So my cousin the art critic writes a review of an uncanny and moving art show at the Japan Society in New York, which strangely prefigured the tsunami in the work of a group of brilliant young artists. And my husband the environmentalist forwards a pointed article in Grist called “Japan’s wind farms save its ass while nuclear plants flounder,” showing windmills standing heroic and simple above the waves. And Yoko Ono tweets how to donate. And I can’t stop thinking about Aunt Evelyn’s gray silk kimono with the cranes that I used to dress up in, and Aunt Jessie’s embroidery of the chickens, gifts of the Japanese government, and the prints that filled one of my favorite books almost as soon as I could look at books, and the blue china and the secret wooden boxes and the rhythm of haiku. Japan seemed to send me generous and wordless reminders that life could be simple and complex and meaningful, even when it had no words.
Or when words came last, as Ezra Pound learned from Ernest Fenollosa that they could. And as all the legacy of poetry I inherited in the 20th century told me they could. And though I struggled under the yoke of that idea, still all the objects and images grew with me, grew from the china and the haiku to the chopsticks and the futon, all of it part of a beauty that was never far off like a fresh scent down the years, taken for granted so often and now thrown back into a fragile treasure under the new and powerful light tragedy casts.
Dearest Michi, though we haven’t managed to get together since college and I didn’t make it to Tokyo that time a few years ago, I’m thinking of you a lot, as I have over all these years, wishing a core of peace to you and your family that radiates outward all around you in waves of love.