Tag Archives: fire

Out of the Frying Pan

We’ve set our departure date for August 4 and I am determined to downsize. I give each item a feng shui moment, asking it, “Do I really want to carry you across the Pacific Ocean?” More often than not, the answer is, “No.” We toss old documents, choose which photos need to be kept, which are better forgotten, give things away, delete no-longer-relevant computer files. I had four boxes crammed with old letters at the back of the closet, couldn’t bear to toss them, couldn’t bear to read them. So we had a bonfire in the back garden.


Fire: cleansing, mesmerizing, comforting, final.

We continue to wait out the ridiculous quarantine period (83 more days!) and there is an unhealthy coating of frustration mixed into the sparkling tropical fruit salad that awaits us halfway across the Pacific.

Or so we hope.

kilauea eruption

I took this photo in April at Volcanoes National Park. There were two sputtering pools of bubbly lava, far enough in the distance to seem unreal. No biggie.

I came back to Tokyo, carried on with preparations.

And then Kilauea started to kick up her heels.

So far the lava is only flowing in Leilani Estates, which is two developments away from our house, about 15 miles, a safe distance, we hope. But I have this nagging image in my head, a scene from Minions, where a T Rex is balancing on his toes, trying to keep his balance by flailing his tiny, useless arms and then…

***Spoiler Alert***

…he topples into a pit of bubbling lava.


I can’t describe how painful it is to read the news, to watch new vents opening, creeping northwest, creeping toward our little piece of paradise.

When I asked Realtor Ron to make our offer on the house, I started to cry. I hadn’t realized how much I wanted it until it looked like I might get it. And now I might not get it after all.

But at the same time, I’ve lived here for 32 years, lived through typhoons and earthquakes and tsunami. And I’ve had cancer and will live with the fallout from that for the rest of my life. I’m finding an odd sense of comfort in that, in the way that things go in parallel, they go full circle, they usually work out in the end. One way of the other, we will move forward into whatever the future holds for us.

For now, we wait. And we hope. There’s nothing else we can do.

A Tale of Universal Appeal

140117_0938~01I learned my lesson from the morning train ride on Wednesday. It is worth being at the wrong end of the train to take the women only car. It was still packed but I didn’t have a bunch of smelly men towering over me, jamming their briefcases into my back.

We finished Soness’s recording early and I had about 45 minutes before the next voice would arrive. She needed to get her hair styled and invited me to go with her, which sounded like a perfectly girly, fun way to kill some time. I sat in the chair next to hers and we chattered about facial feng shui and how changing your looks changes how you feel about yourself.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERABack to the studio, another break between voices. One of my colleagues commented on the pink mouse and I said it’s not really me. The kind of person who has a pink mouse is the kind of person who dots their I’s with little hearts and covers their cell phone and fingernails with sparkly things. I have NEVER dotted an I with a heart, not even when I was 13. I abhor sparkly nails and my phone is unadorned. My colleague suggested that the next time I go to the office to test software they’ll give me a pink headset covered with sparkles so it looks like a tiara.

I think not.

That job done, I had three hours to kill, and having had such fun at the historical museum, I decided to check out the fire museum.

What I learned at the fire museum:

Fire is a big deal anywhere, but especially in Japan where for generations, buildings were made of wood and paper. Unless one lived on the banks of a river, there was no infrastructure to provide adequate water for firefighting, so when the town lookout sounded the alarm, fire brigades came running, not with buckets and hoses but with metal hooks attached to spears.

Fire brigade standards

Each brigade’s standard bearer would leap onto the roof of a house surrounding the burning one and dance around with the standard until his feet started getting hot. (There was a great deal of honor, and machismo, surrounding how long the dancer could maintain his position.)

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAMeanwhile, the fire brigades would proceed with tearing down the surrounding houses so the fire wouldn’t spread. This was called “demolition firefighting”.

Fires could start for any number of reasons. Perhaps someone tripped over a kerosene stove or a charcoal cooking brazier got knocked over by an earthquake. Perhaps Mrs. Ohara’s cow kicked over a lantern.

There was no insurance in those days, so people kept their valuables in big wooden boxes on wheels so they could bug out quickly. Unfortunately, those boxes also blocked the streets and impeded the fire fighters and were eventually banned. So if you were the unfortunate slob who started a fire, not only did your neighbors lose their houses, they lost everything else. I wouldn’t have wanted to be him.

I didn’t get a personal docent this time, but I really wanted a silly picture to go with this post, so I asked the reception desk lady and she gladly obliged.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERALeaving the museum, I ran into Kan, a freelance director I’ve worked with a few times over the years. It’s almost spooky how often I run into people I know. There are 12 million people in Tokyo and I don’t know that many of them. Maybe I’m connected to people on some plane I’m not aware of.

The final studio job went fine. I got to direct, which I enjoy, and the voice was Matthew, whom I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years. We bantered. It was fun.

Leaving the studio, I was greeted by a gorgeous, orange-tinted full moon. I stared in wonder as my warm breath clouded the frosty air.

I don’t know what’s going on with my karma these days. It feels like something is trying to fill a void that has been empty for too long. Maybe the universe is reaching out to me; maybe I’m reaching out to the universe; maybe it’s mutual. Whatever it is, I’m grateful for it.


We were creating our usual perfect scenes of bright colors and smiling faces at a house studio the other day when I looked through a window and saw that there had been a fire in the house next door. Most of the roof was gone; only a fringe of tiles remained around the edges. A guilty secret, from the street there was nothing to see. But from my second floor vantage, charred and blackened wooden beams reached for the sky, skeletal, naked, exposed to the drizzling rain. The glass was blown out of a pair of small windows, sightless eyes framed with soot mascara. The house stood there achingly lonely, forlorn. Someone had lost everything, perhaps even life, and I was overwhelmed with an unbearable sadness.

I was called back to my world of rainbows and unicorns, but returned to the window again and again during the day, reminding myself to be grateful for all the good things in my life. But I also couldn’t stop thinking of all that I have lost, so many lives and loves fading into the limitless distance, and I wanted nothing more than to curl up in a corner under a blanket and forget, at least for a while, that I exist.