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Japan: Everyday Magic, Days 232-233

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

Dedicated to my dear friend, Karen Campbell

I keep thinking of Japan. As the news worsens, I catch glimpses of it, feel my little heart breaking for the millions of people who are suffering not just now, but with the meltdowns (partials or total to be determined of two reactors, and more nuclear plants threatened), decades to come. Japan, Japan, Japan goes through my mind. How unfair it is, not just for Japan but for any part of this earth. How outrageous it is. How overwhelming it was at the get-go. How it’s worse than what we can imagine: Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear disaster. No cause, no reason, no relief.

I do not have anything to say about what this means or how it will be better eventually. People are in incredible pain. Land, and the other-than-human species that live there, are devastated if not destroyed. My dear friend Karen, who I teach with at Goddard — a Brit who has lived and taught in Japan for decades — searches from this continent for her dear ones back home. Two Japanese women who has been close to my heart are somewhere in their country, going through a multitude of despair and loss. There is no answer to what happened, no way to wrap my mind around it, and most of all, no way to ease people’s suffering from where I sit except perhaps for the long-distance tiny gestures of prayer and money.

As I go through these days, largely taken up with Poet Laureati tasks, what I’m living here seems such luxury compared to what’s happening there. I make name tags, I copy programs, I pick up paper plates and clean the counter. Meanwhile, people in Japan search for their dead, relocate to try to survive radiation leaks, try to cope with what the shaking of the earth and surge of the sea took from their communities, their country.

“Stop watching it,” my daughter, who has been to Japan and considers it, to some extent, where she should have been born, tells me. It’s too much for her, and no surprise since she especially loves Japan. Yet for me, it seems appropriate to sit on my bed in the middle of this large country where I will likely never face what people in Japan are facing, and cry. Japan. And whatever phrase I try to end this entry with — “May people find….” or “Hopefully….” is inadequate, so I will simply quote Pema Chodron in her wording of this universal Buddhist teaching:

May all beings be free of suffering and the root of suffering. May I be free of suffering, May you be free of suffering, May all beings be free of suffering.
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