Haru arose early, brushed a bamboo curtain aside with her frail hands and greeted the morning sun. The old woman stood at an open window as was her ritual and watched the orange orb rise from the distant ocean. She silently prayed to Buddha, asking for another beautiful day.
After a cup of tea and eating a wedge of left-over rice cake, Haru lit joss sticks and placed them alongside her cherished ancestral tablet. The fragrant smoke wafted upwards from the burning incense and tickled her nose, which caused the usually austere old woman to release a breathy giggle.
Satisfied that Buddha had answered her prayer, the centenarian reached for her cane and with a slow gait, she limped toward her garden doorway.
There, in her garden is where she found peace, harmony and tranquility. She sat down on a wooden bench, next to a water basin and with loving hands began tending to an ancient bonsai tree. The sturdy, little tree had once belonged to her grandfather. After his death, her father kept it safe and alive. And now, its life depended upon Haru. The tree flourished and blossomed under her faithful care and tender touch.
Haru snipped a tiny dead limb from the tree’s trunk and when it fell to her feet the earth shook. The water basin toppled and Haru was catapulted to the ground. As her garden crumbled and splintered into remnants of what was once a serene landscape, she desperately reached for the tree and cradled it in her arms.
Moments later, an unwavering watery claw engulfed the tranquil garden. Still clutching the tree, Haru was swept away and disappeared. The old woman and the ancient bonsai tree died together as it was meant to be.
I was moved to write this story after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred (Friday – March 11, 2011) off the Japanese shore – the largest in Japan’s history. The quake unleashed a 23 foot tsunami and was followed by hundreds of aftershocks for hours, many of them of more than magnitude 6.0. At this time (03/13/11) the death toll is still unknown.