Grieving with Japan. And hoping.

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Haru no umi

Hinemosu notari
Notari kana 

The spring sea 
All day long it rose and fell
 Rose and fell.
I've been visiting schools these past few weeks.

I start my talk about the stories behind Tall Story with a description of my native Philippines: showing photographs I took on my visit home last year - of paddy fields, nipa huts, mountains, skyscrapers, shanties.

And then I show the children a map of the countries on the Pacific rim, and talk about the Ring of Fire ... how the world is like a cracked egg, except what oozes from the crack are volcanoes and mountains and the terrible possibility of earthquakes.

Sleeping mountain

Talking about volcanoes and earthquakes and the Ring of Fire sounds pretty awesome and out of this world. But the breaking news of catastrophe in Japan reveals that it isn't awesome at all.

It's horrible.

How fragile life suddenly seems. How small we are against such unstoppable forces.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. It's one of my Dad's and my favourite paintings, but terrifying. The men in the boats seem to bow to the deadly power of the wave. Read about it
When I talk to kids, I show them this picture taken by my friend Albert Garcia from the back of a van during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991:

I show them the aftermath of the eruption, when monsoon rain and ash combined to bury entire towns and villages

Then I show them a picture of the buried church, many years later.

San Guillermo Parish Church in Bacolor, Pampanga
What struck me when I visited the church last year was how life continued in the town, undimmed by the terrible catastrophe that had visited them. The church continued to function as a church, the services being held close to the rafters.

Although it was an amazing reminder of the volcanic eruption, there was no attempt to turn it into a tourist attraction, no attempt to memorialize the event.

It was a working church.

Last night, my husband and I watched Departures, the film by Yojiro Takita which won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2009 Oscars.

It is about a down and out musician forced to work as a despised  'coffinman' whose taboo job it is to perform the rituals to prepare the dead for burial.

At first he is ashamed and revolted by his work, but slowly (and beautifully - the ritual of encoffinment is calm, graceful and achingly touching) he finds fulfillment in the job - realizing that his work enables the people left behind to go on living. 

It made me think of all the beloved people I have lost in my life - and how the greatest gift I could give those I mourn is to make the most of the life I'm living.

I am participating in Authors for Japan - an auction organized by author Keris Stainton. I'm offering three critiques of 2,000 word opening chapters of middle grade and teen manuscripts, as well as two Tall Story paperbacks - I will autograph and draw a cartoon on the title pages. I will post a link here when details of the auction are ready. I hope we can count on your support! Here are more links to charities and relief organizations on the Color Online blog

I've donated two signed (and doodled on) paperbacks of Tall Story! Bid here

Browse and bid on Authors for Japan

Thank you, Rayvi Sunico, for posting Busan's haiku on Facebook.