Yukkuri means slowly. It is also used to convey a message to relax, slow down, chill out. I have heard this expression more in reference to me since we moved here than I have heard in the last year (aside from my mom, who is always encouraging me to do so!). I have been reflecting on this and the ways of the Japanese people. In a previous post, I mentioned watching how they sweep, for instance. They don’t scratch frantically at the ground, they use long strokes. In all their work, they do it well, and take the time required. They are not trying to figure out how to pack as much into a timeframe as possible and hurry on to the next thing. They focus on the here, the now, and do what is needed. It may not be efficient, but if you consider the marvels of everyday life here, it is obvious they’re on to something. The eggs are immaculate and dark orange inside, often double-yoked. The milk is tasty even from a convenience store. The roads are well kept. The cars are all clean. The sidewalks are immaculate. The bread I brought home yesterday had butter cubes somehow baked into it already, in the little holes in the bread. Not in obvious folds. Baffling, and amazing. I could go on and on. Friendships are maintained in a similar fashion, one which we were fortunate to find in our many moves, and in our hockey family. You throw a party and friends bend over backwards to coordinate and bring contributions. Adopt your hens, and build a mansion coop for them? Sure! (Thank you Frank and Ellen! Amazing!) Live with you for two weeks before moving overseas? Sure! (Thank you Arlo and Kumiko! Kumiko, I miss you! And I still wear your lucky socks, Arlo!)
Reflections on slowing down, or at least focusing perhaps a bit more, are timely. I hurt my knee catapulting a pumpkin over Thanksgiving. The fulcrum was too small. And I knew it, but hoped for the best. My knee hyperextended. It felt awful immediately, but I was doing well rehabilitating until two weeks ago. At kendo Ben stopped short in front of me and I swerved to avoid him. I felt something awful in my knee as I twisted. I didn’t stop practicing, though. It hurt, but I could still move. The next day, though, I knew I was in trouble. I had to use a bamboo stick as a cane to walk the kids to school. I could barely get out of bed and use that leg at all. I went to the doctor later in the morning, then physical therapy the next week and long story short I may have torn my ACL, meniscus, one or both. In truth, running feels better than walking. If I stop moving for any amount of time I stiffen up, so better to just keep moving. I’m at least off the Advil, I’m lifting weights to strengthen the joint, and am waiting on a field trip to Yokohama for an MRI on Jan 6. Prayers are welcome 😉
In general I have adapted very well to being extremely careful of who is around me so I don’t have to abruptly turn or twist. But living apprehensively like this is taxing. Last night I recognized while watching a woman scoot across the street that I can’t even really do that without planning it. I can’t jump up and chase the kids. I can’t go from zero to mach 4 anymore. That is a big change. I am far more empathetic to people with limited mobility and how that must affect them moment to moment. I’m very grateful that I can still walk around, but I am fearful of what is next, and how bad it might be. So, contemplating “yukkuri” could not come at a better time.
Today we went for a great hike up Ogusuyama (“yama” means mountain). There is a fantastic view at the top, a spiral staircase to a viewing platform, and even a small noodle shop with an expansive view. We had a great time together despite some grumping from someone who has hiked for nearly 12 years…and who loves noodles. I wonder who that could be. On our way to a fish market at the south end of the peninsula, we made two stops (which I had carefully negotiated to not take too much time, so that we could indeed still hit the fish market in time). First stop went great – care package of American goodies for a friend whose whole family is sick (like 12 lbs of treats – soup, Gushers, Marshmallow Puff, Reeses Puffs cereal, Pop Tarts, Gatorade, etc.). They loved it and it really brightened their day. Then on to stop #2 – the barn where I ride – because the packages for them are bulky and I wanted my friend to have her treat before the New Year holiday. Stop #2 went great. Rubbed horse noses, hid the presents which we’ll open together in early January, and got back in the car, ready to roll on. I chose to go straight on a tiny road instead of turning around with tiny horses, and small children all around (and impaired by the blinding low afternoon sun falling on the dusty windows). So straight we went, up a road I’ve seen little old ladies drive. It soon got very narrow. We thought about turning around, but there really wasn’t a place to do that. We continued on. Dave yelled to get more to the right (driver’s side) but my wheels on the right were already half off the road. I thought he might be over-reacting a tad. It was a very narrow road, but I felt like it was doable in the same manner you point a horse to a jump, give it some firm encouragement, look straight ahead and hope for the best. Assume it will work out, and it usually does. Well, today the universe had a different answer. We heard a pop, and a distinct hiss. Popping sounds are not good. I heard one in my knee a month ago. On a tiny tiny road in the inaka, it is also not good. To our left, I’d bumped into a concrete block that was sticking out a bit. There was a row of them that should have been more like a curb, just brushing the tire, no more harm than some rubbing. But one of them wanted to make more of a point with us. To my right was a small drop-off into immaculate rows of cabbage planted in soft, rich, perfect Japanese soil. That would also have been a deal-ender should we have gone off on the right. Perhaps worse? No way to hoist a minivan back onto the road. So…I’m hoping that you will agree a flat tire is the better option? Please, dear reader?
Anyway, Dave rose mightily to the occasion and figured out where the tire was, wrestled it out from under the car, found the tools and got it changed before I managed to communicate where we were to the roadside assistance people. (Ummm…English please? Sure, I can hold. We were soon on a three-way teleconference. I’ve done this before, twice, from parking lots. “You can’t see the 7/11 on route 214? Ok, let’s start with the Prefecture. We’re in Kanagawa. Can you see Yokosuka? … [directions…directions…translation…searching…] go left. Go 1K and there is a 7/11. Go left. No no, we’re not there at the 7/11. We’re still out in a cabbage field. Go up this little road and take the third right onto a one-lane road. No, a tow truck will not fit back here. You need to send a very clever person in a very small car with a lot of tools…”) My friend’s son was out in his field burning something when I went ahead to check out the rest of the route to see which way we should evacuate. Tetsuya came running back with me and helped Dave loosen the tire bolts. We were soon on our way. But no fish market 🙁
Dave said on our way home that between the leg and the tire, he thought the universe was telling me something. Sam said “yeah, sit on your butt on the couch and try Playstation!” I had to run (literally) to the commissary tonight for something before they closed at 8pm. I ran swiftly and without pain. I didn’t even realize it was without pain until halfway there, then I marveled at it. I could not believe it. No pain since the flat tire? I think perhaps the universe is saying…patience, trust, but DO step on the gas pedal. It’s ok. It will EVENTUALLY work out. Just yukkuri until it does.
What do you think? Where should we try to go tomorrow? We get three freebies like this in a year with our insurance. SO…we’ve got three remaining!