I missed my two aunts, my grandmother, my childhood home, the rushing sound of water cascading down the brass rain chain, the floorboards in the kitchen under which my Obachan used to ferment homemade pickles, the shoji doors repaired with sakura paper patches. All things I took for granted. This was my first trip back to Tokyo in a decade and so much of what I knew and counted on was no longer there. It was also the first trip for my younger son so I saw things through his beginner eyes, things I might not have noticed before either because it was all too familiar or because I was looking for something else.
Also spring in Japan is lysergic. I’ve always visited in summer or winter. So that was new too.
The cherry tree in this photo is 500 years old (!) We saw it during a short visit to Nikko. I was fascinated by the timber props used to support the branches. All that effort to support a tree that might have otherwise fallen naturally. I thought this might be a rare and uncommon intervention for a revered tree then I began to notice a range of tree propping techniques throughout Tokyo. Gingko trees. Pine trees. Everyday trees on everyday streets. Props used to assist a weak limb or trunk or to help a young tree grow to maturity. Care for the infirm or un-firm. Why had I never noticed these wood supports before? I was moved by the loving effort.
It’s good to be dehabituated. I woke up this morning thinking about a woodsy walk I once took with a mycologist who gently instructed me to look down instead of up. “You think you know this place,” she said. “But just look at what you’ve been missing.”