This morning is the day after my birthday. I woke up at around five thirty because I am trying to wake up and write early in the morning, when no one else is around and I can have space to think.
Last night my aunt, uncle, and mom surprised me on the porch of the house. I hadn’t seen them in a while so it was really a surprise to see them all on the porch like that. They are all tall and thin like I am, and not having grown up around my family because we lived 2,500 miles away from them, it’s really nice to see them. In general it made me feel a lot better about my birthday, when the last three birthdays have been rather sad for one reason or another. Mostly because when I look back I feel like I’ve done less than I have wanted to do between one birthday and the next.
This morning I couldn’t decide what to write, so I looked up the old blog a person named Patrick Tsai wrote some years ago called Talking Barnacles; about living in Tokyo after the earthquake. I went to my birth month and looked at the entry for my birth day, and indeed there was an entry titled August 2nd, 2011. It was about him, Patrick, playing a game with a neighbor in the alley, a variation of rock paper scissors, where if you lose you have to spread your legs wider and wider until you fall over. I remembered how it was to live with a roommate a long time ago named Hiromi, who was also from Japan, back in Nebraska, and how we could always have fun just sitting on the floor eating ramen.
To read about that, and remember other things, was a good reminder that things go along slowly. The point of this newsletter was to write about those things anyway, not always some amazing idea or experience. That was the point of Patrick’s project, Talking Barnacles, too. It was just writing and photos of the everyday.
There are so many things that pull me away from being present and aware. It’s such a big deal that writing this newsletter about present minded things, in defense of them more or less, seems like it could go on forever. We were talking a day ago about a man who moved to the USA whose home language didn’t have the subjunctive. He learned english, and then could talk about the way things could have happened, but his parents, who only spoke their birth language, couldn’t. And because their language didn’t let them speak that way they couldn’t dwell on the past.
I don’t really want to look back at years past anymore and regret things. At the same time, maybe that’s asking a lot. As far as I can tell, I’ve never been 29 before. So how could I know what the best things to do are at this time in my life, or how to get where I want to be? That’s probably why watching kids is inspiring. They are fearless, they will try anything, and they aren’t self-conscious, they are hopeful. And maybe they haven’t learned how to say: could have, would have, should have yet.
How do you pay attention to what work there is to be done, and at the same time have hope and go on happily? The answer is found in the present, because what we can do about all that is what we can do now, today.
This morning I pour mint tea steeped overnight in a high stream into a glass cup. Then I take it outside and sit on the porch, watching the wildfire haze roll in from elsewhere. Oh yes, there’s work to do. But my work this morning is to enjoy a cup of tea.