Here in Northeastern Ohio, I’m seeing a lot of these gorgeous colors right now. In fact, recently three friends and I went to a poetry workshop at Malabar Farm and had simply splendid views on the drive down and back.
But this photo is not Northeastern Ohio. This is Kanazawa, Japan, whre I visited my daughter for the first time in 2008. And I hit the peak colors there, too.
It’s always amazing to me when I experience something I’m familiar with in a totally different setting. Kanazawa showcased the same fabulous colors as the seasonal result of chlorophyll dying off. The city had the usual Starbucks, Mr. Donuts, McDonalds and even Kentucky Fried Chicken. Parents embraced their children and sent them off to school. Business men and women wore suits and carried briefcases. Everyone talked on their cell phones. Very familiar stuff.
And yet so different. In Kanazawa, which is about the size of Cleveland, I never once heard a leaf blower. I saw many workers out carefully raking the leaves with old fashioned rakes, quietly, contemplatively (it was a different matter in the much larger Kyoto). Kanazawa is a place that gets little snow, but the snow it gets tends to be very wet and heavy. There is a long tradition of sending out skilled teams each autumn to erect heavy rope structures over their evergreens to bear the burden of the snows’ weight and keep their beloved trees from losing branches.
They don’t put these structures on deciduous trees, because these trees wisely lose their leaves before the first snows, allowing heavy snows to slip down the branches and fall off, causing no damage. At least that works most of the time.
This past weekend, parts of the Cleveland area were hit by an early, very wet and heavy snow. Many of our deciduous trees are still full of colorful leaves, so under the weight, many, many branches snapped off. It resulted in, according to one radio report, 35,000 homes without electricity. Yikes! Oh, for those lovely supports! But of course, even in Kanazawa, they don’t expect heavy wet snow before the leaves fall.
Starbucks was the same, only different. We should have an English word for that: the same, only different.
We’ve all experienced what I’m talking about, a place or an experience which has many factors in common with something totally familiar, and yet the differences are notable. Kanazawa has 3 Starbucks, all along the main drag, and at first glance they are just, well, Starbucks. Same decor, counter, pastries. But in Japan they take their recycling seriously, with three distinct designated places for the paper cups; plastic tops, spoons and straws; and the cardboard sleeves, when their usefulness was over. And of course there’s the delight of turning around and seeing this:
These three young women in kimono and obi, the middle one with a British racing cap,the one on the right on her cell — well, you don’t see that at the Starbucks in Cleveland! Mind you, most of the people we saw at the Kanazawa Starbucks wore suits or jeans and tee-shirts just like here. Kimono are apparently reserved for special celebrations with the young. Still, we saw a few every day. Just enough to make me sit up and take notice.
We have gorgeous gardens here in Northeastern Ohio. I feel blessed to live in an area rich in them, as well as several remarkable park systems. Still, it was heaven to experience Kenroku-en Garden, considered one of the 3 top gardens in Japan, possessing the 6 attributes necessary for perfection in a garden:
“Grouped in their traditional complementary pairs, they are spaciousness & seclusion, artifice & antiquity, water-courses & panoramas. As might be imagined, it is difficult enough to find a garden that is blessed with any three or four of these desirable attributes, let along five, or even more rarely, all six. Yet that is just the case here, where as the name “Kenroku-en” literally means “garden that combines six characteristics” says the website for Kenroku-en Garden.
Here, as a child, I pressed lovely autumn leaves between sheets of waxed paper and had my Mom help me carefully iron them, to save for all posterity, or at least until the next year. I don’t know if they do that in Japan, but they do make astonishingly beautiful papers with the momo-ji, or colorful maple leaves:
Does this make me long to be back in Japan? No, it makes me see what I have right here, right now, with fresh eyes. Just remembering that timely visit makes what I have on a daily basis fresher and more dear.
“Same, only different” experiences do that for me. How about you?
And can you help me come up with a word for “same, only different”?