Monday, November 6, 2017
I board the subway for the short ride from my hotel to Yoyogi Park. Next to the subway stop and across the street from the trendy, always energetic Harajuku section of Tokyo, the park beckons visitors to step in and succumb to the quiet green.
I walk down the wide path, acutely aware that I am entering a different sphere. I take a left down a smaller path. Here I see a bench. Here I sit. Here I breathe.
This is abnormal behavior for me. Usually I would have an agenda, a map, a mental list of all I must see and do. Usually I would walk first and sit later. But today is different. Today I stop at the first bench I see. I sit. I watch. I breathe. I settle into the green.
The irony is not lost on me that I am in Japan, the home of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku). My intention today was not to partake in forest bathing. Yet that is what I find myself doing. Is it being in Japan that leads me to this action? Is it too many months on the road? Is it the cavalcade of exciting, yet foreign cultures? Is it working with strangers, all of us thrown together by forces out of our control? I don't know. Whatever has led me here has spoken with clarity and force. I have been drawn on this quest today by an invisible, magnetic force.
I leave the bench to begin the quest for the unknown. The first stop is obligatory, the shrine. It does little for me. I have seen too many temples, too many shrines in the past seven months.
I leave quickly, turn down a small path to the right and stumble onto the Inner Garden. Here, for the small fee of 500 yen ($5.00), is the possibility of serenity presented in green. After all the stretching and compromising of the past months, 500 yen seems a miniscule amount. I happily hand over my yen and walk down an even smaller path. The scent of cool, the color of air, the sight of wind dance around me. I recognize my investment has paid off. I have found the deepest part of the bath. The deep cleansing begins.
Joyful chattering sparrows
Warm melting energy of the sun
City clatter to my left
Luscious forest buffering the clatter
Gleeful laughter to my right
Clean serene pond
An urge to jump in
Eternally cawing crows behind me
Occasional crunch on the gravel path
Other seekers traversing the gravel path.
The same path I walk. The same path we all walk.
This is when I have my first realization: I need green. I need fresh air. I need to bathe in green, preferably alone, but not necessarily. This is what I crave, this helps me thrive. It's one trait I humbly admit I was given by my mother.
I try to lift the camera, knowing my friends will want photos. I can't. The need to completely immerse myself in this pure, fresh, clean, green experience takes over. I sit. I breathe. I listen.
The fallen leaves around my feet
Soaking in the lovely late-autumn warmth of the sun’s radiant heat
Storing the heat in my soul for the coming winter
The second realization: my body and brain have been on high alert for months. Work. New environments. New cultures. Over-stimulated as a performer, a tourist, a traveler, a woman, an American (it is the age of Trump, after all), a middle-aged human. Now I can feel myself floating back to my core. This is what living in perpetual uncertainty does to me.
I look at my watch. I left the hotel one hour and twenty-five minutes ago.
My third realization: Serenity is closer than I realize. I always expect shredding the flaky dross of life will take hours, days, weeks, so I often don't even bother to try. Time and again I am proven wrong.
Don't let the sad one sway you.
Hold her hand.
Take her along.
Take her along.