I’m not sure how to start this note. I just said goodbye to Dave on the bus, beginning his very long journey back to New York to be with family. We are grieving the loss of his mom, Gail, on Friday. Time is always short, but never more obviously and painfully than when a loved one departs.
I wish I could be there with Dave and his family. They took me in 14 years ago during a very difficult time. Our time together as a huge family – mine and Dave’s together for Thanksgivings on the beach in San Diego, Hawaii, and Washington rain forest fishing trips – is always cherished and is punctuated by hysterically convulsive laughter over something bizarre. I’m smiling now as I type, remembering Bill rubbing his hands together and repeating “our goose is cooked” in Coronado, and now I’m not even sure what he was lamenting? Was it the dog droppings in the grass outside our tiny home? Or me forgetting both turkeys in the sink instead of bringing them to the deep fryer on the beach? And Gail saw a pegasus – an actual pegasus – across the lawn at sunset on Lake Crescent. I will never forget her drawing me aside and whispering…”Alli?! I think that’s a PEGASUS, right?” Generous, kind, gentle soul, Gail, you are deeply missed. I love you. And I miss you.
But, time has been on my mind as a recurrent theme and challenge for months. The time pressure to accomplish all the tasks necessary for the “hot fill” of our move was tremendous, not to mention maintaining work, family and community commitments, and certainly not least important, investing in friendships and ordering one’s inner world and mind. My life was pretty full already, and it got much more so over the summer and into this fall. It is only now that things are settling into a new routine, and in so doing I’m only just now recognizing how much I value having time to process things.
Certain activities are more conducive to this sorting and sifting. Running is usually great, but running on base I have found to be too constraining, even on the “wrong side” of the seawall. Oddly, just knowing there is a fence around me tends to hem my thoughts. They can’t bound like deer on Bainbridge, unaware of property lines through the salal. Last week I ran off the base and just kept going south along the coast, through the shopping areas, fish markets, fishing spots, a dragonfly sewage treatment center, and schools, the scents and chimes of Japanese life surrounding me. I figured I’d just go and hop a bus or train back.
The boardwalk in Maborikaigan is wide and inviting. I ran to the end and contemplated turning back, but saw another Japanese runner and figured I’d follow him along his Thursday morning route. I ended up in Hashirimizu, a small coastal fishing village 9K away that is a bit oddly reminiscent of the North Shore of Hawaii. I didn’t realize I was near a park with roller slides the boys will love (Kannonzaki), nor a light house or art museum. I was attracted to the humble park and the bus stop with a queue (always a good sign, adding solid information to the inscrutable bus schedule – it means the bus is coming soon). I rode the bus back for a bit, but wanted to break free again. I jumped off 100yen later and jogged back, looking for the fish market. Back on base, 4 pounds of sweat lighter, I stayed in motion and raked up leaves, discovering a scented flower on a tree. I found out later this tiny orange blossom means fall has arrived. New scents beg to be tinctured…so I bought some cheap vodka at the Exchange. My thoughts continued to run to family and friends, and what this period in our lives is asking of us. In the pool Friday morning I was praying for Gail’s recovery, which seemed promising. I didn’t realize that while I was praying for her, and asking what our purpose should be here, that she had just departed.
Which brings me to the question of time, and what does all this mean. It takes time to discern new missions in life, and we must be open to them. We have to be faithful in listening, and being willing to answer a call even if we are not entirely clear on what that call is. When Dave and I got the call asking us if we’d consider moving to fill this job, we knew right away the answer was yes. What we didn’t know was how we’d manage it, how the kids would respond, how we would come together as a team, and what we would (or perhaps “should” is the better word) focus on while here for this chapter of our lives. Gail and Bill have focused on family and faith. Their example of a simple and steadfast focus is one I admire greatly.
We’ve been here just over a month. In that time we have made significant investments in effort to understand the language, learning three new character sets, ventured out among the people and the land jogging, hiking and shoveling (manure!). These forays help to make foreign skylines and signs more friendly. But there are surely even more substantive investments we’ll make. For now we are grateful for this time to listen and explore together as a family. And we are very thankful for friends Stateside who are willing to stay in touch with us and the kids.
It may not be something you take for granted yet, but do know that we love each of you and our thoughts are with you often as we think about what time it is there, how the kids are doing, how the hockey carpool is going, how the rink is, the friendly faces waiting there to greet us for a game…you are all missed tremendously as we try to assimilate here and fill in those holes in our lives. (This past weekend is an example – we feel like we had a 3-day weekend because we got up at 3am to travel to a hockey game on Sunday! You can get a lot of TIME back in your day if you ignore the clock and travel 4 hours roundtrip, play a hockey game, and get back by noon! ha! 😉 ) Those of you who have been friends in many states and pre-hockey, the same goes for you! As I unpacked pictures of hikes and babies in backpacks, I was happy to see your smiling faces once again on my nightstand, close to me. You are cherished friends. Thank you for being so.
Time…time to get to school and greet my boys! Enjoy these photos from the past 72 hours. More in the album above…