One of the things I marvel at is the fact that I am, for all intents and purposes, an immigrant in a foreign country. Previously in America, I stood on the other side of that equation, and so my stance on such issues has always been as a person speaking within their own country. Even though both sides of my family came from Europe more than three generations ago, I feel a great affinity in some ways for those who chose to make similar journeys now. I can't but look at the faces of new immigrants from various parts of the world and think of my own ancestors and wonder at what drives a person to start life over in a strange land.
My story, though, is a little different. We didn't come to Japan to escape political turmoil, war, or persecution. We didn't even necessarily come here to create a better life for ourselves. We came because a friend mentioned there were openings at his university and we suspected we were in a rut. (Or a mid-life crisis, depending on how you want to look at it.) Either way, we packed up cats, chickens, and an entire house and boarded a plane with no small amount of trepidation and a great deal of excitement. Three years later we find ourselves enthralled with our experiences here.
One of the great joys of my time here in Japan is working at a nearby organic farm where I also happen to have a garden. There I can grow both American and Japanese vegetables, flowers, and herbs that are incorporated into our daily meals and shared with friends. Like the gardeners in The Earth Knows My Name, I find familiar flavors and friends in my Tokyo garden. I grow kale because we love it and it reminds me with each leaf of Frog Holler Farm and our friends there. I grow cosmos because pollinators like their frilly leaves for hanging out in, and it reminds me of my mother's garden. And I grow bergamont because I like the flowers (a native plant in my Midwest), it attracts pollinators like mad, and because it reminds me of meals shared with our friends Sybil and Maan.
Sybil and Maan's table is large and welcoming, and the food extraordinary. Maan's tabouleh and hummus are so good that I find it difficult to find either of these dishes satisfactory when we eat out. Like Pat, I have spent many an evening with them telling stories, laughing long after the fire has gone out, and, of course, eating. They are again some of my best and favorite memories, and so when I see my bergamont I think of them and feel at home in some small way. And then I make Maan's potato salad, and I might as well be seated at the picnic table by their back door watching the sky change colors through the oak trees and listening to the frogs start their evening chorus.