Monday, October 17, 2011

A Wide-Eyed Grip

Walking home in a drizzle, my shirt turns dark wet, sticking to chest and arms, the coolness of wet cotton a relief from the late June humid mugginess. Unconcerned and enjoying a rainy season twilight walk, I almost stroll with thoughts wandering back to a few student journals from the afternoon. Ten or twelve journals, most of them well done. One young man writes well, always including descriptions of his beetles, butterflies, fish and other specimens, and always laced with sketches of flowers and plants and ladybugs. Remembering the line about his biology teacher, I smile… ‘I caught an insect and gave it to Mr Ishii who is my teacher of creatures.’

What I learn about the students from the journals is forever engaging. No dark secrets, but a fair number reach beyond the mundane to share their thoughts, worries, fears and joys. There too, are the inserts like ‘I’m tired,’ or ‘I’m so sleepy.’ But their study load is heavy and they are pushed hard, challenged constantly. Few write about times of simple relaxation. Kamioka-kun is a big surprise and his journal a delightful record of many interests. He keeps seven catfish at home, each with a name. Writing of his garden he expressed heartbreak over the recent death of a flower, a freesia. If he writes the truth—and I believe him—he held a funeral for the freesia. Arata’s journal is a mix of words and drawings and he likes to call himself a bad boy, but it is clearly a pose. The journal is exceptional, each entry either amusing or appealing. A skateboard freak, he also writes music, performs in a rock band and paints his fingernails black.

I reach Kugayama wet-through and decide to stop in Summit Store, a convenient shelter from the rain. After a few minutes and little in my basket I leave the store dissatisfied, irritated by the several tape players set up around the store shouting out the day’s specials, and blaring TV quiz show music.

Only a few minutes from home and the rain still falling, I stop to look at the Kanda River’s swollen rush through its narrow channel. Both ducks and giant golden carp are hidden away somewhere safe from the churn and tumble of water. At one spot in the torrent an upended plastic milk crate is snagged by something under the water, only a raised side and corner of yellow plastic rising above the tide of water. Perched on that yellow corner an oily black rat, wide-eyed and resolute holds a perilous grip on the crate’s edge.

The Kanda River in a quieter moment


  1. Nice moments caught in description. Present acts mixing with memories that have a presence all their own. Something I try showing in my writing also--that we can give even simple memories a weight, a nowness, that can bring them back to stroll with us during a wet twilight walk home.

  2. Didn't I see that river on my trip? It is beautiful and your post today is touching about the writings of one of your students.


About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America