Dear Family and Friends,
The Tanabata Festival is a stunning expression of Beauty and of Love. It is based on a Chinese folk story from long ago, but now it is one of the major summer festivals in Japan. It takes place in Sendai. Literally thousands of tourists from all over the country and beyond descend upon the city to marvel at the creativity and workmanship of the fluttering streamers.
I appreciate Tanabata very much. Even though I shun crowds, I go every year. I slowly wander my way down the decorated arcades, taking photos, watching adorable children and traditionally dressed visitors of all ages. Actually, all of us are doing the same thing. So, it becomes a time of mutual delight.
As I get older, however, I find my sensitivity to life is subtly changing. That is, instead of seeking out the bold and colorful, I am blossoming into an awareness of beauty that lies behind the overt. There is a quiet, pervasive depth in that dimension that is slowly opening up for me. This change in perception is making life itself more meaningful and more profound.
This year, for example, I wandered through the Tanabata streets the day before the festival began. I watched men hoisting huge bamboo poles over the walkways. I could peer closely at not-yet-hanging streamers and read the wishes for peace attached to them.
And I could find small traditional Tanabata displays already hanging, but soon to be drowned out by their larger, more elaborate partners.
I find this same awakening in other areas as well. For example, given a choice, I take small side streets and enjoy seeing tiny shops that defy the glitzy trend of renewal in post-2011 Sendai. There are still small establishments that specialize in one thing only: rice, tatami mats, Daruma dolls, soy sauce, or after-school candy for kids.
Likewise, I love seeing the human element behind overt displays of perfection. I find I enjoy a concert’s rehearsal almost as much as the performance itself. Or I appreciate my students’ sincere efforts, regardless of how their final presentations turn out.
Humanity itself is a ceaseless amazement of creativity and wonder. I marvel as the world shifts into greater partnership with technology and the ensuing rush of inventions. Yet, deep in my heart I hope that we also allow ourselves to awaken to the subtle, the quiet, the humble, which are found all around us, but are so rarely seen.