Forty years now


Yesterday was the fortieth anniversary of my arrival in New York as an immigrant. To the free world. I was sixteen. My siblings were all younger. It was grey, the end of one of the most epic winters on memory. We were all besotted with the idea of snow, which we'd never seen, but all that was left for us were some huge mounds of filthy snow in a Mamaroneck parking lot—we'd have to wait another seven months to see real snow for the first time. My dad went off to work almost as soon as we'd arrived, so the first few weeks were spent in a motel on the Boston Post Road. We four kids would go on forays from the motel during the day, each time growing a little less timid and venturing further afield. There was a good bookstore, which became a haven for me. There was a book on Tai Chi there, which I bought. I was somehow obsessed with the idea that Meaning lurked within the pages of that book.

It didn't, of course, and I just taught myself how to wave my arms around in the air, while attributing names like "dying swan" or "acorns over the river" (clearly I'm forgetting what the specific names from the muddy black and white photographs in the book were) to the various positions I assumed.

Here, forty years later, and I'm still seeking that Meaning. The snow from a storm a couple of weeks ago lingered, and twigs brought down by the ice lay on the surface and then slowly melted their way into the pillow of the snow, because their bark absorbs sunlight and they get warm. They always look wildly Japanese to me, and I always find myself, inadvertently, trying to decipher them. I read a book once about "the gypsies", and how they'd leave crossed sticks and stones and leaves in ways that only other gypsies would even notice, never mind decipher. I want, desperately, for these random scatterings of sticks to mean something, I want them to contain the answer to a secret, no matter how small, how banal...