Disconnect

My tomato plant grows only in moonlight.

My tomato plant grows only in moonlight.

This week, the plates got saucy and treated the Japanese coast to a six-point-eighter, all maps pulsing a three-ringed bullseye in the Pacific Ocean to the immediate right of Fukushima prefecture. I woke up that morning not from the shaking but about four minutes before from a nightmare I still haven’t forgotten and from an absurdly bright and far-too-early 4-a.m. sunrise.

In my first pottery class, I decided to style my bowl after the Campanula flower.

In my first pottery class, I decided to style my bowl after the Campanula flower.

The previous week, I lost my internet connection once again, this time for reasons beyond my logic and still unresolved for all my fist-shaking. This meant more reading, more outside recreation, and more plants. At this point, my windowsill resembles some sort of mad scientist desperately trying to save the world’s rarest specimens but who has lost his government funding due to shoddy record keeping and a basic labeling system; I doubt there are any rarities among my collection, but it can certainly be said that everything — whatever it might be — is very much alive, thriving, flowering, twining, fruiting, and all -ings botanical.

I was kindly asked by the magnanimous staff at the Shinjuku Botanical Garden to stay on the path and stop looking for seeds. It's like Willy Wonka's Factory in there!

I was kindly asked by the magnanimous staff at the Shinjuku Botanical Garden to stay on the path and stop looking for seeds. It’s like Willy Wonka’s Factory in there!

I’ve read a few Murakami novels, studied several chapters of my new Botany book, and even put together what might be called music with the fantastic FruityLoops Studio program. I’ve even been putting in some serious time studying Japanese, getting closer and closer to finding out exactly what it is that’s so constantly humorous to the people here. Of course, I’ve reckoned already that, on the whole, Japanese people are just simply…happier.

My all-time favorite, the Ice Plant.

My all-time favorite, the Ice Plant.

I’ve always felt that disconnect, though, with the people around me. Happiness, laughter, and frivolity do not come to me easily. As was (historically inaccurately) with the Queen, I am generally not amused. And, despite, in my mind, being on par with the word “moist”, I have to agree with my family as being described as a “worrywart”. The Word Detective also has me here, explaining its foul etymology as such: “a person who annoys others by worrying loudly and constantly over nearly everything.” Have you by chance heard of my gluten allergy or money problems?

Lotus flowers dominating the pond at Ueno Park, Tokyo. Not pictured: Crack addicts behind me.

Lotus flowers dominating the pond at Ueno Park, Tokyo. Not pictured: Crack addicts behind me.

These things being said and fretted over, however, I have the suspicion that my students have been gradually and surreptitiously grafting some of their inexplicable good nature and origin-indiscernable happiness onto my dark and oft on-the-verge-of-snarky humor. I find myself lately either blissfully going about my day or, in the worst cases, joshing around with my colleagues and students alike even after having had no coffee on a Saturday morning (if I stay another year, I will lobby for 9 a.m. McDonald’s openings).

My $1 Japanese lanterns make for great plant pictures

My $1 Japanese lanterns make for great plant pictures

I don’t know what my future is or might be here in Koriyama, Japan, but (I hope) even an earthquake would not shake loose the connections I’ve made here over the few months since I’ve arrived. Budapest was another lifetime compared with this six-month stint; my students were fewer, my friends doubly so. I knew I would be leaving Hungary even after having received a hard-won visa and before going through a regrettably tumultuous time with someone who I thought would be with me for years of travelling to come.

Every day my plants be hustlin'. This Morning Glory was overtaken by my new goya (bitter melon) plant. The weeks-long battle was riveting.

Every day my plants be hustlin’. This Morning Glory was overtaken by my new goya (bitter melon) plant. The weeks-long battle was riveting.

The severance from that person, a breakup that occurred years before that, and the ever-widening gap between my hometown friends and me have been trying. Yet, in the only way I know how to cheesily end a blog post, I think — or at least I’ve convinced myself of my own bull — that my plants, Japan, my company and coworkers, have instilled in me a good deal of patience. Sure, I still have jealousy, regret, laziness, and the other deadly sins to worry about, but, for now, I’m very simply happy.

 

 

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