The thing that has helped me most (besides my immediate family, here and in the US) is the messages from cousins, from friends, from people who know that my parents have a daughter and son-in-law in Japan and have called them. People on my internet lists, people from all sorts of times and places in my life, people from work, have all sent love and prayers.
Even as I consider how very much that emotional support has helped me, I realize it is one more thing that those in the evacuation centers are largely deprived of. Along with lack of electricity, food, water, warmth (in temps that are now back to winter’s range, the snow on the debris obscenely pristine looking) -- they must have little idea of how much the rest of the nation, the rest of the world, is thinking of them.
Pat adds here that Beth had previous written and told us that Takeshi's nephew--San-chan-- spoke to his Dad and he is all right, but in an evacuation center with no electricity and running out of food.
It is, as it so often seems to be, the smallest gestures that move the most. I was just watching a program talking about the many relief efforts under way (and how so much of it is moving slowly or not at all because of the acute gasoline shortage. Trucks loaded up and ready to deliver, stalled). One was a delivery of special warming blankets (and this one had reached a center): every box had hand-written messages of support and encouragement on the outside. I think that would be as much help to those inside the centers as the blankets they desperately need.
This is not a culture of easy hugs and huge emotional (verbal) outpourings. It is like all the arts here: the subtlest shade has tremendous meaning and impact. The writing on the boxes; the young rescue worker I saw caressing a obaachan’s (the word for your grandmother, but also for any older woman, thus making strangers your family, in a way, something that struck me the moment I started to learn Japanese) hair and stroking her hands to warm them up, tears streaming down his face; the child I heard about, from a friend, who thanked the trainman (in Tokyo) for working so hard to get the trains running again; the sake maker factory who was out the next day after the quake looking for his workers and upon finding them hugged them (in a country where I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen adults hug each other), also in tears. On and on. Small gestures, small actions, that reveal so much of what is going on underneath.
Minds on other matters. I know what I am going to write about next is natural. I am just recording the oddness of it, for me. I sit in front of the television, tuned to the station that has English coverage, and realize at times that I have been listening for a good 5 or 10 minutes and have not understood or retained a single thing because my mind has let the wild horses loose again -- I am thinking not one other thing while the spiel continues, but fifty different things, all tangled together. Impossible to sort out. I know then it is time to turn down the sound for a while.
I flip to other channels, first, though just to see. See what? I don’t know, just to find something else, to see if there something else I should be paying attention to. Almost a week after the disaster, about half the stations are still doing daylong earthquake/tsunami coverage. I zip past the many Korean dramas, talk shows, etc. on other channels, thinking -- too soon, too soon. The only program, besides news, I can bear to watch for a few minutes is one where a dog and his owner go around and ‘meet’ other dog owners (this is a regular show -- it is filmed in a different location each time). It sounds odd, but it is very Japanese, I think. I have always liked it. I love the dog owner’s laugh and the dog is good-natured and well-behaved. I find myself stopping at this channel and watching this, when I won’t watch anything else. Because, I realize, it is all about communicating with strangers. Making immediate friends, because of the dog, and then finding out in ten minutes more about these new friends, than you would in days. The instant rapport, the quick opening up, reaching past most ‘normal’ social barriers.
But then I go back to news, or turn the tv off for a while because my heart and mind have taken as much as they can again. I turn on the internet, get lovely emails from people sending all of Japan such love, but then also see how my internet lists have gone back to their normal lives, how others are discussing things again that have no meaning for me yet. I can’t think past what is here and though, as I said, it is natural for others outside of Japan, to go on, we can’t. Nor should we. It just smacks me up against the reality of some types of ‘borders’, of worlds that exist outside our ‘accident that has not yet ended’ (I forget who said this recently, but it was someone high up, about the nuclear situation. I took it immediately, though, as about life here, at the moment.)
As usual, I meant to be saying one thing in this email and got on to others. I meant, though, to say again to you all, how very much your concern and encouragement and thoughts have helped us all. I wish we could somehow beam these messages into the evacuation centers. We ARE all thinking about them, but they do not know it. Can they feel it? I hope so.