Catching Up with Spring

I am pleased to report that I have been so taken up with all of our recent blossoms that I have not kept up with this blog. Sakura season in Tokyo is mythic and a simple day or weekend of rain and wind can dash all of those little blossoms and the picnics we anticipate and plan the whole year long. They bloom and I just have to be outside. It is imperative.

I have been caught up with opening buds, with every sign of spring.


And living. And running towards the playground with my kids, their legs longer than I remembered. My son won’t wear pants. He wants every inch of skin out, even in rain or wind. My daughter is now throwing her own tea parties, setting the table and moving every grain and clump of sugar where it belongs, in the dainty pot for her to move with a dainty spoon.

We are observing and planting and seeing each bud open.



There is a sadness, too. Cherry blossoms are fleeting. In fact, this is part of their beauty long admired here in the land of the Rising Sun. This is the poetry. Even the young kamikaze were compared to the sakura. For a moment they live and then, the season is gone.

Last year our Grandfather passed from life to death. He made his circle, a beautiful, beautiful life. And that morning, the morning after I sang to him on Skype, just 15 minutes or so before his death, there was a moment just for me. A clasp, a kind of delicate closure. I rode my kids to school and as I stopped our bike to admire the sakura, one perfect flower dropped from its limb and helicoptered down, perfectly into my hand. Not bruised, not missing any petal or stamen. It spun on the wings of the wind and landed in my hand, a hand that wasn’t even prepared to take it.

Here we are, a year later, new flowers. I’m pregnant with another daughter and just this past weekend, on a cloudy Shabbat, we met under the trees and chanted the Mourner’s Kaddish, the Jewish song when grieving a loved one. It is all there, like a sakura. Life full of promise, a life so revered you cup that person in the heart of your heart, where your hand cannot unclench. The uniqueness of this chant is that through our sadness, in the midst of our grief, we praise the Author of Creation. We acknowledge His Holiness and the continuation of His Glorious Kingdom now and forever. Somehow praise rises up.


I cried and still sang. Tears can fall just as the heart balloons with a new air, a clean hope. Spring is this, isn’t it? The old still falling away while the new marches on, taking with it every nutrient, every bit of oxygen and peace it can.

The next day we were back. All day Sunday for falling petals that rained on our tarps and stuck to our April skin. Soft white, almost pink. Petals in my daughter’s hair, petals on the seats of our bikes. Petals that streamed past our faces and felt glorious. Even though they passed. Petals even lining gutters. Even though it means less puffs, less beauty on the trees, those moments of pink wind and soft petally rain, I herald and take in this spring.

Every day looking up, expecting beauty and yet, shocked by its power, simple and diaphanous. Every day looking through seashell pink petals and the wind that moves. And the next and the next and on and on until pale pink clumps of dried stamens, petals, all crunchy, lay on the street.Flexibility and the trust to keep growing, to keep pedaling through that wind.

This must be spring’s song.



Gutters of Pink

You can tell the spring

by how many petals on the ground.


 Life. Industry. Wind.

You can tell our life by socks herded,

shirts left near the hamper

or stacked, pressed into their drawer.

Toys also, that keep pushing their way towards kitchen territory,

what is strewn to remind.

And what papers, essays, words are falling around my feet,

my tickled springtime ankles.


And these gusts just keep bringing the pretty up–

the piles of pink petals

I’d love to scoop up

if they would not collect

in the street,

huddle near gutters,

or whistle past my head

like they could get caught in my lashes.


Spring is collecting its piles here.

Out with the Old & Brittle


I felt so good from my time getting a luxurious haircut with a friend, that I’ve stayed up all night. Just poop.


Now all the luminosity from a long long scalp massage, divine hair washing, treatment, great cut, and blowout will be lost in the sag of eye bags. Just poop.

Monday Rough Riders & Spring

This morning could have been rough, as Mondays can be. Isaac was already gone, rising super early for work.

I had stayed up waaaaay too late, writing & then awake, nursing at the computer.


Mr. Textured Hair. Gosh, we love him.

Just me & the kids, so I’d take K to school. And today is the day we put clean sheets on her futon at school. Coffee first, breakfast of walnut bread (kurumi pan), that cloudy, wonderful apple juice, & glistening, juicy Florida oranges. (I swear they are even better here than when I lived in the Sunshine State).

Brushing teeth, changing clothes, gathering up pigtails, piggybacks, diaper changes throughout, Kariin’s potty breaks (convincing her that she is not “merely happy” as she suggests, but doing a pee-pee dance), and so on. Oh, we fed and walked the dogs, too, even watered plants. Kariin held the double lead and said, “I’m directing you here, dogs.” We saw tulip beds and irises.

