A Walk with My Dog Taught Me About Magnolias.
Hello, my name is Niu, and I love dogs and visiting shrines and temples.
The other day, I picked up my pen (or keyboard, as one calls it) because of something "simple but deeply moving".
This is the story of how a walk with my dog made me realize something important!
This will just be a short read, so I hope you can bear with me for a bit.
At the end of last year, I resigned from my work in Tokyo and returned to my parents' home in a regional city in Tohoku. It was a U-turn in my life for me due to having to take care of my family.
To be honest, I was still wondering if I could have continued working a little longer if I had been more creative...
Unable to say that I don't have a speck of regret, even after I drove back from Tokyo with my belongings, my days were somewhat blurred, like the low, overcast skies typical of northern winters.
When I quit my job and moved back to the countryside, there was one thing I decided to do.
That was to get a dog.
I was 70% joking and 30% serious after I told my boss at the evaluation meeting that I wanted to quit my job because I wanted to get a dog, but I was unable to take care of myself with a full-time job that required a lot of overtime, let alone a pet. When I saw the toy poodles and miniature schnauzers on my way to work, I sighed with a mixture of envy and resignation.
So, when I moved from Tokyo and had almost finished organizing my belongings, I convinced my family with 50% devotion that I wanted to at least have a dog.
We welcomed a two and a half month old puppy and were able to start the long-awaited "life with a dog."
Puppies can't go for walks right after you get them, right?
They have to be vaccinated several times until they can finally be taken outside.
I welcomed my dog home around Setsubun and was able to walk him when I started hearing about the blooming of cherry blossoms on the national news.
"I can finally take him outside."
To be honest, I was beginning to feel stuck in a rut of spending the same old days playing with my dog indoors, so I couldn't wait to practice putting a leash on him.
In the morning and the evening, for about 20 minutes each.
The daily walks with my dog, although short, have given me new discoveries and inspiration.
For example, I was pretty surprised to discover how little exercise I was getting.
It may seem like only 20 minutes, but the unpredictable movements of a puppy stimulate my reflexes and the muscles in my legs and arms, giving me a good workout.
Also, I was able to interact with people in the community through the dogs. When I returned to my hometown, most of my friends from school were living outside of the prefecture and my neighbors were all the elderly, who I did not have many opportunities to see or talk with, so I spent my days speaking only with my family. For me, I was very grateful to be able to greet and converse with people whose names and areas I knew nothing about and who were of different ages and dressed in different ways, with only one thing in common: that we were walking our dogs. At first, I would only reciprocate when they reach out first, but gradually I became able to greet people on my own.
I think the fact that my dog is friendly has also been a plus.
In the midst of all this, I was recently moved by the fact that spring is definitely on its way.
I think it might be a Tohoku thing, but I feel a very big seasonal difference from late February to March between the Kanto area, including Tokyo, and the Tohoku area.
While there are temperature differences in other seasons as well, the "time difference in the arrival of spring" is not only a temperature issue but also a mental difference (not exactly a gap, though...).
The difference is especially noticeable when you drive out to the Kanto area on the Tohoku Expressway or Joban Expressway.
The further south I traveled, the higher the temperature rose, and when I took off one or two layers of clothes at service areas in Ibaraki and Saitama on the way to the airport since it was too hot and comfortable, or when it was snowing lightly in my hometown and I accidentally jumped into the car wearing a down coat, I ended up having to look for fast-fashion street stores under the hazy skies over the Kanto plain, with cherry blossoms in full bloom and plum blossoms at the end of their blooming season. (In the middle of spring, down coats aren't very comfortable to wear!)
"Cherry blossoms in Tokyo are in full bloom?"
The other day, as I watched the rows of cherry trees filling the TV screen on a morning information program, I was getting ready to walk the dog, remembering, as if I were in some other country, that cherry trees don't bloom yet over here in my hometown.
(If I had been working in Tokyo, I wonder if I would have been enjoying the cherry blossoms at a famous viewing spot by now...)
Walking a puppy surprisingly requires a lot of care and thought.
Don't let your dog accidentally eat a cigarette butt.
Don't let him greet other dogs because he's got his vaccines but not his rabies shots yet.
Some people don't like dogs, so don't let your dog get in their way when passing by.
Some people don't like dogs, so don't get in their way by playing with them as you pass by.
Therefore, I kept looking down as I walked him.
However, I suddenly looked up one day.
Perhaps it was because I saw a row of cherry trees in full bloom through the TV.
On the promenade where I usually walk my dog, there was of course no sign of cherry blossoms, just hard buds, not even pink yet, on the tips of the branches.
Instead, I found a magnolia tree.
The plump white magnolias were in full bloom, with pink tints on the tips of their flowers.
"Wow, I walked my dog here every day."
I had been looking down so long that I didn't even notice the flowers were blooming.
While watching out for the puppy's movements, I took a walk that day with my face up higher than usual.
Not only magnolias but also plum blossoms and mimosa flowers in private yards.
Spring flowers are planted in pots by the roadside by the residents of the house.
A shepherd's purse shows its face through a gap in the wall.
"I didn't realize there were so many flowers blooming."
I found several cherry blossoms that had been hard buds on the boardwalk but had begun to turn pink on the rows of cherry trees at a nearby elementary school.
It felt like spring is definitely approaching in the northern region.
If I had not had a dog, I would not have taken walks, and I would not have had many opportunities to notice the seasonal changes in my life.
Looking back, when I was working in Tokyo, there were quite a few times when I realized that the cherry blossom season had ended. Spring comes earlier than in northern Japan.
Cherry blossom spots everywhere.
I was living in Tokyo with a longing for the "time difference in the arrival of spring," not to mention the glamor and bustle of the city, but in reality, I did not have time to experience the season of spring.
Now, I've made a U-turn where I couldn't say that I had "nothing left to regret," but I felt somewhat saved by living with a dog and noticing the small changes in the seasons.
The long winters in the northern region with a sense of stagnation.
At first glance, it may seem as if we are stepping on toes, but time passes steadily and the seasons move on.
"Let me live in this city."
The place where I live does not have the glamour of a city with spring coming very slowly, but I would like to find out what I can do here.
And when I imagine what the magnolias that were in full bloom on the boardwalk, or the plum trees and mimosa trees planted in private homes had have gone through before they were planted there and bloomed, I am deeply filled with gratitude:
"So many people have cared for and nurtured this area, including the artisans who plant the trees, the people who make the fertilizer, the city workers who tend the boardwalk, and the residents who love the flowers."
"Thanks to these people, I can now feel spring drawing near."
If even one of the many people had been missing, the magnolia tree planted there might not have been a magnolia, but another tree.
The everyday scenery that we enjoy without much thought might actually be based on extraordinary probabilities. That's what I realized.
Perhaps some of you reading this text are tired of your daily life and feel impatient, wondering if you can keep going on like this...
Some of you may be feeling a sense of stagnation in a life that doesn't change every day.
If so, it's difficult for me to say that you can just get a dog...
No matter how small, it has a life of its own, so I can make such recommendations irresponsibly.
However, you can take a walk even without a dog.
You can take a walk and feel the change of the seasons from the plants.
You can think about the people who were involved in the process of making the plants bloom.
On your next day off, why not go to a park or a shrine or a temple, get in front of the seasonal flowers, breathe in the fresh air, and reward yourself for your hard work?
Thank you so much for reading to the end.