Countryside Intoxication

It took me a few minutes to identify the intoxicating scent that was, frankly, intoxicating.  It was tea olive, or osmanthus, first encountered when we lived in Athens, Georgia.  It took me several days to figure out where it was coming from, because it’s an unremarkable shrub with a tiny flower with an extremely powerful fragrance.  The unexpected fall sweetness seems to say pay attention, soon the landscape will wither and you won’t be la dee da-ing through it.  You’re here for a special and brief time.

I rediscovered osmanthus while I was in Japan many autumns ago.  Here it was again, almost shouting that spring will come again and life is very sweet.


Yesterday, we strolled a small part of the oldest road in Japan.  Suddenly my nose was twitching again.  I soon discovered osmanthus, doing its thing, once again.  Now that I know what to look for, it wasn’t long before I found the source of the fragrance.  Bring it on!  Japan’s shrub has a yellow-orange flower rather than the white ones I originally discovered in Georgia.  The shrubs are more pervasive here as well, so that the scent can surround and seem to follow you.

Finding the trail, enjoying the scent.

After three hours of train rides and walks we finally found what we were looking for: The Yamanobe no michi trail !  Once again we had misjudged the amount of time it would take for us to find it.  I never could have found it on my own. My husband is generally undaunted by such challenges.

The online description was accurate in that the trail seemed far removed from the 21st century, but getting to it, was a bit complicated. Once we found it, the setting was dreamy, complete with scented air.

The rice harvest is now about half complete. Being out in the country in autumn, we were surrounded by rice fields and many persimmon orchards.  The recent rains have made the countryside lush and very green.


The entrance gate to Chokakuji Temple, established 824AD

We investigated the  ancient Chokakuji Temple just off the trail. The pathway up to the temple was lined with late blooming wild flowers.  A smiling monk ushered us into the small temple garden, and I gasped at the profusion and abundance in this small enchanting space.  It was unlike any other temple garden I’ve seen.  Deliberate design or a result of some neglect, I’m not sure, but you had to praise Mother Earth for her lush abundance, breathe deeply and attempt to take it all in.

Nature left to its own devices is  breathtaking in its vitality!



As usual, I slow to a snail’s pace when an environment in Japan catches my attention.  My husband breezes through these spaces at a more vigorous space, urging me to hurry up, because we “don’t have much time.”  I vacillate between wanting to tell him to get lost and awareness that he speaks the truth!  I reluctantly pick up the pace.

The countryside idyll

The trail leading from the temple became a dirt path flanked by rice fields and pomegranie orchards.  I pictured myself living in this gentle paradise, probably in an old farmhouse, brought up to date, of course.  My reverie was interrupted as the path incline grew steeper.  I reminded myself that approaching age 80 with chronic asthma meant that some daydreams were just plain ridiculous.  My immediate goal was to get to the top of the moderate sized hill, so I could then easily coast down the other side.

Disappearing Acts

A noun is the name of a person, place or thing.  A sock is an article of clothing pulled onto a foot. Why mention them together? They both seem to take joy in disappearing just when needed.  Add reading glasses to the mix too.  For many years, reading glasses and socks seemed twined in a disappearance conspiracy.  Sock learned the trick early on.  Reading glasses must have been a quick study, because one day, she pulled the same stunt, although obviously not in the washing machine. Even if bought in multiples, they all  cleverly figured out how to vanish at the same time. Somehow signals must have been sent to each other. Continue reading “Disappearing Acts”

Going Home!?

It was was dark outside.  All I could see were small clusters of lights as our plane came in to land, but I knew the unseen rural New England landscape well. In years past this landing meant I was coming home from college or in later years for a  visit with my ageing parents, my young children by my side.  Feelings now, as then, were a mixture of anticipation and melancholy.  The melancholy was from the recognition that time was closing in on the remaining time left between me and my parents. Those disturbing feelings are a visitor that accompanies advancing age, deepening recognition that the clock is ticking and adding a bittersweet quality to events that were once never given much thought.

cheesy dec

The empty airport concourse signalled immediately that no one would be there any longer for my homecoming. It had been decades ago, but happy images of my mother and father waiting for me remained alive, however impossible. The Christmas decorations on display looked a little cheesier to me than they had in my youth. Mounds of dirty snow were the only remainders of last week’s early snowstorm.  The cold air seemed colder than I’d remembered.  The winter coat I’d brought with me in defense of the cold warmed me, but felt heavy and oppressive.

I’d come to visit a dear relative who is being treated for a grave illness.  I was relieved to finally visit, but apprehensive too. Continue reading “Going Home!?”

The Quiet Lives of Old Photographs

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.

home from college, visiting my Dad

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.

The gang in Brooklyn on Halloween Eve, many moons ago!
A gorgeous early summer day near Stockholm.

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.

Just Married, saying goodbye to parents as we head out for the honeymoon.  1963!


ranch 2000
New Year’s Eve 1999

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.

My favorite look (for many years)

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.

meeting the final grandchild!