This is the first winter I can remember where I have felt the urge to hibernate. And I have hibernated. It’s cold and windy and sometimes rainy. Twice, we went away to colder places and when we came home, I unpacked my bags in a cold house. It caught me by surprise that it was still cold here. I don’t know why. Of course it’s not actually that cold here. Not anywhere near as cold as it is where we grew up, but I think its easy to forget what old weather feels like. It’s been 6 years since my last real winter.
Our old Japanese house isn’t made to have every room heated, so we heat one room and stay in it. If I am cooking, the kitchen is warm. If I’m reading upstairs the living room is warm. If we’re sleeping the bedroom is warm. Last year I think I extolled the benefits of this house. It’s cold outside, I said, I should be cool and not warm inside. It connects me to the seasons. Last winter I walked outside every day and rode my bike all the time. I ran in rain gear and thermals. I planned my day around the warm room. And I think I loved it. But this year I’m cold. I have a cough. I move slowly. I don’t want to run. I day dream when I’m home alone and I don’t change out of pajamas until the last possible moment.
But twice this week I saw plum blossoms blooming. And today I rolled the window down in the car. And in the afternoon I turned the heat off and the sun was warm through the windows was warm enough. Spring is coming.
Saturday was Burns Day. We celebrated by reading Burns poems randomly throughout the day. My favorites are the ones where can’t understand all of the words, but they still make me cry.
Adress to a Haggis is one of Robert Burns’ most famous poems. I especially like that he calls haggis a chieftain of the puddin’ race.
So today when I was cooking miso soup I thought that if I were to write an address to any food, it might be that. I cook a big pot of miso soup once a week. A very big pot. And we eat it at dinner, at breakfast on the weekend, and Brant eats it at lunch. It was the first Japanese thing that I cooked and thought, “whoa. this is what this should taste like.” It’s become comfort food and preparing it every week has become 20 minutes of near meditation.
My hands just know what to do and I quickly chop, and boil, and whisk, and simmer till the pot that was water is now a salty brown soup. I realize that I haven’t been paying attention for moments at a time. It’s magic and solitary and comforting.
It’s also still special. Every time I do it, I stop for a second and register how beautiful chopped scallions and white tofu look on a wooden cutting board. Every time I do it, I lick a little bit of miso paste from my hand. Every time I do it I splash broth onto the stove when I drop in little blocks of tofu. And all of these are some of my favorite moments of the week.
You know that moment when you are at a hail and farewell dinner for your husband’s ward room, and you suddenly realize that you are sitting next to the Admiral? You try to be discrete and you communicate with your husband using only your eyebrows. Is this fine? Are we supposed to sit here? Then you just nervously eat a mini meatball and wonder if he will talk to you.
Oh, No? You don’t know that feeling? I didn’t either before we came to Japan. Two years ago this would have never happened. Realistically, I would never have been at a hail and farewell with an admiral, and if it did happen for some reason, I would have thought it was cool.
I had a lot of goals when we moved here and almost all of them involved traveling in Japan. I wanted to learn to speak Japanese and cook Japanese food. I wanted to live in a Japanese house and meet Japanese people. I wanted to learn new, perspective changing things from a different culture and take them with me when we left.
This definitely happened. But I also found out that there is a lot to learn about the Navy.
In the 20 months that we have lived here, I have probably learned as much about what it means to be a Navy spouse as I have learned about Japanese culture. I was a military spouse for a few years before we got here, but my husband wasn’t on a ship, he didn’t stand all night watches, we didn’t live on a base and have big command wide functions. I had no clue who or what an admiral was.
I didn’t understand this till we got here, but I knew nothing about the Navy. Now I do. It’s funny the things we learn, when we’re focused on learning something else.
I started this blog to write about small victories I won while living abroad. I expected many and in the beginning there were. But after a little while I realized that living here isn’t as tough, or weird as I thought it would be. And and as soon as I found something interesting to write about, it became kind of normal to me. It’s not a small victory to get the garbage right anymore, or to hang the correct New Years decoration, or to order a birthday cake at a Japanese bakery. Small victories turned into the stuff that happens.
So that is my new theme. The stuff that happens.