Reflections Upon Japan’s Catastrophe

I am haunted by the images and videos of tsunami waves sweeping over towns, neighborhoods and agricultural land in Japan.

My great sadness is that for millions of people, a way of life has been obliterated. Homes, possessions, roads, storefronts and businesses only touch the surface. Gone also are those deep cultural aspects that create a tightly knitted web of connectivity — a legacy, heritage, way of daily living that enriches life beyond possessions.

Gone are the small, quaint gardens that allowed one to grow a few flowers and vegetables, and to reverence Nature as a hobby or craft. Gone are the shrines that allowed one a wayside for gratitude and spiritual practice. Gone are the beautifully created gardens often unique to those shrines, created in Japanese style. Gone are places to worship and admire.

Swept away is precious agricultural land, greenhouses and growing tubes (most recognizable in some videos), including the farmers’ and workers’ homes, livestock, equipment and seeds.

Obliterated is the local grocery markets and storefronts where farmers could sell and distribute some of their crops. Gone are the customers that looked forward each day to getting fresh items for the day’s meals.

Erased are the many festivals, art galleries, music events, and cultural activities that enriched daily life. No schools exist, no banks, no local hang-outs.

Imagine being without a local park or natural area to take your children or family, or simply to sit for regeneration. Imagine being without that spontaneous drive to the country or woods or shoreline. Imagine being without those little cravings and a way to please them, like quickly dropping by a local bakery for a treat. Imagine no animals or sound of birds; nor butterflies, bees, beneficial insects.

Imagine being without food security, and any means whatsoever to meet it — no fresh water, few or no staples, no money to purchase anything. In underdeveloped countries this is daily survival, but in a region of one of the richest and most advanced countries on the planet, it is unimaginable.

Compounding tragedy is also knowing that any soil is contaminated — salt water, sludge, and a toxic soup of chemicals and pollutants from the destruction of cultural objects, leaking gas tanks of cars, plastic and the like. And forthcoming may be radiation fallout and acid rain that risks making soil useless for future generations. How is it possible that gardeners and farmers can ever practice their love for Nature in a region of hundreds of square miles?

Please, sit for a few moments each day and reflect upon this tragedy (or even the recent earthquake tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand, the “city of gardens,” or still, the destruction in Haiti, Chile, Indonesia, and other places). If you feel compelled to pray, do so. If you want to donate funds, the best presently is to the Red Cross who will be at the forefront of aid for months to come.

Above all, capture the hurting heart within and its compassionate beating. Your heart IS the heart of humanity and Mother Nature. Feel humility and gratitude. The fractured Web of Life in Japan is a mirror of how fragile your own way of life is. We are all connected, and an earthquake and tsunami in Japan is an earthquake and tsunami of our own heart and emotions.

In Japanese language there is a word that represents the connectivity of all — itai. Its literal meaning is my whole body aches with weariness. But its broader context is the compassionate connection of all as one being.

This Spring, plant a seed of hope for Earth and its inhabitants. In the spirit of itai, nurture just one plant with full consciousness for its whole life cycle, from seed to seed — do this as a way to show empathy for and connectivity with the preciousness of life, and its vulnerability. In a literal since, you reap what you sow. If you sow love, compassion and reverence for life, your heart and mind WILL feel the bounty, each day for the rest of your life.

Heartfelt blessings in all your efforts.

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About C. Forrest McDowell, PhD

I am blessed to be a co-steward for over 30 years of the beautiful 22-acre Cortesia Sanctuary outside Eugene, Oregon, with my partner, Tricia Clark-McDowell. My lifelong interests in wellness care, psychology, nature, music composition & performance, writing, and meditation fuel my celebration for life. My form of service is founded upon the elemental practice of kindness and reverence for life. Of course, to understand the value of deep respect for life, we also have to accept irreverence as part of human nature and to know that it can be very disruptive and destructive to peace, safety, beauty, joy and love.
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3 Responses to Reflections Upon Japan’s Catastrophe

  1. Susan Garland says:

    Thank you for your sharing your most poignant thoughts. I connected to you via Cathryn Wellner. I perhaps can relate more closely to your comments, than most people, as our small community was devastated by a wildfire in 2003. It has changed my life forever because I now realize how essential and indeed fragile are so many of the simple basic elements that we tend to take for granted. I now spend much of my energy working to make our community a better place to live, small steps but in time it is very gratifying to see the results of our actions. A community garden, a garden club, food certainty work for our valley, and so on…..Cheers & God Bless….

    • Thank you Susan for your kind comment. We are often reminded of the constant of impermanence in life. Awakening to ours, and Nature’s fragility and vulnerability can indeed open us to a deeper feeling of gratitude, and an increased sense of generosity. There are many people like you who could share their story and inspire others. I am blessed that you gave me a glimpse of your heartfelt efforts.

  2. Mike says:

    I am printing this up to distribute at our farmers’ market in Wake Forest, NC. We are a 70 mile radius vendor market. So I think all of our vendors and supporters will find a deep connection to your compassionate contribution.
    Thank you for your insight. As painful as it may have been to record.

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