Wandering the World
The Ground Beneath my Feet
Spring is just coming to a close and the flowers are still blooming. In spite of myself, I keep taking pictures of them, maybe so I can linger in their presence just a few moments longer.
Red: Poppies - delicate, bloody reminders of disruption
A few years ago while reading Birds Without Wings, one of my favorite books about Turkey, I noticed a lot of references to poppies and I began to wonder what they symbolized. When I looked it up I learned that poppies represent World War I. Poppies grow on earth that has been disturbed and they grow blood red. Turkey was on the losing side of that war when it was still the Ottoman Empire. After WWI the empire was broken apart and Turkey took on the shape it is today when the victors dictated what the world would look like, at least for a while. The newly formed nation, defining itself, exchanged much of its population with neighboring Greece causing more disruption. The poppies come back every year; the people never did.
Pink: Cherry Blossoms - Ephemeral Overwhelm
“the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It's a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short.” - Homar0 Cantu (chef)
Every year, sometime in early spring, Japan is washed over by a tide of pink. It starts in the warmer south and sweeps its way north. People stop what they are doing, companies let their employees take a break to go outside, and everyone enjoys Hanami (cherry blossom parties under the trees). Advanced scouts are sent out to the parks in Tokyo to stake out good spots beneath the pink to lay out blankets while others gather the food and drink. The dates are not fixed, they depend on nature, but it happens every year. I left Japan during Hanami last year, and the contrast between cold, brown Russia and warm, pink Japan could not have been more marked.
Purple: Tulip - Of Love and Islam
My grandmother was from Holland and tulips held a special place in her heart. I always assumed that they came from Holland because they are so iconic there. Who hasn't seen the Dutch fields, bright colors stretching to the horizon? It wasn’t until I moved to Turkey 18 years ago that I was disabused of that notion. Tulips were actually brought to Holland from Turkey in the 16th century. In Turkey, the tulip (or lale), represents Islam and can be found on ceramics and ebru (an art form in which paint is applied to the surface of a viscous liquid and lifted off with paper). They also have many other meanings depending on their color. The purple ones in this photograph represent royalty.
Red, White and Green: Geraniums Against White Walls
On my way to drop my daughter off at school each morning I am greeted by striking pink and red geraniums agains white walls. I often stop to admire them and chat with the ladies who carefully tend them so we all can enjoy our trips through the winding streets. Both the white paint and the bright flowers keep the houses cool in the hot Spanish summers. They are hardy and easy to grow, bright, cheerful and for me, they symbolize Andalusia.
After years of begging, I finally let my daughter pick out a tiny kitten when we moved to Spain. Previously we were living in Japan and our apartment didn’t allow pets. This meant that we had to leave our beloved cat Hisser (who was born under our bed just weeks before I married my husband) with my parents in Arizona and no pets for my daughter. Our apartment in Spain however, happily allows pets so, welcome Thimble!
For the 4 years we lived in Japan and were unable to have pets, I was constantly amazed and amused by the differences I saw between how pets are viewed and cared for in Japan and how I am used to caring for them in the United States.
Dogs around Tokyo
We were fortunate to live near one of the most beautiful parks in Tokyo, Ueno Park. It took me about 20 minutes to walk there at a good clip and many weekends would find me strolling through its many cherry trees and lotus ponds. I was not alone, many many people frequent this park and often with their dogs. People in Japan often take their dogs on walks in strollers and sometimes backpacks just as we do in the United States with children. They often also accessorize their dogs.
Japan Loves Cats!
People in Japan love cats! There are cat statues, toys, paintings etc. everywhere and on the rare occasion you actually get to see a cat on the street there are often many people gathered around it taking pictures.
Since many people are unable to own cats, they have cat cafes where people can go and spend time with them. I visited a couple of cat cafes. Once with my daughter because she missed having a pet so much I hoped it would help. It didn’t, they have very strict rules at the cat cafes, no picking up the cats, no interaction with the cats unless they come up to you. This means patrons grab kitty toys and try to lure them over. Unfortunately, the cats, being cats, are often aloof. There are tons of people trooping through each day and they don’t know you so it is understandable that they don’t really want to sit on your lap. They aren’t dogs after all!
More Fascinating Things Pertaining to Dogs and Cats in Japan