Nothing to declare? Further Impressions of Japan

Landing in New York City after an almost thirteen hour nonstop flight, I breathe a sigh of relief. Luggage finally claimed and passport stamped for my return to America, I feel that the journey is almost over. Ah yes, don't forget customs - that form filled out on the plane where I struggled to guess how much I spent on souvenirs and gifts out of the yen bought at the Tokyo airport the day I arrived. I hand the customs officer my form and he passes me through - nothing to declare. Well--- nothing except the evidence of a weakness for "Hello Kitty" dressed in kimonos on a variety of items!

  Now a week has passed. Feeling infinitely more normal than a week ago Monday (that being my first day back to work), I'm alive and alert enough to appreciate that a beautiful summer day is enjoyably in progress. The weather is nothing less than perfect - 83F/28C, low humidity and a positively angelic breeze lightly blowing. Arriving home from work, I decide to wait until closer to sunset before I take a stroll on the bike path near my house.

With my camera tucked inside a waist pack, I walk along feeling so contented. Our spring and summer has been especially rainy so a simple summer breeze and sunset offer themselves as an unparalleled gift. Soon I'm chasing after a large monarch butterfly because it reminds me of Japan was teeming with butterflies and this association between the two still resonates. The butterfly fluttered away out of sight without me catching a photo of it.

  I turn around and my attention is divided between the sun almost setting on the right horizon and the flock of swans up ahead in the cove on the left. Taking inventory, I count about 15 or 16 swans all grouped near a little outcropping of rock close to the path.

  sunset_ swans.jpgI cut off the path and up to the bank's edge, taking occasional steps back to watch the setting sun. I am feeling so completely peaceful and content because of the glorious weather. I cannot help but imagine that the swans have the same sentiment. They look more languid than usual and a number of them are using their body as a downy pillow for their head. Perhaps ever guilty of anthropomorphism, I'm utterly convinced that they are enjoying this beautiful summer evening sunset just as much as myself.

  Memories tug at my awareness as I take photos of the swans as the sun is setting. My first toe in the water with photography a little over a year ago started with a fascination for photos of swans at the bike path - particularly at sunset! Now a year+ later, I delight in trying to capture their languid movements, the pink dreamy sunset tint of my surroundings and relish the fun of taking photos of them through the tall fronds of grass on the cove bank. I bask in the satisfaction of tangible progress in my swan/sunset picture-taking abilities.

 Then the sun actually sets and the sky becomes a wash of pink, orange, grey, clouds and blue background sky. The colours march into the night's darkness. I watch a different kind of beginning deep inside this day's ending as the pink and orange hues descend onto the water, the swans and into my heart,

Although Mother Nature sings us a dreamy lullaby of sunset, I suddenly get rather excited! It's here! I feel it! The same peace from Japan - I still taste it and sense it all around me out on this path even though it is busy with wayfarers and despite the Providence city skyline etched by the sunset up ahead. I've been home a week back in my regular routine and now that the jet lag fog disperses the peace is still here. Hallelujah! If it could be measured in density in the air, say a part per million, it isn't as strong as Japan's inner silence but I know for certain that it would register if measured.

  The sense of silence's constant renewal which I felt in Japan isn't the same, but I am thrilled that it is still lodged inside me. Nothing to declare? How false is that? I need to find that customs form and check off the box marked "other" so that I can more accurately portray what I carried home from Japan. I suppose the customs form doesn't have a section for beauty, inner peace and tranquility but I know that I have exported all of them back to America as clearly as my Hello Kitty souvenirs. I know it because I have never felt such deep contentment and peace out on the Bike Path as on this swan sunset evening.

  When I look at the photos from that night added to my gallery album, it still reverberates. I do not know if it will for you as well, but a swan dressed in pink sunset colours is a pretty sight just the same. swan_symmetry.jpgThe symmetry of the two swans in 'Sunset Swans Snooze' makes them seem like twins. They looked like they were feeling just as lazy dazy as me on a summer's eve.

  Now I know one doesn't have to travel to Japan to find inner silence and peace since the simple act of meditation draws from the same well. Nonetheless, Japan offered this peace thirsty traveller a blessingful dose. I will have to fill out that form all over again since after all. I have ever so much to declare. Thank-you Japan. Thank-you so much.