I write because…

I write because it clarifies, filters, purifies, crystallizes all that is heavy, tar and thick inside.

I write because it gives voice to my sorrows; it gives hope to my dreams.

Putting you down on paper, through your twenty-six sets of dots and curves and lines tells me that you’re real, tells me that I created something, that I created, that I can create, therefore I am… but I am left more confused.

Why do you limit me? I am always left frustrated and paralyzed. Yet I still crave your structure. At least there is something from which to see form, a starting point from which to jump and carve out the ever so sacred and interpretive dance one could compare to a swallow’s flight.

I write because it gives story to the music in my soul and makes my innards glow warmer, strengthening a stream of light beckoning for your soft, warm palm.

I can hide and dwell in a cocoon as much as time decides to keep on ticking, wrapping myself in years of sadness, memories and fantasies fused together by sparks of the unknown and the will to forget, or I can write: I can write to pour you into this concrete foundation and let you harden and crack, staring vacantly as the hours sink lower, maybe to feel a little less lonely while still alone in my own wordless mind.

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with glowing hearts…

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Hoover Dam breaking apart in the film “San Andreas” (2015).

I woke up this morning and it was if a dam broke in my head, unleashing megatons of power in full CGI glory like in the film San Andreas with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Paul Giamatti. It wasn’t fast and violent, at least at first; the thoughts trickled out as I played an abstract game of connect-the-dots behind my own eyes, until the phrase “with glowing hearts” appeared. It was just like when a shiny flash of metal immediately snatches the interest of a house cat; the weight of over twenty years of desire — my deep yearning to connect with the world, constipated creativity, arthritic motivation and perpetually plagued self-discovery — unhinged and began birthing its way out of my psyche, which had been ever so neatly held together with duct tape and sand bags. These decrepit barriers had made their presence known already on several occasions, but as to why they opened today, on this morning, left me speechless, and not in the good way.

It was an average Saturday morning, but then again, maybe there was nothing average about it. A culmination of sorts had recently occurred: a newly elected and hopeful Prime Minister, being off in Germany for a few weeks now, enjoying some heartfelt hangouts with my new colleagues, and having recalled the previous night’s Netflix film: a coming of age story about Japanese brothers trying to reunite their broken family by wishing on trains. (I Wish 2011) I don’t know what it was, but as morning turned into afternoon I couldn’t stave from the path that was now before me. Trying as I might, willing myself upstream, I waded through the torrents of water and debris bursting forth from my mind, to understand from where this phrase “with glowing hearts” came.

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Film still from “I Wish” (2012), a film by Hirokazu Kore-Eda.

And as with all good ideas I wanted to share mine with my best friend, partner in love and crime, my girlfriend, who is 6,153 km, 6 time zones and an ocean away, to try and tell her what I had been contemplating, and how I’d go about doing whatever “with glowing hearts” was inspiring me to do. (Now I know you don’t know me, but I’m going to tell you that at first when I’m feeling a big emotion, it’s very difficult for me to express concisely what in fact I’m actually experiencing. A lot of what initially comes out of my mouth I don’t quite formulate with the precise meaning I had actually intended, so a patient and kind partner is very key.) About two minutes into the explanation I had completely ceased to speak, muted by tears choking my throat. My last sentence was just there, sliced through, dangling mid-air. I had been talking about a little girl whose mother is black and father is white. The little girl, my friend’s daughter, had turned to her mother and said, “I’m glad Dad wanted a white baby.” My girlfriend and I had been suffering from frozen FaceTime conversations with frequent audio delays. But in this moment it wasn’t technology impeding my flow of speech; she knew that this was part of the flow, or lack thereof, that this is how I feel and how I deal with the big things, how I process and express, so she sat with me in silence and waited for me to finally complete my sentence of what this woman’s experience of race and belonging meant to me. My father is Japanese. My mother is German. This makes me, well, half of both and none of either. I recalled the look on my friend’s face as she told me her mixed race child saw herself as white and her mother as something she was not.

As soon as I placed the final words, I had also unleashed a tsunami of emotion: snowballing through my sinuses, a hurricane of tears, my larynx driving higher into my mouth as I laboured through the disorientation of birthing my thesis statement, which wasn’t a thesis at all, but a thawing glacier — hazy, frozen, unpredictable, and stuck. With glowing hearts… with glowing hearts we see… what do we see? We see so much; I see so much: the world, the universe, the vastness, the power, the simplicity, the complexity. I see you, you see me, we see us, we see love, we see love within, in you, in all of us, the sameness, the oneness, the similarities and differences, the beauty. We see that which connects and binds us all, the human experience… with glowing hearts we see…

