Sunday, June 6, 2010
Fuji-san represents Japan, in all its glory. Even I, homegrown in the Pacific Northwest - home to some of the most majestic mountains in the world - feel a sense of awe when I see it. Mt. Rainier always captures me with its booming voice - a beast of a mountain that presides over everything around. Rainier feels wild and untamed, a mountain boasting its splendor. Mt. Baker is friendly - smiling over Whatcom County, shining on those few sunny days - inviting everyone to come out and play. Its presence is familiar, understandable, and trustworthy. The other volcanic mountains of Washington all have their own characteristics and feelings they provoke. Yet none capture the essence that Fuji-san offers, (likewise, Fuji will never be a beastly mountain like Rainier). Its song is subdued, melancholy, and humble, much like the traditional behavior and culture in Japan. The Japanese consider Fuji-san sacred. So I see Fuji, and I feel Japan - its heart. Those feelings sometimes become something I can't distinguish from what I feel - they are fast becoming ingrained in my understanding of Japan and the world.
My time in Japan is fast approaching two years. My Japanese is improving, as it has suddenly taken hold as never before. My eyes and heart are seeing things even more clearly than those first days - taking in situations and events, looking at them through my Western eyes, but putting them through an Eastern view, a Japanese view, and adjusting, learning. I learn to distinguish, what equals culture and what equals humanity. What does it mean to be Japanese, or American. What does it mean to be human.
I never felt called to go overseas when I was young. There was never a pull or draw for me other than travel or perhaps school. Japan wasn't on my radar. Meeting my husband changed all of that, but coming to Japan changed even more. Meeting precious youth, learning their stories, feeling their pain. Realizing that my heart for children is the same no matter where I am, no matter what these darlings look like or act like - I still love them dearly. Seeing loneliness, heartache, and despair on a daily basis. Hopelessness. Helplessness. The feelings of people, of humans, who just want something meaningful - want to be loved and appreciated. Want to know they can reveal who they are as humans, without fear of shame or rejection. People who feel the same feelings I have felt, even though we've grown up across an ocean, we connect over those very basic emotions and events that make us human.
I'm not Japanese. I didn't grow up in Japan, like my husband. Japan is part of who he is. Yet, my life here, though short, has influenced me in ways that every other place I've ever lived has. Parts of Japanese society have found their way into my psyche, causing me to look at things much more than simply my own Western lens, one in which I've always known. My most significant life events thus far have happened in Japan - becoming engaged and married. I've met wonderful people and made friends who mean as much to me as anyone in the States. Though I'm a foreigner, and though I often live in a bubble - in between the two - I feel that Japan is now part of me. It's part of who I am. If I ever were to leave, that would stay with me forever. I can't erase the changes. I've allowed myself to be open to Japan, allowing it to speak to me, listening to the voices of people - voices that aren't always audible or said, but voices I hear just the same. This is Japan, and this is my home. Just like Seattle, Bellingham and Montana before it. Places that are part of who I am and who I've become.
Cutting ropes is the only way to go forward, to live the life I'm meant to live, to change and become who I'm meant to be. Though I'm slowly becoming part of Japan, I also sense myself slowly becoming less a part of the U.S. I'm not who I was when I got on that plane almost two years ago, in fact, I'm surprised to remember her. Even from a year ago, I am different. Marriage has had a hand in that too. So much of who I am and was has been weeded out, changed, and adjusted - but for the better, or just differently. It wasn't surprising; I already knew it would happen. I knew, as I strapped in and watched the Seattle skyline shrink and disappear, that I had left myself behind.
*all photos taken with my iPhone