Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Place Roots

When people hear that I lived in Japan for six years when I was a kid, they almost always tell me how lucky I was to have had that adventure and seen that foreign land. For the most part, I agree. It was a privilege to learn that language the same way I learned English, just absorbing it; to see how they live on the other side of the ocean, to eat their fruits and taste their cooking; to be a child in a place where schools take it upon themselves to teach children taste and a sense of duty by making them eat everything and clean the floors of their class room.

But I think the envious ones don't appreciate the privilege they've had in being rooted to one place. There is strength and joy in knowing the seasons of a place, its trees and blossoms, its streets, neighborhoods, shops. It's the comfort of home: the veneer of memories and associations coating everything. Reminiscence and nostalgia in the place where present and past overlap--these are powerful.

I think about these things a lot when I go home, now that I live across the country for college, and the trees and wind are foreign. At school, I keep thinking I'm seeing some creature scurrying among the trees, out of the corner of my eye. When I look directly, only the wind is there: the wind in the fallen oak leaves. Broader than the ones at home, they move like small birds fluttering, or as they fall from the sky, like huge brown butterflies. . .

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