That simple phrase, those five words in a row appropriated from the official english version of Canada’s national anthem (Robert Stanley Weir 1908), out of its original context, is a glimpse of how I’ve always wanted to see the world. And I say “wanted” because it’s been a long time since I can remember first shutting down my heart. I think I’ve been blinding myself knowingly and unknowingly for years. I was safe for a while, but that shield known as childhood began to slip away when my father got sick and almost died from cancer. Then he moved out, left for good. I was 19 when he died from cancer, the second time. My father, you see, was from Japan, and brought everything Japanese with him to Canada, but looking back, I think the Japanese in him started to slowly die the moment he immigrated here. Canada was never his home, and being raised by a parent who never felt that ease and sense of belonging always lingered in everything we did outside of our four walls. My mother, born in West Germany, started her formal education in Canada, unable to speak a word of English, and quickly learned how far a Kraut would get in a post-WWII Calgary schoolroom. But maybe because her otherness was so new when she came to Canada, she had an easier time coping, and all that time to become more of the same as she grew up. My parents’ otherness turned into my otherness, my otherness turned into a longing to change who I was so I would fit in and look like the other girls, so the boys wouldn’t tease me when I brought homemade school lunches of umeboshi onigiri and curry (karē raisu), so I could finally become more of the same. All of that meant a youth of silencing my inner desires, my authentic identity. Lately it hasn’t mattered how many Miyazaki films, bowls of ramen, German classes, Cooking with Dog YouTube videos, or taiko workshops I attend, watch, eat, see…I’ve still never been to Japan.

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My father in Tokyo (1970).

I think we all create a protective mechanism to survive in this age of technology — and more so, social media. This is a time where wars are fought on television, a time of a perpetual debt-ridden economy that still makes us feel like we don’t have enough. Today I think my eyes have started to open again. I have a strong desire to understand what makes me Canadian, what makes me unique as a Canadian, since no two Canadians are alike. We all have our stories, our backgrounds, our varied ethnicities and cultural traditions, but in the end we are all, or at least a little bit, Canadian.

My story begins with my Japanese father immigrating to Canada at age twenty-seven with my German-born but Albertan-raised mother, who he met in Tokyo in 1968. I guess that makes me a first generation Canadian of an immigrant family? I always say when answering the dreaded question, “No, where are you really from?” to someone who is generally staring with furrowed brow at my dark brown hair, large almond eyes and tanned skin, that I’m half Japanese, half German, and fully Canadian. The usual response: “Oh, you don’t look Asian.”

I turned thirty this year, and I can proudly say that I have simultaneously never been the most scared yet the most peaceful in my life. I’m in the longest and healthiest relationship of my adulthood, I am rediscovering my inner child every day more and more, and among these and some other personal triumphs, I feel like I am reawakening to some amazing things I felt I always knew. Nothing really feels that new and eye-opening, although it definitely is, but I guess I can only describe it as a sort of déja vu or dare I say “déja senti ”. It’s like I already knew it from a long time ago (past-life perhaps?), like it was built into my spiritual DNA. I guess this is what faith feels like, feeling the knowing.

With glowing hearts we see…

Seeing through the lens of the open and all-loving heart.

Seeing with the physical eyes closed, but with the heart wide open.

Seeing not only with the eyes, but with the heart, mind, body, and soul.

With glowing hearts we see, we see not only what is there, but what is beyond, what has come before, what will come after, what could be going on simultaneously in a web of limitless possibilities, a musing of multitudinous consciousnesses. With glowing hearts we can do so much.

These five important words I hold in my hands. I hold them out to the 35 million citizens of Canada, to the many great First Nations and Indigenous peoples that made this land a home for millennia, to the Metis and Inuit, to the permanent residents, centuries of immigrants who have flocked here, and to the refugees who still want to make this place a home. I hold these five words out to you and ask you to take my hands. With glowing hearts we see. With glowing hearts we see the humanness in each other. This phrase connects us from the northern tip of Ellesmere Island down below and along the 49th parallel, and from Haida Gwaii to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Most of us can sing this phrase by heart, or have heard it once, but let us create a new melody for these words to live and flourish upon, a sound that will permeate all of our hearts and a music that will never be silenced.

We live in a bizarre time, full of raw potential — the potential for greatness or disaster — with a fresh Prime Minister ready to lead, listen and take action. This is a time where love and acceptance can hasten, at the same time it falters. It’s a time where solutions to environmental and economic crises must work symbiotically, and where massive change is inevitable, where small changes have already occurred. Every person is a thread, a living, breathing soul dangling yet interconnected to create and further our earthly experience.

I am overwhelmed. I am in awe. Just imagining the potential of what these five little words have evoked in me today, I cannot even begin to fathom what a world would look like if we all started to hear this new melody, “with glowing hearts we see…” Thinking about this on my own is one thing. Conversing in constructive thought and argument with others who are saddened by what Canada has become, it simply baffles, paralyzes, depresses, desensitizes. So what to do? What now? I guess I start with the only place I feel I can: me. I start by asking the questions for myself: Who am I? How do I fit into this fabric? Why am I here? Why am I important? Why does being me have value in this world? What is my story? With glowing hearts I see me. These questions are for all of us, for every single individual, because everyone’s story is worth telling, to share in, to understand, and to experience this great gift we have together. So, ikimashou ka?

With my glowing heart I thank you.

t.