P: Japan Possibilities

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.






7 thoughts on “P: Japan Possibilities

  1. What a signature you are leaving to your Asian adventures with this missive. You have transported me in your Red Suitcase and for many moments created a magical place of being there, wherever you are. Thank you so much.

    Love you lots and see you soon

  2. Patti and crew … I have so enjoyed all of your blogs and memorable photographs.
    You truly have a talent for writing and photography, I feel like I got to go along on your trip too! You have given your children an experience of a lifetime and the opportunity to experience this together as a family … INCREDIBLE!

    Safe travels back to all of us,


  3. Following your travels has been a delight, Patty, Josh, Max, and Emma! Thank you for sharing them in this beautiful creative way! Love, Jan xxx

  4. Patty and Family,
    I have so much enjoyed your beautiful posts and gorgeous photographs! I did often wish for more – but I understand how it could be difficult to be blogging when you were experiencing so much day-to-day in real time.

    Safe travels home.


  5. This is an wonderful post. I love the images you shared–Emma leaping the temple arch is her best leap yet. I will always remember meandering through the orchid garden with your family, all dressed in orange, pink and red. On Arab Street your children blended right in with the hanging fabrics.

    I hope my early feedback didn’t discourage you from writing more about the orangutans, although I have a sinking feeling that it might have. I’ll tell you now what I SHOULD have said: the reflection that you shared about your experience of Borneo was thought-provoking and revelatory. So interesting to point the lens of “mother” at such a far-from-home experience. After seeing the mother orangutans with their babies, and the milk mustaches, I look forward to reading more!

    It was great to see you. Call when you get home.

  6. Patty,
    I LOVE reading Red Suitcase. It is the first thing I open when I look at my morning email. It is always beautiful, person and so fresh and interesting. I encourage you to share these more widely.

    And I love this set of images…and until Michele pointed it out, I didn’t realize that graceful leaping person was EMMA!
    See you soon, and safe travels (or maybe by now you are HOME!)

  7. Hello there! I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of information written in the Blog, ‘red suitcase’, I liked all the photographs, and all adventures in the blog, written by all of you, and especially by ‘Patty Freedman’.
    Wish you all have wonderful Mary ‘X’ Mas and May you have more Funfilled, more Adventurous Family trips ahead in life. Thanks for sharing.

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