What it’s like to be born in Japan on the fourth of July:
Japanese was my first language, since my nurse Sadako spoke it to me. I translated for my parents in marketplaces and shops. My mother kept ceramic plates, traditional pottery and a rice cooker, elaborate kimono fabrics and earrings, lacquer tables, Tansu furniture, delicate porcelain dolls and hanging scrolls of painted fish.
Our Japanese freighter arrived in San Francisco in the middle of the night. I faintly remember looking at the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge. For years, I had recurring dreams of being on and under the Bridge. I dreamt that I landed in some passageway on it, paralyzed, while my parents beckoned me from safety nets off to one side. I startled awake. Sometimes I fell off the south tower and nearly drowned, or washed ashore with ferocious waves crashing onto Marin’s Kirby Cove. I never made it to my parents’ side of the safety net. I woke up feeling anxious and lost.
Our first San Francisco apartment on Lincoln Avenue was a cold second-floor dump near Golden Gate Park. My father smiled and waved into the super-eight movie camera, wearing his overcoat, looking like Cary Grant, a strong nose, dark eyebrows, and brown eyes. My mother beams, looking sexy, with blue eyes and brown hair. A friendly mounted policeman lifts me onto his sorrel horse and rides me around, wearing a green car coat, brimmed hat tied with a bow over my golden hair.
A Murphy bed lifted up and out of the wall, and, I swear I went up inside it. I hid in the very top shelf of a tiny pantry, too, and felt invisible, listening to my mother cry out for me. I liked disappearing and not being in my body.
The cold apartment had a front door with frames of stained-glass squares of scarlet, sapphire blue and Kelly green. Afternoon light poured in, like breathtaking heavenly language. I stood on the stairs looking up, transported with beauty onto sort of a soul highway.
I almost cried because it felt so pure, like how it feels to stand in a cathedral. At 4 years-old, I knew for bone-certain that I could rely on color, like my familiar breath.
I never told anyone about my first holy spiritual revelation. Vivid hues of that door’s color energy went deep inside my body, like prayers.
Color forever became my true lens, that still anchors me to this earth. My sensory vocabulary became deep red, sapphire blue, startling white, and warm golden yellow. I feel honest comfort from seeing color, no matter what happens, even when I’m confused and flying around in space.