Highs and Lows

December 3, 2018

 Living on an airbase means we see and hear planes on a very regular basis, but in the past two weeks looking towards the sky has taken on even more meaning. After our little community was suddenly sent reeling into grief, we worked together to hold a beautiful memorial, reached out in support, leaned together, cried together, and did it all again a few days later. And yet, during a period of time so heavy with loss, we experienced some of the most beautiful weather we have had all year round: bright blue skies with soothing sunshine during the day and crisp nights which drew us around fire pits seeking warmth and company. In between the memorials, there was a homecoming and we looked to the skies to see pilots flying home in dramatic formations before landing and sweeping their children into their arms. Highs and lows of incredible intensity. Sorrow, celebration, and tight hugs all intertwined into one blurry chunk of time. 

October List

October 26, 2018

Savoring:  Salt Fat Acid Heat
Podcasting: Heavyweight
Reading: The Bartimaeus Series
Obsessing: Kit Kats in Japan
Curating: Art Archipelago
Eating: Steak, Bok Choy, and Zucchini Stir Fry
Interviewing: Terry Gross
Watching: Isle of Dogs
Traveling: Culture Trip

Naoshima, The Art Island of Japan

October 25, 2018

 An island filled with art in lovely and unexpected spots? Traditional Japanese homes turned into "art houses"? Creative use of local items and striking vistas? Friendly locals? An unusually modern bath house complete with neon and a large elephant statue? Delightful meals and meandering paths? Yes, please. I learned about Naoshima several years ago and had been chomping at the bit to visit ever since we moved back to Japan. Last month, I finally had the chance and it was even better than I had anticipated. Already planning a return trip, I am still savoring the beauty and eager to do some more exploring.  

Persimmon Season in Japan

October 14, 2018

 One of my favorite things about autumn in Japan are the persimmons. Whether they are hanging from bare trees or drying on the side of countryside homes nestled between rice fields and mountains, I love their cheerful bursts of color and their sweet taste. Today we had the opportunity to pick persimmons and to prepare them for drying. Dried persimmons are known as hoshi-gaki. After peeling them, cleaning them, and dipping them in boiling water we strung them on long strands of rope. They will hang outside for four -six days and then they will be ready for enjoying as a sweet autumnal treat. 

Indonesian Offerings

September 8, 2018

Early in the morning when I would sneak out to walk in the rice fields, I would watch the local woman preparing the offerings. Bright pops of petals from the local market or their own gardens, hand-made leaf containers, wafting incense, and morsels of food for the ancestors. Carefully, lovingly placed in front of entrances, spirit houses, and other special spots. A fresh start to the day. A new set of offerings each morning. Did they think about family stories as they artfully arranged each one? Or were they running through the to-do list for the day ahead? Were they exhaling away worries or were they praying? 

Ubud, Bali
April 2018

Bile, Bigotry, and Bad Answers

August 13, 2018

Each time we move we spend quite a bit of time explaining to new bosses, teachers, principals, and sports coaches that our family will be taking time off to celebrate the Jewish High Holidays. We have never encountered any problems with this until today when someone told my husband "If we give you special liberty for Jewish holidays, then that would mean we would have to do the same for Muslims". Yes, someone actually uttered this absurd sentence aloud and let these toxic words explode into the air that is already so heavy with nastiness. Each day when I listen to the news, I find myself wondering are we in a weird time warp. Is it still the 1950s? the 30s? the Middle Ages? Are my Jewish children safe? Are our Muslim neighbors' children safe? Are any of our children safe? I want to vomit while also screaming obscenities and causing physical harm to those who spew hate. I know this is not the sane or calm response but that's what bigotry does. It gets your blood pumping and forces the bile to bubble up from a deep space within your core and it doesn't feel good at all. 

His Hands

July 31, 2018

In January, I wrote an essay for Hello There, Friend about my pregnancy and birthing experience with Noah. When I was writing the piece, I dug through old baby photographs and was flooded with memories that had been stashed away and forgotten...faces I haven't seen in awhile, favorite tiny outfits, funny moments captured on film, and places that took me awhile to remember. The image that stuck with me the most was the one that I ultimately used to go along with my essay. It is a black and white photo of Noah. He's just a few days old and he is being cupped in hands. My parents' hands, but mostly my dad's large hands. It caught my breath to see those hands and to remember exactly when that photograph was taken. 

During the final weeks of my pregnancy, the plan had been for my mom to fly up and spend several weeks helping us to prepare and adjust to new parenthood. My dad stayed at home to work and take care of my youngest sister. We had already made plans to travel down to Louisiana when Noah was two months old to spend a month there with family and friends. That would be when my dad would meet Noah for the first time, but the night that Noah was born, my dad made the spontaneous decision to get a ticket and a few days later he flew to Washington State to meet his first grandchild. I took this photo early on that first morning of his visit. The light was streaming in from the big windows that opened out onto Puget Sound. My parents were both still in their pajamas and robes. My dad had been sketching Noah when I woke up and walked into the scene. I grabbed my camera and took a number of shots including this one that I had forgotten until flipping through an album lodged on Noah's book shelf in here in Japan. 

And although it has been many months since re-discovering that photo, the importance of it still unsettles me. My dad's hands were one of the things I struggled with the most during his final month of life and in the months after his death. His hands were long and always in motion. He used them for talking and expressive gesturing. He used them to paint and draw with on a daily basis. He used them to pet, Shadow, his favorite cat and he would swirl them around himself in the ocean each summer. They were strong hands with thin, lanky fingers, but during that last month in the hospital his hands became incredibly swollen and unrecognizable. I felt haunted by that image of them in their misshapen state. In fact, when I eventually went to see an art therapist to talk about my grief, it was his hands that I drew over and over again, week after week. Ugly, clumsy drawings marked with tears and frustrated smudges, I was trying my hardest to re-claim "his" hands, the way they should have been.  

My dad taught intro to drawing classes for over thirty years to college students and one of the exercises he always had them do was to draw their hands. Have you ever attempted to draw your own hand? It is incredibly challenging. In fact, my dad, who was an accomplished and well respected artist, drew his hands throughout his life and never felt totally satisfied with them. There is something so personal about our hands. At first glance, it seems like we all have the same basic digits and joints, but on closer study our hands tell just as many and perhaps more stories than our eyes. They are marked with scars, age spots, veins, creases, and grit. 

Finding that photograph of Noah in my dad's hands was an unexpected gift. Ten years after his death, I feel like I have found my way back to his hands. 

Adam at 44

July 30, 2018

I took this photo last week when we traveled by ferry through the Seto Inland Sea to spend the weekend on Shikoku. Adam standing on the roof of a ferry, watching the sun set, and wearing one of his favorite t-shirts ("More cowbell!" from a Saturday Night Live skit). Today is his forty-fourth birthday and I can't think of anyone else with whom I would want to share this adventurous, nomadic, and colorful life. 

A New Year

January 1, 2018

Iwakuni, Japan

Full moon on the first evening of the new year. Chilly, exhilarating, and filled with hope. 

2017 was a year of change, impatience, strength, illness, thrills, and adaptation. I don't have a resolution or a specific mantra for this new year and that feels alright. Driving home from our visit to the local Shinto Shrine last night, we didn't expect to see this view of the big moon rising over Iwakuni, but there it was. We parked, hopped out of the van, let Hugo run around like a crazy pup, and savored the loveliness in front of us. I want more of that in this new year: the beauty, the joy, and the spontaneity.  

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