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March 23, 2011

On Losing Home

Japan is now the one word that brings to mind 1000 pictures. And in those pictures, shades of grey: earth, smoke, water, mud. The greys we see in news photos from the site of the tsunami and the nuclear plant's demise come from the family of greys reserved for ruin. The color of ancient temple stones after their painted colors have faded and the weather has had its way with them. The color of ash--the earthy chalk left behind from the flaming scarlet of a volcano's lava flow. The color of a sunless sky on a frozen day. The color of shock,the color one's face turns when it is our turn to face the loss.

I was talking to a friend today about the colossal losses that more than 400,000 Japanese citizens and other residents now face. I cannot forget the brief interview with a grandfather who lost his entire family--absolutely everyone--beneath and because of the wave. Oddly enough, my friend and I had the same thought while watching the latest reports. And the thought is this:

I need to be aware that this can happen to anyone anywhere--and that includes me. You may find that an uncomforting thought. Yet, it has its purpose. It keeps me from having a false sense of immunity. It also reminds me that, while Japan's tragically homeless are in the current news spotlight, millions of others are also without homes. Perhaps it was the economic tsunami that made their home disappear. Perhaps it was the loss of a loved one, the end of a marriage, a war injury, or any one of many other reasons.

The shock of the loss of home is a universal one. In our mobile, fast-paced culture, we have allowed home to become a target, as much as a root.  I have lost more than one home, and in one instance lost most of the possessions in that home. I remember clearly how each loss felt.

I have read that the Japanese word for home and person is the same word. I don't know if that linguistic tale is true. I do know, however, that the thought carries truth within it. When we lose our home, we lose part of our deepest self. Which part?  It depends...I believe each home-loss is as unique as the death of each human being.

Many years ago, I studied Japanese architecture (solamente as an aficionada). My studies led me to write a haiku poem. I post it now--my tiny tribute to the land and its people, its art, its life, its will to survive--and for anyone who has had to look at "Home" from the outside-in, hoping one day to be inside that which should shelter us, mind, body and soul.

On Looking In

Japanese houses
Serenest angles leading
To the hidden Way

I fight for your calm
And when defeated, realize
It must be given

Do you have a Haiku in you that you would like to write to and for Japan at this moment?  If so, send it here, and I will post it on the blog.

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