

Hide AND Spread Beaver on one stage? Wow. The awesomeness cannot be contained in two hands. It just can't.

I silently wondered all weekend if PETA continually picketed their concerts. When we got home, Claire questioned what Spread Beaver actually meant: Was it something you smeared on crackers or something more...well...? This, of course, brings me to the topic of porn movies in Japanese hotels.

Since we are not into the club/karaoke/"hostess" bar scene that dominates the local night-life, we opted to get some dessert after dinner and head back early to the hotel. We could have gone to the pool...but that cost $21 per person. (I am thinking of writing a small note to the hotel CEO that simply says, "REALLY?! Sincere regards, Nancy B." (I would frame the response.)

Unfortunately, the in-house movies cost the same as the pool. The NEW releases were Harry Potter and Spider Man 3. The free channels consisted of CNN and endless montages of "relaxing" underwater vistas. Okay, on to the Adult least that might be worth 21 bucks because I was pretty sure we hadn't seen them yet.

Here were our choices, verbatim:

The Undergarment of Sister-in-Law

The Beautiful Hip of Neighbor

And my personal favorite, Super Mattress Games. (I think this might be a Nintendo game, too. Although a release date currently doesn't exist, I can't wait for Super Mattress X-Games for the Wii.) In the end, paralyzed with indecision, we ended up just watching Stripes on the computer until the battery died.

Lame, I know. Perhaps, if we could have found out if SPREAD BEAVER were on one of the soundtracks, our choice would have been easy. Perhaps.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Fed up with icy roads and the local idiots driving on them? Ready to stick your head in an oven if the kids have one more snow day? Perhaps you should consider moving to Japan because today's Setsubun celebration drove the last nail into Old Man Winter's frigid coffin. Tomorrow is offically the first day of spring.

Setsubun, February 3rd, marks the last day of the "old" year by ritualistically banishing winter's demons (Oni) while simultaneously welcoming the new, green shoots of good luck that appear in springtime. In ancient times, this occasion acted in the same manner as our New Year's Eve. Instead of blowing horns and setting off fireworks to scare off the bad spirits, the Japanese throw roasted soy beans at them.

Don't ask me why soy beans are frightening. I just don't know.

Although I blogged about this festival's significance last year (see the post, Demons Out...Luck In from last February), today I had the good fortune of seeing the bean throwing (Mamemaki) ritual acted out in a humble shrine by the sea in Hayama.

My friend Hiranosan, his wife Hirokosan and I zoomed into the sand parking lot about two minutes before the ceremony started. We threw our coins into the box in front of the shrine's entrance, pulled the thick rope to ring the bell (in case the gods were unaware of our presence), clapped our hands twice and said a small prayer. We took our shoes off, lined them up (toes pointing out, of course) and promptly proceeded to freeze our tootsies off in the open-aired sanctuary.

Except for the subzero temperature "inside", the ceremony reminded me of Ash Wednesday services in the Episcopal Church--a comforting blend of solemnity and community. A head priest and his assistant blessed the congregation and chanted mysterious words, as mothers with babies arrived late and out of breath, standing in the back in case a quick exit might be needed. We stood up, we sat down. We bowed our heads. An older gentleman carefully brought the offering, a small tree branch adorned with strips of Shinto paper, to the altar.

The toddlers became restless. Although I couldn't understand the words, I could "hear" their little voices pestering their mothers with questions and complaints: "Mama, why does that man have a funny hat?", "What is he saying?", and/or, perhaps, "I can't feel my flippin' feet." (I have a lot in common with Japanese babies.)

They settled down quickly as the priest blessed the beans and started to scatter them around the sanctuary, starting in the northwest corner--the most unlucky compass point since apparently the Oni like to roll in from that direction. I could hear the terrifying legumes ping off the straw tatami mats and under the sanctuary furniture. (I wondered if, like errant strands of Easter grass, the shrine keepers would still be finding them months later in unexpected places.)

