I road my bicycle from home to the bamboo forest, carefully avoiding the walkway along our river which on weekends has become a superhighway for stir-crazy Tokyoites to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Unfortunately if everyone goes to the same location to get fresh air, perhaps it isn’t as fresh as it should be.

Where The Bamboo Grows in Tokyo

There are relatively few bamboo forests around Tokyo that are accessible to the general public, perhaps a half dozen. Several of them are on the properties of shrines or temples, an hour or more outside of the heart of the capital. But by some great fortune, one of them happens to be biking distance from my house, and I take several opportunities a year to go there, photograph it, and stroll through its tall, straight foliage in relative peacefulness.

The bamboo forest was pristine with a few people out for walks and two families having picnics though more than 100 meters away from each other with a bamboo grove between them. Spring brings the green back to the forest which turns a sort of dull brownish-green during the winter months. There is also a pristine stream running through here, fed by a natural spring that emerges from underground among the bamboo forest itself.

It was in this environment that I contemplated the state of the world, at least as I knew it. I realized that though it feels like time has stopped for billions of people in the world affected by the coronavirus, it hasn’t really stopped at all. The bamboo continues to grow at its sometimes rampant pace, young shoots sprouting among its elders and even along the walking path (which in the dark of night, might be dug up and taken home for a meal by someone). The water skaters have come back to glide along the stream. The purple irises threaten to overtake the walkway on the sunny side of the stream.

After We Survive This

Meanwhile, I have what seems like all the time in the world and generous companies are providing huge amounts of free educational resources online, but I often feel like just finding a warm spot and curling up to sleep. I want to hibernate the age of coronavirus away and wake up with everything back to how it was in any year that was not 2020. I don’t want to grow; I want to live in the past. I realized if the flowers, the insects, the bamboo decided to live as I want to, the world would be over in an instant. But thank God, they either have no choice in the matter, or they choose with a wisdom that comes from ages of always doing what is right. They just grow.

The reality is that most of us will survive this. We may survive with scars or tears, but we will survive. And life will resume, at full speed, and these days which seem now to drag on will be just fading memories. For decades, I’ve wished my life wouldn’t pass me by so quickly, that I would have time to do things for myself. And now that my wish in some twisted way has come true, why am I not doing the things that I always said I would?

We all have our own answers for doing what we do. But lest we forget, our lives are still in motion, and although we feel like we too much time on our hands, we may one day lie on our deathbeds and realize that wasn’t true at all. So what can I do today that will make me grow into a better person than who I was yesterday? How can I improve the life of another person with an investment of a little of my time? Don’t ponder these questions too long. Time is ticking.

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