This afternoon we went for a walk along a river that flows through the city. It's flanked on both sides by cherry trees, which are in blissful bloom right now. We slowed down every time we passed under a pale pink cloud of blossoms, just to stay in that moment of fairytale beauty a few seconds longer.
Grant spotted some koi fish in the river and he quickly fell under their spell. One in particular caught his attention and he soon declared that he and this fish were friends. "He's really friendly," he said.
It is so damn easy to make friends with a 9-year-old boy.
Sensing that Grant and his new friend wanted some time alone, Audrey and I sat down on the stone steps at the edge of the river and watched the pastel cherry petals drift by on the glassy surface of the water.
"What do you think a fish does to make itself appear friendly, or unfriendly for that matter?" I asked her.
She rolled her eyes and we both laughed. Then she leaned in a little closer to me. "You laugh more in Japan," she said gingerly.
"I don't know if that's because we're in Japan or because we're on vacation," I said.
Grant ran over to us and said, "Sometimes he swims this way, then he turns around and swims that way. It's like he doesn't know where he's going."
"Maybe he's not going anywhere," I offered.
I began thinking out loud with Audrey what it means to be on vacation. Especially a vacation where we're visiting with family.
Since we came here last week, I haven't planned a single meal. I haven't gone grocery shopping. I haven't cooked. I haven't washed a single dish. I haven't washed any clothes. I haven't fed the dog, haven't walked him, haven't cleaned up after him. I haven't done a minute of homework with the kids. I haven't run a single errand. I haven't dialed in to a single conference call, haven't taught a class, haven't pushed myself to meet a deadline. So much of the pressure of everyday life has been lifted from my shoulders. Maybe when the everyday pressures vanished, that created a vacuum in my soul and laughter rushed in to fill the void.
Grant was back. "He's so big! He's really huge. How do koi fish get so big?"
"I don't know if this is true but I think I read once that koi fish will get as big as the space they're in. If they have lots of space, they'll get really really big. But if they're in a small tank they won't grow very big," I told him.
I think that's true. At any rate it's something that I want to be true. It sounds so good.
As the sun set the river water grew darker and darker, until finally the water and the slate-grey koi fish swimming in it blended into one slippery shadow. The three of us quietly rose and gathered our things and walked back to the train station in the enchanted darkness.
Hours later, back in my hotel room, my mind keeps coming back to that koi fish that grew big because he was in a big space. That means something to me but I can't quite put my finger on it. Does it mean something to you? If so would you leave me a comment and tell me about it? I would love to read that. Maybe you can help me figure it out.