I sit at my dining table as the world awakens around me. The street was dead quiet until twenty minutes ago. Now, at 6 a.m., with my curtains still closed, I know it’s raining because car tires slap and glide over wet asphalt. These cars, trucks, and buses whiz toward Route 246, the road that leads to the central part of Tokyo.
I work at home, and sounds from the street whirl in the room while I stare at the computer. Ambulances and fire engines race past, sirens blaring. Police cruisers call out to stop traffic offenders. Garbage collectors blast music to urge people to take out their trash. Preschoolers utter excited shrieks during their daily stroll while their teachers warn, “Don’t step off the sidewalk!”
I live amid cacophony, though these noises are not always as annoying as they seem. I can’t afford to mind these sounds as I type, email, read replies from clients and groan, do the laundry, cook and eat, and sporadically vacuum my modest residence.
Yet sometimes, the din stops for a moment to let me hear the rain falling onto leaves, or sparrows chirping as they play, squawking as they fight, and calling out to each other to stay close. My hands forget whatever it is they’re doing, and my ears listen to these sounds—or for something beyond these sounds, something that speaks to me in whispers when the wind rustles tall grass in a vast field, or a brook bubbles in the woods.
Whatever human activities take place in an urban setting, nature continues its life in the background. And, in a moment like this, it reminds me that I’m cradled in its arms.
Kaori Fujimoto is an essay writer and freelance translator based in the Tokyo area. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Threepenny Review, Brevity Nonfiction Blog, South Loop Review, Easy Street, Punctuate, Wanderlust Journal, and other publications and anthologies.
Photo by Ryoji Iwata.