The whole experience was over before I knew it. The head priest thanked his congregants for coming. Retired folk and young mothers filed out of the shrine, replacing their shoes and hats, stamping some life back into their frozen limbs and silently going back to whatever they were up to before this short break from mundane living.

Me, I dropped my friends off at their tennis club and went to fill the car...back to the "normal" life where gas costs a fortune and beans don't have the power to strike fear in the hearts of evil-doers.

But, as always, it was fun spending a little time with a community that I don't oftentimes understand but still love to pieces.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sankien Gardens, The Sequel

The above pictures are of the exterior and interior of a Japanese farm house from the Gifu prefecture circa 1750. "An Important Cultural Property", this building is one of many in Sankien that had been carefully taken apart from another place in Japan and rebuilt in the gardens. The thatched roof, probably a foot and a half thick and covering a massive structure, completely amazed me. How long must have that taken to construct?

As we entered the "front door", we saw that the stable/barn connected openly to the living room and kitchen. When I brought this oddity up in class, my students explained that Japanese farmers do not see their animals as food but rather as one of the family workers. So, they are kept cozy and safe in the most important part of the house.

Inside, the polished plank floors were dark and cold...even farmers/villagers take off their shoes at the door. Two traditional charcoal fire pits (the blog's main picture) warmed the living area and the kitchen. The fragrant smoke drifted up the narrow and steep stairs to the second floor, creating a somewhat magical light. The smoke, I learned, helps keep the grass-thatched roof free of bacteria and mold.

The second floor, one large room and formerly the sleeping quarters, held a small, mildly interesting display of farming instruments and pottery in its center. By this time, my feet were going catatonic from the I hurriedly looked through the cultural items, I noticed that both sides of the room were slatted and open to the floor below.

Lily freaked out when she learned that these areas were used to raise silk worms, a lucrative commodity in Old World Japan. She was not impressed by how rich a farmer could get by raising these little critters. In a not so demure voice, she exclaimed in disgust, "Ewwwww! The silkworms could poop on their heads?!"

Instantly, I imagined Lily as a Japanese girl from yesteryear, wearing a wide-brimmed hat indoors and constantly in a state of the willies. What do you want to bet, 10 years from now, that she remembers that bit of trivia above all else when asked about her travels in Japan?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sankien Gardens, Part One

I am very disappointed in myself. After almost three years of living in Japan, I had never visited one of its top gardens, Sankien, near Tokyo, a mere 30 minute drive from the base, until my friend Keikosan invited me to go last week.

We couldn't have custom ordered a more magnificent day--cold, clear, delft blue skies--a perfect day for skiing...or strolling around a quiet, still Japanese garden.

When I first arrived in Japan, my romantic, minds-eye vision of this country was shattered. Tokyo lies in the Kanto Plain, a wide, flat expanse of wall-to-wall humanity, packed into sturdy, earthquake-proof concrete blocks. Every bit of available space is used residentially or commerically. Green spaces suffer as a result.

Sankien is nestled between two, wooded hills. It tricks its visitors in a most kindly way, as a parent might carefully mislead a child about Santa Claus, into believing that this Old Japan still exists. Guests can walk a large expanse of trails which lead over the central pond via crimson bridges and into ancient houses, barns and pagoda. Plucked from their original resting places in Kyoto, they have been painstakingly reconstructed in the park for modern urbanites to delight in.

I thought that I might be disappointed by the lack of flowers. Sankien is renowned for its seasonal floral displays and not much is blooming this time of year. In less than a month, the plum blossoms will pop out and dazzle the crowds but right now the garden is resting.

Without the leaves, I found instead that I could really admire the park's bones. The branches, stark and bare, display their normally hidden inner character. You can see how the unnecessary twigs have been eliminated over time and how only the most promising limbs were patiently pruned in purposeful but unexpected directions...quite stunning in their own right.

I hope that I can enjoy as long a life as these trees. I wonder though, at its end, when all my green ornaments have fallen away, if I'll be fortunate to see the surprising ways my life has formed and the purpose inherent in it?


