It just makes sense that sooner or later I give a big "thank you" to the continent that has fascinated me with its food and culture for so many years. I've had an unlikely tie to Asia all my life. For starters, the house where I spent my most precious childhood years was a tudor designed by a Japanese Architect.
His son came to visit us once when I was very little. He wanted to tour his father's favorite house, the one he called "The House of the Setting Sun". When the house was first built, you could see the whole New York City skyline from the living room's picture window. Every evening, the sun would set right behind it, painting New York in a heavenly glow of pink and orange. By the time I arrived, Yonkers and the Bronx had been built up with many more tall buildings, obstructing the view quite a bit. It was still a beautiful sunset though. If I could move back in to that house tomorrow, I would.
As a kid, my Dad would take my little sister, Heather, and I out for sushi whenever we went to work with him. It was a real treat to run loose in his office, spinning desk chairs, and raiding the snack machines, but sushi lunch was a big part of the attraction. I felt so adventurous while slurping up the slippery raw fish. Sushi remained a favorite food of mine, and in my late teenage years I started working at a sushi restaurant.
I've told the the stories of my Japanese restaurant years and my time in China before, so I won't repeat all that. But did you know that Pearl S. Buck is one of my very favorite authors? I've read just about everything she ever wrote, at least everything I've gotten my hands on.
Religion is probably the area where the great Eastern continent affected my life most. My parents have always been rather experimental when it comes to their faith. My Dad, a recovering Catholic, has been everything from Born-Again Christian to Zen Bhuddist over the years. He's lately settled into Unitarian Universalism, which seems to really suit him well. My sisters and I accompanied him through these explorations of faith, and our paths continued to wind even after his had paused for a while. I was fascinated by pagan religions for a long time, during which I became involved with a vast community of wiccans, druids, and the like. The lustre eventually wore off though, and again I was set adrift, wondering what it all meant. Over the past few years I have begun to realize that of all the faiths, religions, and philosophies I have studied, the one that has always stuck is Buddhism. Nothing comes closer to describing the ideals and outlook that I have come to at this point in my life.
I've spent a lot of time lately reading up on Buddhism, in preparation for starting a family. Being adrift spiritually is a path that I don't exactly regret growing up with. In fact, I'm thankful that my parents encouraged us to find our own truths rather than handing us a religion. I think that it forced me to become a more introspective person, and that is something I value about myself. However, after a lot of consideration (and a lot fof debate with my husband, a devout athiest) I've decided to raise my own kids (when they finally get here) with the guidance of Buddhism. Hopefully, having a philosophy to refer to will help make teaching them things like morality and spirituality easier than it would be without it. We'll see.
So, thanks, Asia! I hope to explore you in person a little more during my lifetime. India is definitely on my list, as are Japan and the South Pacific. Hope to see them all soon!