My son (for blogging purposes, "The Sophomore") has been living and studying in Kyoto for the last three months, and will be joining me on my travels.
Ironically, I've spent the last three months receiving odd and unexpected previews of things to come, which arrive by text message--usually in the middle of the night.
Sometimes, the messages make the historian in me smile, because they come with explanations about the significance of the object shown:
|Imperial palace gardens, Kyoto, Japan|
Other times, the texts look more like this:
(My Starbucks doesn't serve waffles, and now I feel gypped. And hungry for waffles.)
I've received pictures of everything from ancient fortresses:
|Originally constructed by Oda Nobunaga - one of the oldest castle keeps in Japan|
|Sakura in bloom, by the river, Kyoto, Japan.|
And even the Sea of Japan:
|Cliffs along the sea of Japan|
I have traveled along, via text, to enlightened places:
|Past this gate is a place of training. Only those who seek the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas may enter.|
|The gate which bears the plaque above.|
This image actually made me burst into tears--of joy, at seeing my son in front of one of my all-time favorite Japanese landmarks:
|The Sophomore at the Golden Pavilion: Kinkakuji|
This accidental travelogue of my son's adventures has not only prepared me for my own trip to Japan, but led me to think about why I write fiction set in a "foreign" time and place. Through stories, we offer a window to the other--a glimpse of our differences, and also... our similarities.
At its root, mystery offers a look at the universal struggle between good and evil, right and wrong--the heroic qualities of a detective who places his (or her) own safety aside to bring justice to those who cannot speak for themselves. We can drop those themes into any place, and any time, and they resonate as true, because as humans we share good and evil across all aspects of time, and space, and culture.
Yet we do choose to drop them in places and cultures other than our own because of the beauty we find in the exotic, the lure of the "other" -- the details that inspire the writer's imagination as well as the reader's.
Next month, I head for Japan to find more inspiration to share through stories, blogs, and photographs. I'm excited to see the things I've written about and studied for so many years. I'm also glad my son's unexpected texts brought the point so sharply into focus. It helps me see not only Japan, but also my fellow MIE bloggers' lands, with new and curious eyes.
And, just in case that got too deep... I'll close with the most recent set of photos and messages from my son (unaltered, and exactly as sent last night):
|Coffee jelly...comes with cream.|
|Coffee jelly (with cream added)|
|Coffee jelly...is Delicious!|
|Coffee jelly (was delicious).|
Consider it a preview of delicious things to come....
-- Susan, on Sunday--whose next installment will come to you from Japan.