February, Full of Grace.

3 March, 2009 § Leave a comment

In addition to the round orange globes of fresh persimmons dangling from skinny branches and the hordes of gyrating bicycle spokes skimming down the streets, one of my most distinctive memories of Japan is of Florrie. A quiet-spoken, silver-haired woman with a backbone of steel, Florrie was a host-turned-mother figure when work brought me to Tokyo several months ago. She shared an extra pair of well-worn embroidered house-slippers with me as well as her delicate china tea cups with cherry blossoms on the side and her stories of growing up in the down-town section of the bustling metropolis. Her house was spare, almost austere, with gleaming bamboo floors and sliding wooden partitions in all of the doorways and the distinctly Asian smells of sandalwood, steamed rice and wasabi sauce pervaded every corner of her living space. She introduced me to my first taste of true Japanese culture, one characterized by simplicity, purity and respect, and I’m afraid the pervasive white paper mask brings no protection here. The Asia contagia is deep in my blood now and I do not even want to start looking for a cure.

A poignant conversation I shared with Florrie one late night included a discussion of practical manifestations of gratitude. She expressed her desire to actively cultivate the ability to appreciate even the smallest joys throughout a mundane series of events and one of the ways she does so is by keeping a small but detailed journal of quiet moments of joy she stumbles across on a day-to-day basis. This practice of joyful observation is one that has continued to intrigue me ever since so this month, I decided to follow in Florrie’s steps.

Like most disciplines, my attempt to become more aware of simple yet unexpected pleasures throughout an ordinary day was slow and even slightly painful at the start. It has since reaped overflowing benefits, however, and my awareness of small reasons for gratitude became more acute. More instinctive. Less unfettered, even. One Thursday, for example, reads “falling snow turned to momentary gold under a street lamp” while another day, a Tuesday, simply says “bath bubbles!” The list grew from one bullet point a day to two or even four comments; by the 25th, I ran out of spaces to write my observations in that the little white box allotted to each February day.

So now my calendar, keeping company with the tape dispenser, the ceramic container of pens and the work laptop, is covered with red, green and purple scrawled notes – – and I think perhaps the ability to glance at an entire month full of small joys is a gift in and of itself.

p3014620(Here’s to you, Florrie).

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