There were two moments I went deep into calm and quiet in the bustling city of Tokyo. They were not easy to come by. I purposely left all my problems at home so that I could be a fresh person soaking up the awesomeness of the foreign land. Yet every morning, despite the change in circumstances, or even a lack of the usual circumstances, my problems were there. The feelings associated with those problems were also there, without the actual problems. They all somehow made their way to Japan, as if scared that I’d forget about them.
Then I met the pine tree at the Hama Rikyu Gardens. It isn’t just any old tree. It is a three hundred years old tree. It isn’t the type that reaches towards the sky. This one wants to embrace the earth. Its branches reach out far and low in front, and the Japanese built structures to support them, quite literally, every step of the way.
I walked towards it, like all the tourists. I took pictures, like all the tourists. But one thing that I didn’t see many tourists do, was to just stand and look. Stand and look with your naked eyes, not through the screen of a camera. Spend a moment with what’s in front of you. If nothing happens, stand for another moment. Stay until you feel something, until your soul awakens. I was still very much in my head with my troubles that day, but the moment I stopped in front of the tree, I was somewhere else. Like time has stopped and it was just me and the tree. It felt like a godly presence, so I said to it,
“You’ve been here three hundred years. I’ve been here thirty. You’ve seen people come and go. What were they like? Did any of them have the same problems as I do? Could you offer me some advice, how should I go on?”
The tree answered with silence and a shrug. Because my troubles don’t matter to him or to the world. My life is short and ephemeral. Compared to his three hundred years, I’ll be gone before I ever get as wise and mature as he is. I’m a passing moment to him, as I am a blink to the universe, as he is to the universe. My life is only long and troubling for me, and it’s entirely up to me what I do about it.
In the distance, my husband waved at me to keep going. I lingered, but there was no more from the tree. As I turned away though, I had a feeling that it will celebrate with me when I finally get out of this rut and take back authorship of my life.