mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Sniff, Memory

One of those Buddhist self-help books I've been reading all year posed the question 'What is the color of happiness? The sound? The smell? The taste?' Not so easy to answer all of those, but the smell of happiness I knew at once: woodsmoke. My spirits lift automatically whenever I encounter it, which isn't often, air pollution rules being as they are in this town. One reason I stayed as long as I did in Japan, I'm convinced, is because down the street from my dorm was a lumber yard, and the thriftless Japanese don't do whatever we do with scrap lumber-- they burn it. There's woodsmoke in Heiwadai all through the evening, and most afternoons as well.

Here on this calm flat grey Christmas afternoon people are clearly having real wooden log fires, because the empty streets smell of woodsmoke. It reminds me of Sundays in childhood, a fire in the library for the grandparents' visit; it reminds me of Christmas in '85, a similar day and a similar fire, when I was reading Takuboku, so that the peaceful bare Novemberish back garden was overlaid, scrim-like, by a windy April afternoon in Taishou Tokyo; it touches, just, Christmas break in Nakano-ku in 1991, with houses decorated with the New Year's pine and bamboo and the men in one street of that painfully pretentious neighbourhood actually pounding mochi. It is, whatever, a pleasant day, with occasional sunbeams gilding the trees. And I wonder as ever why holidays simply feel more peaceful than even Sundays do. The coffee shops are open-- I just had tea at Starbucks; there are enough people out on Bloor and enough cars on the streets. But still there's a sense of relaxation, of nothing to do and nowhere one need be, and I wish it was more present more days of the year.
Tags: japan, rl_11, xmas
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