I grew up in pretty conservative and traditional family in Japan. Both my parents are oldest in their families which mean they are responsible for leading many family obligations. I grew up helping my mother getting ready for death anniversaries of my ancestors. New Year’s celebration is another big thing. I remember feeling so resentful doing all the window cleaning starting beginning of December. My mother would always volunteered me to do window cleanings of my paternal grandmother who lived next to our house.
Then it was my job to go grocery shopping to get lists of things to prepare food. Then I was not allow to go play with my friends during these busy time. I remember one year, my sister made arrangement to go see movie with her friend and she got in so much problem. After that incident, we just learned to be there to be dutiful assistants. We would spent about 3 days cooking New Year’s meal called Osechi in Japanese. We would make about 20 different dishes and would decorate into the family crest lacquered box. This box has 4 layered and each layer would have particular dishes in. There is ruled for what should go into each box. Each dish has auspicious meaning to it. For example, there is always black beans dish in first box. If you are successful cooking, it would come out perfect puffiness and it would look like black pearl. It has meaning of posterity. I don’t like beans in general, but on New Year’s day, I will eat my age number of black beans ( for example, when I was 15, I ate 15 black beans) . Who knows, maybe it was my mother’s way of making me eat beans. Anyway, if you were not successful cooking plump beans, and turned out wrinkly, we would say we desire to live until we get wrinkly.
When I was growing up, I did not like doing all these family obligations because it means I had to stay home to do chores all day long, but now I miss those times cooking for big family gathering and such. It was hard work, but it was so much fun having meal with uncles, aunties and cousins. I mean big parties. At least my husband’s relatives are so spread out, they cannot get together that often. My husband could not believe how often my relative would stop by at my parent’s home. Anyway, It was nice to be able to spend many holidays with my cousins. It was not perfect community, I had to listen to not so nice things about other people sometimes, but I had never felt isolated.
Now I live in America, and we live in such a nuclear family structure, I could just stay in my house for rest of my life. Nothing will really happen. I miss sense of belonging, it is that feeling of belonged to the community. We are blessed to have my husband parents live near by to help us regularly. Yet, it is not quite large as something you would call community. 2 Years ago, during summer solstice we had a vision of creating space to hold community. This was very beginning phase of birth of Green Phoenix Institute.
We just celebrated coming of Metal Rabbit Year. We had Chinese New Year Celebration potluck party at the Green Phoenix Institute (GPI). We like hosting gathering, but our tiny house was not big enough to do big parties. It was very lovely how everything turned out. Our friend asked approached us by offering to play music at the party. We plan to have seasonal celebrations and offer to have music. It was nice to work things out from our community. We had great band playing music, we requested for people to try to bring Chinese food as the theme. It was also nice that one person helped us with Chinese red calligraphy decorations and helped us post them on more appropriate areas. I was afraid we might have some calligraphy up in wrong area since I don’t really read Chinese ones. (Japanese Kanji is pretty close to Chinese but not exactly). Anyway, I am sure we will get appropriate luck.
We also produced the Art show at the same time. Thanks to Matt (my husband and GPI director)’ s father, we have super sophisticated wall hanging for art shows in our Phoenix Hall. Matt’s father researched and settled on Australian hanging system. We decided to offer art show during this party and also during Center for Sacred Science (CSS) meeting. CSS meeting happens on Sunday at 11am at the Phoenix Hall. We thought it would be good time for people to admire art on the wall at the same time. We had an artist who was impressed with our facility and was interested in doing art show. Her Bark painting was just perfect for the space. We loved her work. Artist’s mother was able to come to see the show for the first time and I felt so honored to be able to provide this type of heart warming opportunity.
We had great turned out. Little kids were dancing with music. It was lovely. People were enjoying good companies, good food and music. We are grateful for many people who would always come to these parties to celebrate with us. This was exactly what we wanted.
I did not make 20 dishes for this party. I was not asked to cook and clean the house. I started something different, something organic, fun and helpful. I feel like I am building new community here in Eugene. This is my new community.