Oh, Japan! Never could I have imagined the impact that a short trip to accompany my husband on a business trip to Japan in the 1980’s would have on my life. The impact was profound and has continued to influence my life in ways small and large.
Suddenly I was presented with a very different way to see and be in the world. It was as if I’d fallen down the rabbit hole into a fascinating new world that I had no idea existed. I found an ancient culture that revered its traditions as it continued to innovate creatively. I found people who appeared always to be generous and polite. I found an attention to detail that captivated me. I found a culture that revered nature (most of the time). I found stark contrasts between old and new, the sacred and the profane. Juxtapositions exist everywhere. It was stimulating and inspirational. It got my attention. In a week’s time, I quickly became obsessed with all things Japanese. It was clearly a case of love at first sight. In the ensuing years, I’ve come back to Japan many times. I now live part time in Kyoto. It’s become my Source.
The photographs of my life huddle together in the darkness, secure in a bedroom cabinet. They now lead quiet lives, disturbed only occasionally. They once brought only pleasure to me and upon inspection, wonder. Now going through them brings a quotient of sadness too. The scale began to tip about 10 or 15 years ago. Their nearby presence exerts an energy that often tempts me to pay them a visit, but one that I usually resist. It’s a bottomless journey, that once begun leads down a road that’s too nostalgic. It invariably leads to sad emotions that I’d prefer to not indulge. It does show a rich lifetime of family times, travel, holidays and joyful events. The photos allow me to visit people who were once an important part of my life, now no longer available for one reason or another or sometimes for no reason I can state. They just faded away.
Were my eyebrows really once that full and dark? Gazing at a photo of myself holding my infant children in my arms, I can still feel my daughter’s softness and inhale her sweet baby scent. Those sacred pleasures vanished too quickly. Pangs of times passed too quickly and unconsciously. Another photo yields a glance of smiling faces at a school graduation. That was long ago, when there were more beginnings and a door closed meant that another door would soon be opening.
Yesterday, I uncovered a long-lost photo of my mother in her 20’s with a man other than my father. She and her gentleman friend looked very happy. I remembered her telling me many years ago that this man was her boyfriend before she met my father. They were close to engagement. And then they weren’t. The road not taken, but still present in my stash of snapshots. Does the gentleman still have a photo of my mom that his children puzzle over?
There are so many photos! My short-term attempts at organization have always run out of steam. I can never throw out enough of them to even make a small dent in their number. Now they lay, slightly deteriorating by the day, in boxes, albums, and stacks. They give testament to a life and youth gone by. They recall young children, departed relatives, exciting trips to Europe and Japan, important birthdays, a long-lost pet. I want to bring them to life, if only for a brief visit.
I almost gasp when looking at photos of a long-ago party at my house, celebrating the visit of Doug Elkins Dance Company in 1998. Everyone was sooo young and so drunk.
I found a photo of my mother with her arms around two of my daughters, probably taken 40 years ago. They all looked relaxed and happy. This photo brought me joy because my mother hated to have her picture taken, consequently, I have few photos of her where she seems happy and looks the way I want to remember her. She died of Alzheimer’s so my last memories of her are painful to recall. This photo helped me make her real and healthy again. The image is now on my desk and in my heart.
Thousands of digital photos sit right under my fingertips at my computer’s keyboard. They’re so easily accessible, and visited more frequently. They’re available for immediate recall and better organized. I imagine that my grandchildren will have no boxes of photos to store.
Once again there came the time to put these memory capsules back in their cupboard. After writing about them this time, I lovingly put them away, and even managed to feel happy.