Japan and the Force of Nature-- Loss, Endings, and Remembrance

With all the chaos and upheavals going on in the world at this time, my heart and soul goes first to Japan, struck out of the blue by one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history and a tsunami hit of unimaginable proportions.  This is human life slammed into the pure force of oppositional nature.  This is beyond “transitions” and into the limit of human endurance.

With all the reverence for the diverse manifestations of nature in a limited island terrain, the Japanese have traditionally had a profound awareness of nature as a defining element in their lives.  In a volcanic region of earthquakes and threats from the sea, it’s easy to sense that life is precarious. 

Which brings up the question, “After catastrophic suffering, when all has been lost, what can we hold on to for remembrance and sanity?”  Once I read that the Japanese Zen Buddhist master, Suzuki Roshi, when asked, “What is Nirvana [enlightenment]?” replied, “Seeing one thing through to the end.” 

I live in earthquake country in California, and still I find it almost impossible to imagine what it would be to lose my family, my home, all my daily possessions, and my sense (however untrue) of basic security in a natural disaster of major proportions-- like the thousandsof people in northeastern coastal Japan recently.  Yet, I hope that something would illuminate deep inside me a sense of purpose in being there, even in themidst of such chaos and loss-- and would shine through me like a light, however wavering and flickering, guiding me through to the end..

When I was twelve, I lived with my family for a year in Tokyo-- a magical, transformative year that introduced me to an exotically other culture from that of suburban United States.  One difference that I could see even as a child was the way the Japanese people we met and came to know interacted with nature.  Unlike California where I grew up, Japan was so limited in space that personal gardens were small, sacred places, carefully tended, each stone, flower, and leaf having a place and a purpose.  Going away to the mountains, forest or ocean was often like going on pilgrimage, a re-connection rather than just recreation.

One way I stay connected with places and people I love and must leave is to find a stone for each experience of loving and interacting with these people, these places, that commemorates our time together.  Even if I had to leave these stones behind to flee for safety, they are gathered in my memory and will stay with me, lighting my path.

            What are ways you’ve discovered to honor heart connections in your life that you’ve had to leave behind?