Monday, October 3, 2011

Japan: Day 3

Rock garden

It's ten minutes until the start of day 3, session 1, and I just got myself settled in the seminar room. Moments ago I was washing my hands, looked at myself in the mirror, and realized: this morning was the perfect example of freedom, as I define it.

Garden tree

I went to bed late last night after spending the evening shopping and eating with Masako, my new friend and my student Tamami's mother. Even so, I awoke with the sun at 5:30 am. After I decided I was awake for good, I checked to see if the rogue unsecured wifi network I had found the previous night (part of the reason I stayed up too late) was still operative; finding it was, I decided to get one of the day's tasks out of the way. My teaching assistant had alerted me via email that I had failed to post an assignment listed on the syllabus as due during my absence. So I went back into last year's online classroom, found the parallel assignment, pulled up the reading schedule and notes for this year in Google Docs to find an appropriate quotation to substitute for a reading we haven't had yet, and posted to our current classroom site.

Garden willow

By the time I completed that procedure, it was breakfast time. Even though the host or hostess warns me every day that the spot I've chosen serves continental breakfast, no meat or eggs, I go back each morning for the fruit, the chocolate croissants, and the most expansive view of the Japanese garden below through an enormous picture window wall. Today I had both the time and the determination to find my way into the garden; my searches on previous mornings had been constrained by my schedule, and fruitless.

Silver bamboo

With more than an hour before I needed to be anywhere, I threaded through the delivery trucks and ubiquitous workmen to the entrance and took my time exploring each path and taking picture after picture in the ever-changing morning light. Even when I finally left and set out for the university, I had the leisure to climb one of the many narrow staircases onto the massive berm that once fortified the Edo-era estate this area was and stroll along the wide top, looking down at students at early practice on the sports fields where the moat ran centuries ago.

Me at waterfall

I tend to think of freedom as requiring hours, days, or weeks of no responsibility. But even a brief early morning gave me this transcendent sense of contentment with my choices. To be master of those responsibilities rather than enduring their mastery of you; to exit the chatter in your head in the search for vantage points on external beauty, moving from perfection to perfection; to have a goal without a concomitant burden; to step sideways out of one's life and into a time apart -- that is what freedom has always meant to me.

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