28 Feb 2017 Finding lost Gratitude in Kanazawa, Japan
Finding lost Gratitude in Kanazawa, Japan
In February, I received my first acceptance to graduate school. In March, I lost my grandfather to cancer. In April, I quit my job. By May, I had moved home, attended my first funeral, and booked a two-month-long trip around the world.
When I was a baby, my grandfather would get me to eat by pretending the spoon was an airplane and I was the airport – “Plane arriving at London Heathrow! Is this Charles de Gaulle? Here we are! Plane coming in for Tokyo, open up!”
July began and I landed in Tokyo’s airport for the first time, fulfilling a decades-long dream. Japan was shiny and new in a way that spoke of rebirth and rejuvenation. It was also ancient and rooted in traditions that reminded me of home, reminded me of the myths my grandfather told me, of the calligraphy pens and Basho’s poems in my father’s study.
Japan came at the end of one journey and heralded the start of another. I was no longer losing myself in Parisian streets or Irish hillsides; I was finding myself in Kyoto’s gated shrines, in the udon I slurped greedily in Tokyo.
Yet it was in a sudden moment of peace in the mid-size city of Kanazawa that I relearned the grace of travel and the perspective it offers.
I remember not knowing what to expect; our time in Kanazawa was brief and tacked on to a much larger Tokyo and Kyoto itinerary. We stumbled upon the garden in the same way we’d stumbled into Kanazawa itself, and it ended up being the crowning moment of two months.
We entered behind three young women in bright pink yukata, their sandals clacking on the stone path. We followed the curve of the small walkway, passing other visitors and small shops until suddenly, we were completely alone in a still landscape, facing out towards a mirror-like lake. The world hushed, receding away until the smooth rush of a nearby stream over pebbles was the only sound.
I sank into that natural silence. With my eyes closed, the touch of cool moss on my fingertips in the summer heat felt overwhelmingly beautiful. For once, the internal noise of all the stress, anxiety, and worries brought on by my year of changes quieted. For the first time in months, I felt wholly a part of myself, present in that one moment.
When I close my eyes today and think of peace, I am back in that simple garden. I am at the top of Jojakkoji Temple and looking out at mountainous Arashiyama in the heart of a Kyoto summer, sweaty and victorious. I am wide-eyed and heart-stopped before the beauty of Kawagoe shrine in a sudden, gentle rain.
After a year of life changes, Japan was the final turn, the one that made all the rest somehow settle into place. I have always felt thankful for travel, but this trip made my gratitude stretch far deeper: travel has allowed me to rediscover peace in myself.
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