I have never been a material girl. I lived for years out of a couple of suitcases and accumulated very little. Books I suppose were an exception, but I was never one for nick nacks and clutter.
But this morning I was reflecting on how many stories are told by each picture on the wall, earrings in a box, or piece of glass or china on the dresser. Most objects in my life have at least a five minute story behind them, usually quirky, often very funny, and always, ALWAYS, with a person who has given my life joy. It can be random – like a small nest of matrioshka dolls given to me by a Russian army pilot (curious?), a candle holder - a gift from a grateful neighbour, dangly earrings made from walnuts, a tray woven from African grass. Each brings a face to mind, a period of life, tears of joy, or small pangs of sadness.
I mention this because I have not known a tsunami. I don’t stand empty handed with nothing to remind me of who I am and who are the people I care about. It may be an odd thing to say, but I would mourn a life without “stuff”, not because it has intrinsic value, but because it gives my life shape, and identity. It provokes a smile, a memory, blinks a snapshot in time.
I can laugh at myself in a photo sporting an ‘80’s perm, or wearing a hippy skirt. I can shrink with embarrassment at my only certificate for swimming, or the appalling math grades on my high school report.
When I look at the towns in Japan which no longer exist, except for the occasional flotsam and jetsam that wasn’t consumed by the wave, I wonder how can they start again, with no evidence to show of what was before. How do you reclaim your memories amongst the mud and the timber and the shredded landscape? How do you start again when you can’t point your finger at anything and say “You are mine, you are my history, you were a point along my journey”.
Japan, I wish you memories, individual and collective. I wish you family and friends - the anchors of hope.