AND, because I like to aim high, even on the slippery edge of Monday, I told Kariin she could ride her scooter all the way to school, her first time. She could have overestimated her strength, her endurance. It is sort of a long way. Nah, not her. She is a rough, tough rider. A pleasure & a gem. Our Monday morning kicked grass.




And then, as some spring reward, this is our view from the foyer, or genkan. The Taiwanese sakura is teetering on the precipice of blooming; this is the weather of dreams. Sayonara thick coats, so long you bulky outerwear. Hello to freedom in movement, to skipping a bit lighter than in February or the start of March. The sakura are slated to bloom this week, on the 26th. Hanami, that lovefest of blooms and joy camped out on tarps with lots of drinks, in almost here.


Almost full “tada!”


The Japanese school year starts mid-April. We are ready, new backpack & everything.


That’s my girl, fiddling with the stilts.

xoxo I’m a happy girl in spring.

I Wanna Garden; it’s Getting Warm Out!


Some writers talk about how soothing washing dishes can be, or how creative ideas emerge when they are ironing a shirt. For me, it’s weeding, or gardening of any sort. The images of tilling soil, preparing a bed, and watering a plant make my inner Thoreau come on out. Perhaps it was inspired first by Teeny, my best friend’s mom. She always clipped her own roses and brought them inside. Gardenias grew wild with a gazillion white blooms. Their waxy leaves never held bug bites; she knew every secret to maintaining a magnificent garden. Aphids didn’t stay long. You could smell those gardenias, windows shut, as you drove up the slender driveway.

I live in the city now. In Japan. I am far from Teeny’s Coral Springs garden with her fledgling pines that have since grown up. She tends a wild South Florida forest, a rose-studded Buddhist garden with earthen statues, tangles of jade, all her secrets and tips climbing high on a trellis.

I move, missing her and that garden. I can not take her birthday or graduation gift to me, a round basket garden. I cannot bring the lucky bamboo we hand out at our wedding–3 ” bamboo tucked in glass vials, basket smocked in green toile. I take whatever will and eye for beauty I have– in invisible seeds. You cannot bring live plants, produce, or meat into Japan.

Here we urban people practice potted gardening. I’d love to make a forever garden, just tending the little things I’ve somehow got growing is enough. Just hearing my three year old say, “succulents” will do. For now. Someday, I will grown gleaming Meyer lemons and will be a bulb-expert.


My mom is the real gardener. Maybe it chose her when on a kibbutz in Israel, picking almonds, handkerchief tied over her long light brown hair. She has planted and gleamed apricots, eaten pounds of gourmet salad from her own plots, shovelled ox manure and has raised giant beets. Even now, she is making ready her gigantic plastic worm condo for many a-guest. They will tend and eat and poop out nutrients to feed her neighborhood garden plot. She will bring in, hoist up great feasts of cabbage, heirloom tomatoes, sweet honeysuckle, arugula, and beans. And I will tease her mercilessly about those wriggling, hermaphrodite worms. They make more and more babies because they always are and have the right partner. They are the bees’ knees and she is a fearless farmer and squishy worm keeper. It’s all quite gross and quite charming (from a squeamish distance).

I won’t be shovelling cow poop or dangling too many worms in the near future, but I sure do admire all her high-yielding garden produces. At my ranch/narrow 3-story in Tokyo, we’re working on unearthing the surface soil, clearing out packed-in, crumpled leaves that have stood their ground since fall, since it was too cold for me to cup my hands to the earth and dig or weed. Actually, I did plant flowers and the quintessential Japanese plants for the new year, little ornamental cabbages that resemble white, green, and purple roses. But that’s it. The space is shabby, worn by winter and thirsty for sun.

Today, though, it is different. It is sixty degrees. We smile. My nursing boy is barefoot and the coats hang on their hooks. Today I venture outside, barely off our front stoop, baby boy on hip, watering can held by both our hands. We feel dirt, smell sunlight perch on trees. I am not able to get all the grit from my nails. I’ll have to scrub and scrub again and then spread on salve. I don’t have much of a garden, but man, I sure do have gardeners’ hands.


Today Jude picks up pebbles, places them on his lip, daring them to fit inside his little mouth. (I sweep my finger through his mouth, afraid. I hang him upside down by his feet). He earns the short-lived taste of dried cherry leaves. My eleven month old scuffs his brown moccasins as I scold myself–they should be sneakers. But anyway, he feels breeze; he watches me fill a bag with sediment, sees me clear what has been sitting too long. It is happy nesting. We await a new season. A season not stifled, cakes of dirt no longer cracked. We breathe through open windows and charts of peak cherry blossoms. We breathe in faith coming a l i v e. Today I plan a garden.



