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.
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.
There is nothing more self absorbed than a blog about blogging, but too bad, that is what I am about to do.
Last week, we celebrated our one year anniversary of living in Japan.
I volunteered during the day and Brant worked. In the afternoon, we played tennis and made bacon egg and cheese sandwiches went to see the Great Gatsby. Brant had no idea it was our anniversary. I was a great day.
And since I started this about a year ago, our fun day reminded me that I have neglected this tumblr. Elsewhere, I’m working on long pieces about Japan, but here where I thought it would be so fun to share quick funny stories about little adventures in Japan, or making big embarrassing mistakes (both happen frequently), I have a hard time finding the motivation for it. Part of that I think is how I keep learning new things all the time, so mistakes I made two weeks ago seem ridiculous, and at the same time little triumphs with the language or relationships with my neighbors seem trivial.
Today I learned dry cleaning words when I brought my kimono to the cleaners, I bought my first octopus, which I just chopped up, and it rained which is good for our little garden.
I wrote this for a creative class I’m currently taking. It’s not really about Japan. It’s not about Japan at all.
After my mom went through every detail she could give about the hurricane, or “superstorm” she said, “Oh yeah… and the hot tub floated away.”
When she said that they found two feet of mud in the garage and one foot of mud in the first floor of the house, and when she said there was three feet of sand in the drive way, and when she said it looked like the the water level had been four feet high outside the house, I was upset. But something about the image of water so strong that is uprooted a hot tub and floated it into a neighbor’s yard made me feel sick.
“What? The hot tub floated away?”
“It crashed into the back fence, and tried to get into the neighbor’s yard. We can’t find the motor anywhere.”
When she told me that they had been given six hours to inspect the house and get it ready for the approaching noreaster, and when she told me that the oven was full of water, and when she told me that trucks from the National Guard drove up and down the Boulevard watching for looters, I started to understand how bad the damage was. But I kept coming back to the hot tub.
“Was it upside down? Or right side up.”
“The hot tub.”
“Oh. Right side up. Can you imagine how strong the water was?”
When she told me that every trailer in an RV park at the south end of the island was pushed into big pile, and when she told me that the surf shop where I worked for eight summers was still boarded up, and when she told me that there was a part of the island that was too dangerous for anyone to drive onto yet, I started to cry. But then I remembered that hot tub.
“Tell me about the floating hot tub again.” I laughed.
“It’s not funny.” She laughed back at me.
There is something very special and also weirdly sneaky about Mount Fuji.
I can see it from our upstairs windows on clear days. Most days are not clear. So, when I first wake up in the morning and see it, now with snow on the top, sometimes I audibly gasp. Like it snuck up on me. A mountain. It does that at night too. Sometimes there is a fog blocking it all day long and then the sunset burns off the clouds and there is this dark silhouette of Fuji in front of a red and yellow sunset and I always notice is suddenly, like, when did you get here? Oh 10,000 years ago (according to Wikipedia), right.
There is an episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon and Buzz Aldrin yell at the moon together. He says something like, “I walked on your face!” Since we climbed Mount Fuji in September I like to yell at it and tell it I walked all over it. My husband has never laughed.