Stacked in Our Favor

Thoughts about libraries, education, children's literature, writing, art and being connected

Monday, March 21, 2011

Viva, Japan!

As those of you who participated in Month of Poetry know, I owe a debt of gratitude to Japan for not only writing material, but also a way of seeing the world – a change in heart. During Month of Poetry, I found my voice in writing poetic memoir, much of it about experiences I had during the ten years I lived in Tokyo.

About a month ago, a tweet led me to this blog post titled No-divorce expat: a mixed identity becomes permanent . The article struck me motionless for a while after I read it. Much of my identity revolves around my life experiences, especially those of living abroad. My outlook is more global and much less regional than they were previous to those formative years. I still don’t separate myself from the places I have lived or the people I have met.

So the news of earthquake, tsunami, and radiation have had me glued to news feeds. Worrying about the folk I know there. Wishing them well. I’ve written nothing, but encouraging emails and inquiries. Mostly, I’ve been paralyzed.

Undoubtedly you have seen plenty of venues for donating to humanitarian aid for Japan. Many of our children’s literature colleagues have started fundraisers to entice us to participate. By all means do donate, do volunteer.

For those who have watched in horror and need to feel some hope, I’d recommend having a look at Deborah Davidson’s blog Etegami by Dosanko Debbie. She has done a wonderful job of turning her own concerns into a healing, cultural experience in “Humanizing the Earthquake” posts. Not only that, but her whole site is a joy to the eyes. Her paintings are lovely.
Looking through my MoP poetry, I could find only one poem which I thought might be appropriate to share at this time. We have heard much of sharing despite the devastation. The gracious willingness to share despite scarcity is what ultimately, will get Japan through this crisis. We see it in the many stories filtering their way to us. Viva, Japan. My prayers are with you.


I took a trip to Sado-gashima
All by myself
In winter
rather brave I thought
I had been there before
but never in the snow
at least I knew the road to take
and how to catch a bus.

A snowy day in winter
the cold wind blew in from Russia
I could feel it age my face
More than a wrinkle or two

As I waited at a bus stop
under an awning
in a rice field
I watched the lazy sight
of a hawk loop through the sky.

Before long three village women
wearing mompei and indigo scarves
came and settled on the bench
right next to me.

They didn’t want to stare
but they had seldom seen a white one
except on the tv
and that really didn’t count.

One woman, much braver
than her hesitant companions
turned and faced me
held out a mikan
round and pocked and shiny bright
she offered it to me
I thanked her greatly
which surprised her
more than a little
I could speak her native tongue

Next I knew they had exploded
questions flew through the frost air
Where I came from?
How I got there?
Why would I attempt the trip?
Once they could
they were only happy
to start a conversation
with this wild, strange foreigner.

When the bus came
we all boarded
they insisted that I go first
We sat together
eating mikans
until their stop came
but I stayed on

When they left me
they left the mikans
and the golden memories
of their gracious gifts


Anonymous said...

A beautiful post, Lynda. Having been blessed by your MoP memoir poems, I know how you cherished your time in Japan.

Like you, I carry a piece of the places where I've lived (the people I have known) in my heart. Or maybe I leave a piece of my heart there… Either way, I *feel* their pain. Like the inland tsunami that swept through Toowoomba/Lockyer Valley during the Qld floods disaster - a beautiful place where I have many happy memories... Such grief.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan – and incomprehensible after affects – have shaken the world. But those like you who have lived and loved there… you know a deeper pain and grief – felt heart-to-heart with the people of Japan.

Hugs to you - and all who care/suffer.

Lynda Shoup said...

Thanks, Kat, for your web friendship. You have said better than I, many of the feelings I have had of late.

Julie Hedlund said...


Thank you for sharing this with us and reminding us that writing is healing. Writing is hope. Writing is connection.

I've lived abroad too, and of course you carry those places and those people in your heart. It also helps us to understand that people are the same everywhere.

I am now going to read those blog posts that you suggest, because we could all use some hope right about now.


Lynda Shoup said...

Julie, you hit the nail on the head. The more you know about how different we are, the less those differences mean.

Sure glad we have writing to connect us.

Jim & Susan said...

Thanks for posting your thoughts and this poignant poem. I've been thinking of you every day. My thoughts and prayers to you, your family, any your friends abroad.

Linda Austin said...

I love your sweet memoir poem! Just found you through a post by DosankoDebbie.

Lynda Shoup said...

Thanks Susan, for your comments and friendship.

Linda, So glad you found me. Thanks for your kind comments.

studio lolo said...

I also came here via DD's blog.
Her painting and your words are a perfect match.

I was touched completely by your poem.

Lynda Shoup said...

Studio Lolo,

You made my day. I'm glad to know that my poem speaks to you. Hearing that you felt the illustrations were a good match for my poem makes me feel really happy. Debbie's illustrations are powerful and beautiful.

dosankodebbie said...

The Bolduc House Museum in St.Genevieve, MO is putting together an Earthquake-related exhibit with prints of my Earthquake series of Etegami being offered for sale, the proceeds of which will go to help earthquake victims relocate. One of the etegami images they want to use is the mikan piece that quotes your poem. Do I have your permission to let them use it? See the announcement here:

Lynda Shoup said...

Debbie, I'm delighted to have the image be a part of such a worthy cause. What a delight to see my words continue to go forth.