raised in shades of sabal and palmetto fronds,
too much sun and too much salt, I had to flee--
crossing hinterlands to seek other peninsulas
and lands that thrust out into the sea of the world.
Cape Cod, Baja, Yucatan, Kenai, Italy--peninsulas of many
a kind and windy clime. A ship to Greece and back round
to Iberia, backpacking on to the Hellespont—stunned
by the elegant ruins of Peloponnesus, not knowing what
language to tackle next, yet finding gestures to fit.
Now after a decade, I rest here on this Izu Peninsula
and ask: were I born here on this Honshu coast,
speaking my new "Nihongo" syntax, diving
for fish and squid in Shikoku and eating soba
and rice with chopsticks with the squinting mind
of Tanazaki's lantern lights, while gazing out
my "shoji" window at the cone of Fuji-san, while
soaking in the steam of "onsens" under snowy pine boughs.
Would I question whom I would have become,
had I grown up on this Izu peninsula, where I now reside?
Wandering through these weekend markets,
seeking tubers of wasabi and persimmons,
arranging Ikebana and helping a friend plant
a cherry tree for "hanami" celebration.
Who am I now? Teaching idioms of English no one
can explain in conversation, and on weekends with
"The Friends of the Earth," hiking up and down hilly
routes tread by Basho and Buson—carrying "bento" lunch.
I'm called the "sensei" teacher woman,
but that's no easy fit; they don't understand one
whose legs grew up jogging down a sandy
coast with one bare foot in salt water and one
on the sand of a peninsula land, and what
it means to be the flighty kind, while searching
for a utopia across another bay, while
clinging to the hope and beauty of full moons,
not knowing where to sail next. But at least
I know my fate extends into the high tides, where
one wades with an ebb-and-flow mind and sails
between the island of her parent's home and the mainland.
As a traveler to many countries, Ree Venrick often wonders how her own identity would evolve growing up in different cultural environments.