Recently, I went on a trip with Lily's fifth grade class to a local ice skating rink. By trip, I don't mean a little jaunt. I mean a caterpillar-toking, falling- down-a-rabbit hole adventure. You might wonder: Can ice skating really be that different in a foreign country? After all, it mainly consists of skates and ice and falling. Deep tissue bruises pretty much look the same on everybody.

As we entered the facility, I immediately spied a row of vending machines. This is common. The Japanese have an abiding love for this invention. In public spaces, there is one literally every 5 feet, stocked with strange drinks, piping hot and ice cold, with equally odd names such as "Pocari Sweat" or "Qoo". I think I read somewhere that there are more vending machines than people in Japan.

The weirdest seem to reside in ice rinks. The first vending machine I came to alerted me that perhaps this might not be an "ordinary" skating rink. It held a charming display of 64 crayon-colored gloves. I guess it's embarrassing to be lacking gloves that match some day-glo color in your outfit whilst skating in Japan. Although it's ingenious to sell gloves, a frequently forgotten/lost item in a skating rink, utilitarian black just doesn't cut it here. Maybe the garish colors are easier to see on the ice and fewer finger dismemberments occur as a result. I am sure I'll never know.

The next machine caught my eye because apparently men often forget to bring (or lose?) their jock shorts, too. Now, I know for sure that you CAN actually buy anything in a vending machine in Japan. I've seen jello juice and corn soup and fresh vegetables. But never men's underpants. I didn't even know that you needed jock shorts to skate. Intriguing.

After some neanderthal grunting and pointing to charts, all the kids found their Japanese ice skate sizes and strapped them on. I headed off to the cozy snack room to get some hot coffee from the vending machines. I can't tell you how disappointing it is to go looking for an elegant canned beverage/snack, only to find, "24 Hour Casual Frozen Foods."

Later for lunch, Lily and I enjoyed some of these frozen-to-cooked foods, such as chicken nuggets and french fries. They were really hot and surprisingly delicious but yet, so depressingly...casual. What a shame.

When I wasn't engaged in vending machine gawking, I studied the skaters. I noticed a few oddities, i.e. the 75 year old woman effortlessly gliding down the center of the rink. Although it doesn't seem wise to tempt the hip gods, older folk here are in excellent shape.

Also, several Japanese yochien (preschools) had come to play for the day. As I watched them suit up, I mentally beamed out a message to the other skaters, "Good luck finding a spot on the ice that doesn't have a three-year-old splayed out on it." I imagined a hundred marbles dropping onto a hard surface and bouncing in wild directions.

Did you know that you can organize preschoolers in ice skates? Like fish in a hatchery, their leaders penned them in a corner and released them into the stream every few minutes. Then, they all skated like madmen around the circle twice and returned to their "tank" to wait their turn to start over. The little girls all skated hand-in-hand, their little pig-tails bouncing. The boys pushed each other or fell down purposely like they were sliding into second base. One little guy spent the whole time throwing his gloves and hat on the ice and skating away from his handler, all the time laughing maniacally.

Lily had a great time, too. She told me later that she felt free and joyful on the ice, like she was flying. I felt the same way, but my feet were planted firmly on the grimy,rubber mats.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Leaping Before Looking

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

by W.H. Auden

It's time to move on with my life...literally and figuratively.

This summer, we take up new residence in Denver after 5 years of living in Japan. In the next few, short months, I have to start looking for a new house, cleaning out some scary closets, packing up our house and saying goodbye to a country and friends I love dearly.

There are some big questions to be answered, and much too soonly* for my liking. This fact makes me anxious.

What are we going to?

What do we need to leave behind?

I've grown up a lot in Japan because the lack of choices here has forced me to make due with that I've been given. My life is exceedingly comfortable and happy here. Now, I am going back to the land of unlimited possibilities and I am afraid that I will somehow choose the wrong one. I am starting to feel...overwhelmed.

Should I look before I leap or keep my sense of danger? If you are still reading out there, I would love to hear what you think.

*(I heart Engrish)