We will learn to garden and pluck weeds, flinging the old over our shoulders, away. We will thank winter for all the nasty cold, for showing us change, for showing us G-d. We will plant broccoli, radishes, maybe kale. In my head, ladybugs will all plot how to best get to us. Butterflies will twirl and skip right over. Our garden will boast the fruit and seeds of change that is love. And if my grandiose Little House thoughts are too big, at least we can keep up with the pulling of weeds. But o, to make my unfortunate gardenia bush bud. O, to harvest our own cucumber! We shall see what lives.

A Mean Bean Throwing Time

It is now the day after the beans. The day after Setsubun, the day after we threw out those yucky oni,  the Japanese word for a kind of ogre or demon. Boy, was it fun. We had geared-up for it. We were prepared to kick out the bad, say, “Adios, jerks” to those oni and “Come in, right this way, please”, to all the blessings, to everything from  God. Setsubun is for me, getting fired-up, as you fiercely love your family, love your God and all of your blessings. I hurl those beans with resolve and a little more muscle than is needed. Maybe this is my own alternative to the Superbowl. (I think my girl takes after me in that. One night, while dictating the writing in her Daddy-Daughter journal, she tearfully confessed something. She bit a teacher who was dressed as an oni. I guess that’s asking for it, pre-school teacher).


The grocery store manager. Kariin was NOT happy to see that he had been so near her brother.

Certainly, the grocery stores and tiny markets supprt the yearly pastime, too. Special rolls filled with dozens of goodies, all swathed in nori, line the shelves. Bean this, bean that. Crackers, cookies, all treats to celebrate Setsubun. Image                    Before leaving school yesterday, she took her Setsubun things home: her little horned-oni crown, an origami box she stamped for holding those crunchy beans, and a little cut & paste oni craft. She skipped home, singing a giddy song–something in Japanese about oni pants being the best pants to wear. Image                        We don’t celebrate each Japanese custom, but this one is so great! It is Buddhist in background, and many people throughout Japan head to the temple, or jinja. We actually did this year–first time. My husband came home early (big treat in itself!) and told us how something was going on at the jinja. We served him his dinner and shuffled-out midway through his dish of rice, beef croquette, and garlicky green beans. The evening was unseasonably warm and crisp.

“Come on! You don’t need socks,” Isaac called to me. He was right; the air was delicious and as I scooped-up my three year-old girl, also without socks–just shoes, she wriggled happy feet and squealed, “It feels so good!” We giggled and rubbed our noses together. It felt like the beginnings of fall, father than the day before spring. Yes, I know–we Westerners know early February is still, definitely spring. Over here, in Japan, this Spring Setsubun heralds spring. An East Asian calendar is much different. There are 24 terms, or rishun. Each one is divided into three terms. Okay, this is a little too “mathy” and it seems I could almost introduce a home made pie chart using paper plates and a metal brad.

Anyway. Back to the poetry:

I felt the little surge that comes from so many families being out in the narrow streets, walking under the gates of the temple, taking in the tall trees, and the “oldness” of this place, Japan. It seemed a night for fireflies. Turns out, we missed it. Everyone was clearing-out from the old wooden temple. Kids ran past with goody bags. A woman inside the temple swept and we spied the priest in his white gowns, cleaning up. Another man saw us, though, and said, “Wait one sec.” He came out with major goods for our girl–piles of snacks and fukumame, roasted lucky soybeans, for throwing at the oni. We raced back home and got to work. First Kariin and Daddy were the oni. Her little doll wore the fuku, or lady-luck, mask.


please ignore the fact that dolls can look so creepy, as it is, without a mask.

They stomped, stomped, while we chucked hard, dry beans at them. “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” Oni, out! Blessings, in! Then we switched and Auntie Kenzie, Baby Boy, and I stomped towards them and the front door. Baby giggled as I lurched towards his sister, roaring. Kariin was a bit scared, but she certainly laughed through it and hurled her beans with strength. Seems this is a good festival for drawing strength, for laughing through a fear as you throw out that ogre and banish him forever…or until next year when you remind him that only blessings are permitted inside your home.


Fuku vs the gross oni. He doesn’t stand a chance.

Karin and her daddy swept up the beans from our steps and the bean trail that rolled down the length of our driveway. The dogs helped, eating their share of soybeans. Isaac went back to his dinner while I circled the block with the dogs. That buzz was still in the air. I passed homes where I heard elderly couples throwing beans and chanting, “Oni wa soto. Fuku wa uchi.” Again and again, as if they were bowing or praying. It is so rhythmic. “Fuku uchi fuku uchi fuku uchi“, past another doorway, an older woman alone. Past giggling siblings and little feet running. Later, on my balcony, I heard more, as husbands who’d come home late were now chanting. It was a sweet day, a gorgeous night, and one very beautiful-making-room for the new buds of spring. Out with the old, in with the new. “Tata” to letting the bad habits take root. “Sayonara” to letting weeds stay and uproot our greens. We stand our ground and chuck these little soybeans.  Take that, ya jerk!