St. Valentine’s Day, 2021, and my house is creaking as it slowly reverts to type – a square wooden box with wooden walls, wooden floors and a wooden staircase – after the trials of last night’s earthquake.
200km from the temblor’s epicentre, knickknacks fell off shelves, ceiling lamps pendulated and pulses raced. At Magnitude 6 for us, it was our strongest quake ever, having missed the big one in March 2011.
Rugby World Cup 2019, and our windows were shuttered upstairs and down, as I followed Typhoon Hagibis’s approach online. I’d pegged garden furniture under hedges, and prepared bug-out backpacks and bike helmets in case the roof went. The house creaked and complained as we felt in torturous, slow succession its butting head, silent eye, and stinging tail. Blinded to this monster outside, we were slave to our imaginings at the storm’s deafening whooshes and maddening booms.
The house began to rock. My mind saw a twister through the opaque shutters as we started flying off to Oz. We’d seen a house flipped upside down by a tornado some years before quite close by; a deadly proof of concept to feed this sudden probability. ‘This, too, shall pass’ morphed instantly and violently into ‘this is the end.’
But it was only an earthquake! We’d have to die another day, as once more, the call to “seek the serenity to accept what we can’t change, courage to change what we can, and the wisdom to know the difference” came alive.
Japan delivers many other reminders of life’s impermanence. All-too-fleeting blossoms are wrenched from branches by winds that one day clear the skies to show Mt. Fuji resplendent in winter white against a palest blue, and the next day cover the car in finest Gobi gold.
Early summer’s rainy season might hardly come or seem never to end. And we have forecasts for almost everything – picture Barra Best giving Mizen to Malin projections of the optimum timing and requisite wear to get pickled under plums, cherish cherry blooms, follow fireflies and marvel at maples.
Yesterday I flattened fifty molehills in my back garden, removing half of the soil, tramping the remainder, and raking over guttie prints. Easy enough remedy for the unforeseen, lawn-killing consequences of my adventures in worm farming a few years ago. A bit of reseeding and back to normal, thought I.
Last night’s seismic shock must have excited the ‘soil dragons’（土竜) though, as they left me half a dozen Valentine’s gifts this morning. But I thank Mother Nature for their presence (if not their presents!), and look forward to warmer weather bringing glimpses of our resident snakes, house geckoes, lizards, pipistrelles, visiting woodpeckers, courting doves and fauna riches too abundant to list.
Meanwhile my plum trees are blossoming to the south of the house, but still in bud to the north, despite those blue skies.
Image credit: Max Pixel
Originally from the Ormeau Road in Belfast, Michael McCoy has worked with Japan for the past 30 years, and is a Tokyo-based executive coach.