Coffee in My Garden – Strangers in a Strange Land

We’re actually between gardens today – we’re in the midst of a cool snap. The day is beautiful, but a little too cool for the parrot and for me to enjoy being outside, so we are in the den, which is between gardens, with the sliding door open with a view of the back garden and the parrot’s cage in the sunshine. The cats are alternately annoyed and amused. They enjoy hanging out at the big outdoor table with me (actually they enjoy using my planner as a bed and plopping themselves down on whatever I’m trying to write or read). They don’t understand why I’m not out there. I tell them it’s because I’m wearing shorts, not a fur coat. They think I’m a wuss. On this, I concur.

We all enjoyed watching koi in the pond

We all enjoyed watching koi in the pond

This has been a hectic week – very busy at work, rehearsals for our show (which opens in January), and our choir is gearing up for the two Christmas Eve masses we sing “early” (9:00 pm) and “almost midnight” (11 pm). I have not yet begun to shop. Today the plan is to put up our Christmas tree, bake my husband’s favorite chicken, mushroom, and rice casserole, study my lines, catch up around the house, and enjoy being home for a change.

At a festival

At a festival

I was taking a moment to cuddle on the couch with the pups, savor a cup of coffee, and catch up on the weekly photo challenge, when I saw this photograph which took me back to our time in Japan.

Never did entirely get used to the rain

We learned to do things in the rain

Our view of Mount Fuji was from another angle – across the Kanto Plain (where, like Oklahoma, the wind did indeed come whipping down the plain). Our Marine was a toddler then and was literally blown over a time or two. Our daughter, fearful of being blown away entirely, held tight to my hand.

Fantastic home cooked meal at our friends' house

Fantastic home cooked meal at our friends’ house

I looked for some of our pictures of Mount Fuji but no luck so far. I did find these, though, from an album my daughter gave me one Mother’s Day. They brought back memories of happy times with good friends in a strange land. It was a far cry from the sleepy Florida beach town we had left. Tokyo’s pace is much faster. It rained or snowed nearly every day instead of the sunshine we were used to. People stared at us on the train when we first arrived with our bright tropical colors. The upside was, any time we were out, it was much easier to find each other in a crowd – just look for the blonde hair in the sea of dark.

We knew we had assimilated (sort of) on our last trip to see our favorite places before returning to the States. We were again on the train and a family freshly arrived at the Navy base got on the train. They were from California, dressed in bright colors, and looked as bewildered as we must have looked on our first trip to downtown Tokyo. We chatted on the way, and they remarked that we looked as though we had lived there a long time. I realized somewhere along the way we had adopted muted Japanese colors, had learned to read train and subway schedules and at least enough Kanji to get pretty much wherever we wanted to go (with some interesting side trips when we got lost). We were no longer alarmed at being in a sea of people who almost never spoke to each other. They were excited to be in a new country, but fearful that they would get lost forever (I assured them that since Honshu is much smaller than the continental U.S. they would eventually run across wherever they were trying to get to in much less time than they would back home). I learned that as long as I stayed on the train, I would eventually see something or hear something I recognized (and since I have a talent for getting lost, see virtually all of Japan along the way).

These pictures are old and look much better in person, but I’m sharing them anyway. We were away for three years and sometimes it was hard to be across the world from family and friends in the days before cell phones, before Skype and Facebook. But we made a home and friends that we still think of often. Japan was home for three years. It will always have a place in our hearts.