The Gardens of Noborito

We were in time for much of Japan’s hanami, or the viewing of the plum (ume) and cherry (sakura) blossoms. In this Noborito residential garden, trees bloom while greens grow.

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As Connor and I wandered Noborito on an early Tokyo morning, we each kept marveling at the gardens in the neighborhood. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we’re accustomed to fascinating gardens. They make you wonder about who lives in a house, what they’re like, how their personality is expressed in their garden. Noborito’s neighborhood gardens evoked that same curiosity.

I sometimes get the trees mixed up, but I’m pretty sure this is a plum tree. Plum blossoms usually bloom before the main attraction of the cherry blossoms. The Japanese also consider spring and its time of change a good time to do new things. In Japan, for example, blossom time is when the school year begins and people often start new jobs.

It’s easy to think of Tokyo as all bright lights and big city. But even in one of the world’s great cities, there is nature, tilled earth, and green things growing.

A gardener is up early watering the plants in his backyard plot.

Large or small, chaotic or meticulously maintained, Noborito’s gardens gave me and Connor a wee glimpse into the variety of people and personalities in this small part of Tokyo. It was a good reminder that we were seeing folks just like us: people who take their wee part of the world and make it their own through plants, or how they decorate their home, or a million other details and decisions.

Wow, a big park right in the middle of the neighborhood, right? Wrong. This is someone’s yard.

As Connor and I wandered, I also thought about the blossoms and what they mean to the Japanese. Not only do they represent the coming of spring, they embody change, and the transience of all things. The blossoms are beautiful; they spring into life on bare trees, bringing early color to a world still pale from winter. And then, after a couple weeks of vibrance, it will take only a stiff breeze to knock the petals to the ground like snow.

The blossoms will fall. The memory stays—and so does the inspiration to take advantage of what life brings next.

Does it mean that beauty is brief? Sure. But only this particular type of beauty. After all, the blossoms are followed by leaves, just as spring is followed by summer. The beauty doesn’t disappear, it transforms.

As I watched Connor smile and giggle while he wandered Noborito’s streets, I pondered how he is changing right now. Our baby is now a toddler, walking and curious, testing the world and indulging a growing rambunctiousness. That baby is still there, but every day Connor is more and more a little boy. As his abilities develop, he’s becoming more engaged with the world around him. There are new excitements and frustrations, new things he can do and, of course, new things he suddenly isn’t allowed to do. He is still my beautiful boy, but that beauty is changing and growing.

A backyard of oranges and hanami.

As Connor grows and changes, I hope that I am growing and changing too. I have much to learn as I parent a toddler. It’s not always easy, and this trip also is a time where we will have many new difficult moments with Connor. There will be public meltdowns. There will be lots of use of the words, “No, because…” There will be times where I’m going to feel absolutely mortified that my child is screaming, or doing something he shouldn’t do, or is crying loudly because he’s tired as hell because the way we’re traveling didn’t allow for enough naps today.

Just as the blossoms fall, I’ve also got to let my fears fall. Becoming a parent is one of the most exciting and most terrifying things I’ve ever done. I’m stoked as hell that we’ve flown our one-year-old across the world for a 3-week adventure in a different country. And I’m scared as hell that I won’t parent Connor as well while out of my comfort zone as both a traveler and a parent.

Seems like just another driveway past another wee house.

The world changes. Connor grows. I evolve. Things change—and as they change, they transform to fit the times, and to bring out more of their true selves. The best I can do is to try to see the world as Connor sees it, while being his companion and guide in a life where we both are always learning.

Nope. Down this driveway is another fascinating wee garden, serene and harmonious. I could really get used to this country.

My child is like a garden. I can over-prune, over-manage, and warp who he is. I can be neglectful, do too little, and maybe his best self can’t come out because there’s too much nonsense in the way. I’m hoping to raise my child the way these Noborito gardens are tended: little enough to let nature do as nature knows best, and just enough to bring out the best self the way love and caring discipline can do.

Connor has so much to learn and do. And so do I. Starting with enjoying a walk through some gardens in a simple neighborhood.

My favorite funky Noborito front yard garden, complete with super-cool mailbox and front gate.

We have so much to do and to look forward to on this trip. Some times will be difficult. There will be frustrations. It’s all something to learn from. It’s all something to get through as best we can. And no matter what, it will all be worth every moment—because we are here, in Japan, and Jodie and I are sharing the world with our wee son.

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