From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan by Andy Couturier

From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan" by Andy Couturier

Pages 264-265



“Sooo..” I begin to ask him, a bit apprehensive, not wanting to be insulting, “Gufu-san, why write all this stuff down?”


Unperturbed, he replies simply, “To make a record. If you don’t record things, you start to lose your sense of the place. It’s also interesting when you talk to other people, or when I want to look up something later. But it’s mostly just to make a record, even if I don’t use the information.”

“Yes, but how do you decide which things to write down?”

“Whatever is possible to write down, I write. How much the bus cost. How much the movie was, or how much the hotel was.”

“But why?” I ask.

“I didn’t have any purpose in doing it.”

No purpose? Perhaps I’ve been too attached to all my own actions being done for a reason. Utilitarianism is so deep in my culture I don’t even notice it. Listening to Gufu it occurs to me that it may not be so good to be always reaching ahead in time. Sitting here with my friend in a farmhouse in the mountains of Japan, I find my way of seeing the world start to deepen and change. All these little, unlooked-at details create the fabric of memory. By writing them down, we are refusing to let the experiences of our lives get subsumed in the tsunami of time, the onrush of the next, and the next, and the next. I think of so many travelers (myself included) zipping from one location to the next, taking photos of scenery or a building. Have I been missing the beautiful in the obvious?

Gufu is showing me--not that he’s trying to show me anything--that the whole world can come alive with these tiny details, ephemera, you might call them. But not just a generalized “world,” but a specific world, an India of a particular time, and, as it happens, an India that is disappearing every day.


Thursday, May 7, 2020

stand by Sue

I did some of the asset list for probate for mum and Sue today. It's made difficult by some banks who refuse to release this information. Why I don't know. It's not as if they can avoid disclosure. The CIBC has me make the request through the lawyer which is weird to me. I can't see why Scotia Bank is helpful and CIBC is not.  In any case, today I spent the morning informing banks and other places of the death of my sister and asking for information. I provided the lawyer's name just in case they needed this information.

When I went to Sue's house it felt empty as it always does now that she is gone. I shifted desultory through paper and found her last bills which she had asked me to claim. I have to claim them. But not right away. There are other things that I need to do such as weed her garden.

I donated a bunch of stuff to FIND. It is what Sue would have wanted. I wanted to honour her wishes which were always to help others. She articulated this to one of my brothers and I happened to overhear this instruction. Help others. That's the purpose of our transient existence.

I am not the helpful kind. I am of the grudging and forced doing kind. This is who I am. But at least except for a few hard occasions, I was there for Sue. I was forced to be better than who I am by my older boy who told me to stand by Sue.

Now she is gone. Every room has her things in them. But these things -loved and enjoyed by Sue aren't Sue. They were bought by Sue but they aren't her. She was the woman who looked after my mother with dementia every day. She was at my mother's deathbed.  She stayed by Rebecca when I was missing in action. Then when I got sued for speaking out about Rebecca, she stood by me for 2 long years as that lawsuit dragged on. With my dad she was patient and loving.  She left him with a legacy of a beloved daughter who never complained and who did what she could for him.

I am not Sue.  But at least I was able to overcome my selfishness to stand by Sue. 

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