Dreaming Big in Japan

Monday, March 21, 2011

Up in the air...

...still billowing out of a crippled, mismanaged reactor, then: in the water; in the cows; in their milk; in the fields; in the spinach; in every city so far.

...nine months of planning for our future; a dream come true? A job taken, a job taken away. An island paradise; but is it still there? A boatload of stuff en route to fill our new life, but no way to get it there; though, even if we could, water, food and medicine for the islanders trump any creature comforts we shipped ahead for our own consumption.

We drove back south to Mizusawa (Oshu City) this morning. I do not know if that was a good idea or not. Only time will tell; this and everything.

I wanted to plant a garden. Michie and I visited our island, our new home, Ajishima, the first week of March, and just before my birthday. We spent the night with our friends who run a guest house on the island. Michie had her final interview for her nursing position and even received her uniform. We inspected the house we were to rent: a seven room tatami mat mansion, a minute’s walk to the sea. There was a garden a minute’s walk in the other direction, that I may have been able to lease. Then our friends proffered a tenth acre plot on their family’s land for me to try my hand. You might say I have a green thumb, but not in the sense of a deft digger, but in that I have never really gardened before! They said if I share some veggies (if they grow at all!) then that would be recompense enough.

Part and parcel of our dream is to model upon nature a year-round garden, to incorporate a small dwelling and build an inviting Bed and Breakfast in which the world-weary might seek refuge. A true haven has been our goal throughout. Michie and I started dreaming of a B&B years ago, just after we married. We actually had the same epiphany at the same time, and it grew from there. It was the driving inspiration for everything we did, down to the soup bowls and silverware we chose. It first led us out of Japan to Colorado, where we thought we might make it happen, but in a twist of fate (à la ‘The Alchemist’) we were led back to Ajishima, where, in our heart of hearts, we knew we were supposed to be.

Everything we have done for the past three quarters of a year has been to get this far; our attempt to literally manifest our deepest desires at happiness. Michie swung a huge promotion at work and simultaneously started training as a yoga instructor, while I was out of town for a month on a work trade in Texas learning natural building techniques. The only regret I had was for lack of time before departing for Japan. I desperately wanted to take a Permaculture (PC) design course, but they all required a small treasure and weeks and weeks of my dwindling time. I would have to settle for the tens and dozens of books on the subject borrowed from the public library. (PC is a design philosophy that seeks to take care of people and the environment and to share all the products of those beneficial relationships.)

Unbeknownst to me, Michie had set a plan into motion months before. A few days ago, on my birthday, she surprised me with a hand written voucher (for a massage I hoped at first glance!) good for a full year’s worth of seminars at the Japan Permaculture Center. Our registration packet was sent to our new address on Ajishima, hence the hand drawn card. By ‘our,’ I mean, Michie is joining me, and we will both be certified Permaculture designers at the end. I figure, if she can earn her certification as a yoga instructor all in English, the least I can do is have her translate everything from Japanese for me as we get our PC design certifications together!

I wanted to plant a garden. At this point, though, everything is up in the air. We really don’t know what will happen next.

A week ago we had only heard indirectly from the main hospital in another prefecture that the Ajishima branch made contact and that they survived the earthquakes and tsunamis. Just yesterday a news report broadcast a military helicopter ferrying supplies to the hospital on Ajishima, and we saw several of the people we know. What a relief to have some of our worst fears belied by a thirty-second clip. But, the necessity of the helicopter means their situation is still dire, with no food, water, electricity or any other connection to the mainland. Michie wants to be there, to help her new colleagues and the mostly elderly population, but we have not gotten through to anyone yet.

Michie has been inexhaustibly optimistic throughout. I have been the ‘realist’ and even started making evacuation plans to take a ferry from Aomori to the next big island, Hokkaido, book her family and us on a plane from there to Korea or China and then to the US. Anything to spare us a slow death from the poison spewed by inept government and power plant officials. I know she will help as many people as she can in whatever way she can. I am not as optimistic about my own actions, at this point. I am really struggling to see the good in any of this. I am actually really kind of pissed off. At the situation? At myself? Probably both.

Up until last week I was afraid of failing at our dream. Of trying and failing. Now I am afraid of never even getting the chance to try.

But, that is self-defeating, and I need a pep talk! As I emailed our friends and family last week, this is our opportunity to turn things around for ourselves and for the people around us. I am not sure if that reassurance was more for them or for me. Even if almost every conceivable facet of our lives is out of our control at this point, I can take solace in my eternally optimistic beacon, Michie, to guide us through. Together we dreamed this dream, and together we can make it come true.

I suppose now is the time for a change. In Japan, in the world, in myself. If I am an instrument of that mass change, or merely a witness, so be it. But in myself, I need to affect a greater change.

I wanted to plant a garden. I think I will.

1 comment:

  1. "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly. Hold fast to dream, for if dreams go, life is a barren field, frozen in snow." ~ Langston Hughes Happy planting!