I landed back in Osaka today after three weeks of home leave in California.
It’s still hot and humid here, though cooler than when I left, which isn’t saying much. And it’s quiet. Every trip, I forget how quiet the public spaces are and on return wonder if I have wax in my ears muffling the sound. People don’t talk. They nap or text or read.
The engine of the airport limo bus hums softly. Nothing squeaks or jolts. I float home on its muted purr.
Occasionally, a monstrously loud sneeze rips through the silence. I have never heard men sneeze as loud anywhere as in Osaka. No one seems to notice, though.
The sun settles down over the port, its late afternoon rays pooling in a final strip of gold over the white towers in the east. Where the light has passed, the concrete city looks diminished.
I saw my daughter off to college this trip. Her funny, quirky comments on life, cosmetics, physics, and boys will no longer send me into fits of laughter or give me little shocks of insight. No more Friday night movies. No more guilt and sadness when I leave on a business trip, or joy when I return–notes of welcome and farewell in the entrance hall, surprise flowers on the dining table. No more shared tears of growing pains, for both of us. For almost nineteen years, she’s given me a purpose in life.
So many things I wanted to show her, so many experiences I wanted to share with her, but never had a chance.
Well, she’ll visit at New Year’s and we have phone, email, and Skype. And it was time for her. She fought hard to get where she is.
So. Here I am in Osaka for another year. Now I can write that novel, practice my banjo, explore all the places I haven’t been, improve my Japanese, catch up on my sleep, stay in touch better with friends, volunteer and do good works. Right? Today I’m a new me, embarking on a new adventure. I wonder why it all rings a little hollow.
Still, today the clouds sweeping across the Osaka sky, their edges glowing in the dying light, seem to etch a message of hope and meaning. If only I knew how to read it.
My Uncle Bill told me, if I feel sad or lonely in the coming months, to look outside myself and notice little things, to practice wonder.
Maybe that will help me learn cloud script.
Home at last…and the moon is waiting for me as I round the corner to my apartment. The moon’s language is clear. It says, “You are not alone.”