It’s amazing how much growing flowers and vegetables seem to be such a part of the recovery process here. Yesterday I walked around a town that was almost entirely destroyed by the tsunami — there are just two houses left which were on slightly higher ground than the rest of the town, which is now flat, empty space. Except for a couple of “gardens.”
The people who used to live here still own their land but are not allowed to build on it. Keiko and Masayo Abe (not related but neighbours) have made little gardens on their land, protected from the wild deer with fences they have made out of fishing nets. They grow their own fruit and vegetables, as many people used to here — people were very self-sufficient on Oshika before the tsunami, and actually are doing a pretty good job of being self-sufficient now considering the circumstances. They also grow flowers and herbs. They tend their gardens every day, which gives them a sense of purpose and keeps them active rather than cooped up inside their temporary housing shelters. I’d love to be able to give them a bit of encouragement somehow and have a nice little project for them that I’ll be writing about next week once it’s all completed.
Flowers have also made a big difference to Takako-sensei’s life, as she has now taken up her hobby of flower-pressing again — seeing her on this trip is like seeing a different person.
But I think the biggest impression the foliage on Oshika has left on me is with the flowers that are now growing wild, in the places where the tsunami hit, despite everything. I love coming across these flowers in unexpected places, where nobody lives, no soil or fertilizer has been placed, and no care and attention has been paid. They grow in places that were once covered in seawater and debris; places where trucks and diggers lifted tons and tons of metal and wood; places where thousands of feet have trampled as volunteers worked to clear away that debris.
When I came here in January there was something about the huge stacks of sandbags along the water’s edge that, to me, somehow represented the resilience of the people here. This time, it’s the flowers. They blossom, just like the people here seem to, regardless of what they happen to be rooted in.