I have few clear memories of being a child, but the ones I do have have are extremely clear. I remember the vivid pastel colors of tulips, yellow, purple, violet, and red. I remember other flowers, and how perfectly vivid and beautiful they were. There are some small yellow flowers I remember on a berm near a religious site at either Wisconsin Dells or the Lake of the Ozarks. I remember a perfect blue sky with perfect puffy clouds. Even as a teenager, I remember a perfect crystal blue sky just as a cold front that had dropped rain all night was leaving. The memories are incredibly vivid, and one of the things I mourn – and I quite literally mean mourn – most in life is the fact that the vividness of childhood is gone. Nothing is ever, and maybe never will be again – as vivid as it is in my childhood memories.
I also mourn the fact that I was unable to appreciate them fully as they happened. Youth truly is wasted on the young, and the memories passed by, to be impressed indelibly on my psyche as something I had once, but didn’t know until it was too late.
This evening, I was watching a video of the Enoshima Electric Railroad. As it passed by the Sagami bay, I was struck by how vivid Japan seems to be. Maybe it’s just an artifact of the way the video is done, but there seems to be a quality to Enoshima that reminds me very much of some of the vivid experiences I had as a child. The sky was a perfect blue, the houses seemed a little run down but well taken care of, there was lush greenery and mountainous terrain everywhere, and it just felt a little like… like the vividness that I mourn for can be found there, at least a little bit.
I know it’s a pipe dream. I know that if I were to go there, the darkness would seep in and it would all be for naught. But I think this quality, above all else, is what attracted me to Japan (and hence Japanese) in the first place. It’s a vivid country. The highs are high, the lows are low, but the kami are strong there, and the care with which they interact with and work with their environment shows with a sensibility that America just doesn’t have – or maybe more accurately, lost. They don’t seek to dominate their land, they seek to coexist with their land. And I think the land respects them for it.
(Of course, major urban centers are the same everywhere… sprawl is, unfortunately, sprawl).
Japan has much to learn from us, but we have much to learn from Japan as well. I wish the vividness would return. I wish I could see the world with those same eyes that I saw as a child. Because, let me be honest, I think I have the same eyes. I think the mind is clouded.