Being here produces an almost constant high for me. It’s allowed me to appreciate the drizzly days and foggy nights happening recently in Kyoto as being as beautiful and welcome as the sunny bright days. It’s admiring the magnificence of a huge polished wood counter when out for dinner at a neighborhood restaurant and the elegant perfection of an old machiya.
It’s the almost constant delight taken in Japanese design and the surprises waiting for me each time I leave my building.
It’s feeling completely at one with my surroundings, of releasing into the moment. It’s visiting with friends and being grateful for their enrichment of my life. It’s going to a big Ikenobo display, feeling a bit underwhelmed, then suddenly concentrating on a small piece of the arrangement and watching the small miracles of a single flower come into focus.
There’s a wholeness here that permeates the everyday culture. The exchanged smiles, the unfailing politeness between people, the deep listening and awareness of the other. The delight taken in acknowledgement. The reverence for nature and the seasons and history is beautiful despite the urge to modernize and the sometimes degrading influence of tourism.
I’ll be the first to admit that as an outsider I can only understand a small percentage of the reality of life here. I am free of the famous family and friend obligations that are imposed by the society. My assessment and response is purely personal. I do not understand the language, so much of the communication here goes sailing right over my head. I do not work here, so I have the freedom that a retired life permits.
My age indicates that my years are now numbered, but the glow of the setting sun is pure gold, and I’m often in a state of what I can only call bliss.