Just write something

Driving towards Oita

Driving towards Oita

Writing a blog has been a great way for me to keep in contact with family and friends and it’s also been a great way to chronicle our life here. But, sometimes it feels a bit like writing a Christmas letter. Unlike some people, I love reading Christmas letters, especially the ones that my parents receive from old family friends. I love looking at photos to see family resemblances and changes in families over generations. Even though I haven’t seen or spoken to most of these people in over 40 years, I feel like I know them and would maybe even consider calling on them if I were close to their home. I wonder if the people that send the Christmas notes to my parents realize that their photos and letters are scrutinized by a curious family member.

Temple gate sandwiched between a tobaco shop and a drugstore

Temple gate sandwiched between a tobaco shop and a drugstore

When I lived in Japan the first time (1978-1989), I used to write a lot of letters. No one had email then. I often wrote on the back of advertisements or on scrap paper from store packaging and I made a point of using commemorative stamps. I had several friends that I sent postcards to and others that I sent letters to. I also wrote a lot to my family, parents and grandparents. I often wrote about similar events, but of course, the details I chose to include depended on the audience. I sometimes would spend a whole week writing one long letter or I would sit and write 10 postcards at once. When I wrote that many postcards, I felt an obligation to write something different to each person.  I remember composing letters in my head while I walked home from the pottery studio.  My good friend Julie was traveling the world during those years and she wrote of yoga in India, trekking solo in the Himalayas, and music in Ecuador while I wrote of teaching English, studying pottery, and starting a family and farming in rural Kyushu. I looked forward to the mail delivery every day and could recognize the motor of the mail bike coming up the hill.  Receiving a letter usually involved a short conversation with the mail carrier and sometimes he would sit and have a cup of tea before heading down the hill.  I remember crying after reading that my best friend’s niece had died and that another good friend had been severely injured in a car accident. I reread each letter probably 5 or 6 times and kept them in a box. Even though I have tossed some of them, I held onto the ones from my family and gave all of Julies’ back to her. My parents kept all my letters and so did one of my friends. I received a box of those letters and plan to read them again some day.

Tori gates up the side of a hill

Tori gates up the side of a hill

This time in Japan, I don’t think I’ve written any letters. I correspond using email, but usually I compose on the spot and try to finish quickly. I write to more people than I did 25 years ago, but I don’t think about the aesthetics, nor do I keep much of the email I receive. Even though I get a little rush when an arriving email pings, it is much less satisfying than the rush I felt when I finally heard the motor of the mail bike buzzing up our rocky driveway after waiting all morning.

This blog has become a middle ground between email and letters. It lacks the nitty-gritty details that I would probably send in a letter to Julie or my sisters, but it works to convey what is going on in a christmas-letter sort of way. I don’t imagine it would be of much interest to people that don’t know me, but sometimes I hope to write about things that might be interesting to those who don’t know me. In a letter, I would probably share more of the frustrations of living and caring for my mother-in-law, the crazy things that I see in my office, and just more of the ups-and-downs of daily life here. Maybe I need to start sending postcards.

child's bento for a school field trip

Child's bento for a school field trip

May 30th marks one year since I left Oregon. I still am pretty ambivalent about our life here, but it’s definitely getting easier and I am beginning to be able to think about making plans for the next three years. I’ll be back in the Northwest later this summer, can’t wait..I just spent $6 on a 1/2 pound of cherries, cheap for a taste of Oregon.

4 thoughts on “Just write something

  1. You know I have had similar thoughts about letter writing. I used to write long letters composed often over a week. I had a wide correspondence. My favorite uncle and I sent eachother the tackiest postcards we could find just for plain silliness. Then email entered my life. Already in 1994 I felt like the last to get email and was finally in the loop again. Those without email somehow fell off the list. My emails were shorter, and like you said written quickly. Really more of a postcard but sometimes an exchange will happen 3-4 times a day, almost a conversation. Now it is short Facebook updates. Hmmm.. I don’t like the progression.
    I also keep old letters. I have letters my great-grandmother wrote about my grandfather’s childhood. They are treasures. The e-world has made things quicker but also more ephemeral. And the decision of what to keep and what to toss can be so overwhelming it is easiest to simply hit delete. We are losing a piece of our history.

  2. I love your thoughts on letter writing. I can imagine your boxes of letters and postcards with great stamps stored away. I still have boxes of letters that I wrote to my parents which they saved and now I have them and will one day go over them again and savor. Your blog is a real treat to hear about your experiences and see the pictures, so while it probably doesn’t seem as personal as a letter you would write specifically to one friend or family member, it does have so much of your personality. I really appreciate and enjoy it. Thanks. Glad things are working out for you there.

    Oh – and your picture of the Torii gates reminds me of a Christo installation!

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