A window on the world

1. Introduction

It was one year ago today, that Inessa, my dear friend and webmaster passed away. The love and enthusiasm she exuded, is still very much alive in my heart.

Spring is showing up in fits and starts. Warm one day, lightly snowing the next. I’m always excited when seeing bulbs and flowers starting to sprout. It’s a strong reminder that “life” never gives up. I bought some seedlings in a neighborhood nursery yesterday, and planted them in memory of Inessa.

Please take the time today, to stop and appreciate someone you love.


2. A window on the world

“People watching” has always been one of my favorite activities, and no better place to do this than in a “foreign” culture. I’ve been in Japan for more than 20 years now, and in many ways I still feel like “a stranger in a strange land”. I say this in a totally positive sense, as I love being drawn into human interactions that leave me contemplating the richness of life.

One of my favorite rituals is breakfast in a local restaurant. I like sitting by the window, as the view gives me a wonderful perspective on the world. By viewing without being seen, I’m entranced by the opportunity to take in life in a pristine form.

Some of what I get to see:
People lining up for the 7:14 bus every morning.
What intrigues me the most is how the scene is almost always the same. The first person waiting is an elderly lady who invariably shows up ten minutes early. The last person in line is always a young guy who trots to the stop 30 seconds before the bus is due to depart. It seems that he rarely allots enough time to getting dressed, as he almost always shows up with his tie in his hand. When the bus is late, he puts on his tie while waiting. If the bus has still yet to arrive, he usually pulls a wrapped rice ball out of his pocket and eats his breakfast. What a time efficient way to live one’s life!

A couple who walk their dog together.
I assume the couple is married. The husband walks the dog on a leash with the wife following about five feet behind. She carries implements for cleaning up after the dog. The husband talks to the wife without looking back towards her, and he’s always smoking a cigarette. When he’s done with his cigarette he lets his wife know, and she hands him a container. In goes the butt, and without missing a step he hands the container back to her. I’m left wondering if they have any children, and what the nature of their overall relationship is like.

An elderly maintenance lady for the apartment building across the street.
What touches my heart in this instance is the care and dedication the woman shows, in doing a job many would consider menial. Stooped over her short broom, she uses it as if it’s a surgical instrument. Making sure to clean the sidewalk of anything that might detract from the standard of cleanliness she has set for herself.

From time to time I slowly walk past her building prior to her coming out. I do this to get a sense of what she looks for when sweeping. Even though I sometimes can’t notice anything being amiss, this doesn’t alter her routine one iota. Over the years, she must have developed a way of looking that is much more refined than mine!

Recently, the lady did not show up two mornings in a row. I was concerned that something must be wrong, and on the third day I saw people placing flowers at a makeshift alter. When I asked one of the waitresses she said the lady had suddenly passed away. I was touched to hear this, and purchased some flowers to add to the others already there.

I can only hope this special lady realized what a wonderful service she had provided for the entire neighborhood. Whoever takes over her job, will have to work quite hard to maintain her standard of excellence!

Looking around me today, somehow the whole world seems a little bit less orderly.

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