Mr. Morita brought potatoes

The first week of June is almost ready to bid us farewell. I woke up early this morning and grabbed my laptop first thing to check my messages and Facebook. Although I have a number of goals from here on end, I would say that killing my reflex of immediately reaching for my electronics would be high on the list.

Because we have been having lovely hot weather recently, I decided to take up a new challenge: Planting potatoes! I have been told that even if you have never worked with vegetables, the potato plant is a great place to begin. I bought healthy soil, followed the instructions I found on the internet, and after a month I was pleasantly surprised to find actual plants coming out of the ground. I showed them off to whoever stepped in the door and talked with neighbors to see if they could give me some tips. I was hoping to harvest my first crop this year, but after a trip to Korea I came back home to my house to find potatoes that had been long neglected while I was away. There was absolutely no rain while I was gone, and the potatoes started to rise out of the dirt, exposing themselves to the hot sun.

I was sad at the possibility of my potato planting efforts being in vain. However, as I was walking back home from the station this past week, I saw mypotato neighbor Morita-san walking up the mountain ahead of me. He lives two minutes down the hill and he loves to talk about gardening.  I ran up the mountain to catch up to him. In the beginning of my potato planting adventure, I mentioned often to him that I started making use of the big plot of land that I have. He would give me loads of advice and was excited about my new hobby. I was sad to have to let him know this time about the bad news. He immediately invited himself over to the house and told me he would check on them and give me a diagnosis.

He jumped right in and started covering the potatoes with dirt. He instructed me that no matter what you do, you have to hide them from the sun unless you want to eat very bitter vegetables. After a few minutes, he bid his farewell with a, “帰るわ! Kaeruwa!”, and left as quickly as he came.

I followed his instructions and covered my precious potatoes with dirt and weeded the garden. I thought that that would be the end of gardening for this week, but this morning I heard a loud pounding on my front door at 8:00 AM. Who would that be at this time? My sisters? My mom?

I let out a timid, Hello? with no answer and slowly opened the door to find Morita-san with gloves and a little bag in hand. I was surprised to see him so early. He had come again to help with the garden and also had brought new sweet potato plants to grow. After working in the garden for a bit, he explained to me what I had to do, and again was quickly on his way.

After he left I watered my new sweet potatoes and headed back into the house with a smile on my face. I now have something better to do than going straight to the internet in the morning: working on my new potatoes from Morita-san.

Longer than 10 minutes

The day went by quickly. I wanted to hold on to the minutes and the hours, but it flashed by. I spent the day watching the gardener I had I hired chopping down the jungle that I could not tame. It was amazing to see the difference at the end of the day.

I had a lot of things on my To-Do list, but it was hard for me to get into a good rhythm. I sketched for ten minutes then got bored. I read for five minutes then I moved to studying. After a few pages I remembered someone I had to email. Why couldn’t I get anything done?

The gardener finished his job at sunset. I stared at it from the balcony with the reds and the blues mixing in the sky and sighed a happy sigh. The job was finished. I counted the hours that he had worked: 9 1/2 hours straight. Him focusing on one project for that long inspired and saddened me. Could I focus like he had?

I promise I will study longer than ten minutes tomorrow.

A sports drink from a grandpa

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Drawn in Okayama on the way back from Hiroshima. As I was finishing up this watercolor, I look up from my sketching to a man in his 70s peering down at me. “Hey! Do you speak Japanese?” he asks me. With a yes, he hands me a sports drink and says, “ご苦労さん”.

‘Thank you for your hard work.’

Where do you put your steps?

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Do you ever feel like these steps? Every time I pass this in my neighborhood I am reminded that I need to direct my efforts in the right way and work smart. You can build stairs in all the spots you want, but if you don’t have a goal or a place you want to go, you won’t get anywhere. You will just get tired from going up and down aimlessly.