Yesterday we went to a temple for a morning session of Zen meditation. I know it sounds like no big deal to sit silently just focused on breath for 15 minutes but you try it! It was really the right moment for stillness and reflection in our trip. My head seems so full if images and thoughts that I feel almost discouraged to write because it will be so inadequate. And just like all the other times that I let procrastination bock me from doing my work—there are so many other things than writing that can slip in and take up my time.
I am reminding myself not to be discouraged that we didn’t do more blogging everyday. It is good that I have something to practice for next year! Thank you so much for all of your visits and comments on the site. It was lovely to hear your voices from far away and helped ease the occasional longing for home.
First an apology—I am working on the last part of the Orangutan story! I know that I have left you hanging but some of the shine has gone out of the piece and I need to just finish it and get it out to you. This explains the long silence in my posting I think. I figured if I couldn’t write that than I shouldn’t move on with the other experiences—but now of course I am overfilled with adventures and don’t know where to begin.
This morning I woke to the shuffle sounds of slipper feet out on the wooden walkway of our room. We are staying in a 600-year-old temple with tatami mat floors; shoji screen walls and temple bells calling us to meditation. Outside my window is a Zen rock garden—not a landscape for tourists, but a garden created by the monk to help him focus his practice.
We are having a fantastic time in Japan—first in hyperactive Tokyo, then on to the snowy mountain town Matsumoto, and now finally the temples of Kyoto. I suppose it is the contrast of experiences, which sharpen the places for me. The balance of modern & traditional, beauty & function, spirit & technology, fashion & faux paus define Japanese culture for me.
So as I wake up this morning—the last day of our travel adventure this season, I am thinking about I’ve learned from this amazing trip. One big idea came just this week from the monk at the temple we studied with. He said,
“Your whole life has possibility. Moving forward this moment you have choices. What you choose affects the future but also the past you are creating. You are at your youngest age in your life right this moment. To be mindful, live in this moment passing right now, but with attention to your past and your future.”
I feel like we have been doing this through our adventures with the kids—pushing ourselves to step outside of comfortable, crossing narrow bridges, asking strangers for help, walking around the corner, and trying new tastes.
There are 2 things my body does when faced with new ideas: accept or reject. This goes the same for food. In Japan, where desirable flavors and textures can be so different than what I am used to, I am aware of the basic accept/reject scenario each time. The other morning I was faced with the traditional Japanese breakfast bento.
Arranged beautifully in lacquered boxes and bowls were compartments for each specially prepared delicacy. There was the familiar bowl of rice, miso soup, cold poached egg, cabbage salad and mysterious pickle assortment. One of them was black and slimy looking, one was maroon and shriveled, and a third was speckled brown and vaguely bean-shaped. We have developed an agreement (and we all honor it, some with more enthusiasm than others) to try everything. I can’t ask Max to eat something that I am not willing to taste! Josh usually goes first and gives us a little information like “this one is spicy be careful.”
When I open my mouth to put in the wrinkled dark pink thing (knowing it could be anything from fish paste to horseradish) I have to push past the accept/reject door– firmly wanting to reject. I chew and consider.
After the initial reaction to spit it out passes, I am left with interesting work to decipher the tastes. It is a salty tangy chewy mouthful. The flavor particles are concentrated as if dehydrated and when it finally meets my cheek and tongue they explode like peonies in bloom. Boom! Now my whole mouth is dazzled by sourness. I’ve never experienced intensity of sour. My eyes water and lips pucker. With another swallow and swish of my tongue, it finishes. The firework show in my mouth is over but rather than looking for water to wash the experience away, I wish there was another pickled plum to taste!
Traveling with the kids with the “adventure” perspective reminds me to stay learning and open. Life is so much more complex and beautiful when you approach the world with curiosity. There are so many places we’ve been these past 8 weeks and I am grateful for everyday that we had together. I hope that our photographs and blogging has opened up some of these experiences for you.