It isn’t long before Haru brings the two of them to some side-street alongside a boulevard. It seems odd to get out of the truck? where they are, but then again, Saito trusts Haru’s excitment. Haru is on about something—something clearly exciting. Right at Southwest Naito Parkway and Southwest Taylor Street, right in the middle of a major thoroughfare, Haru starts talking about a concrete hole in the ground, with great aplam. There are gorgeous plants to be sure, but nothing of significance that Saito can see. It is a very small garden; in the middle of a parkway. Haru is gesticulating wildly and reaches down into the garden and picks up some imaginary object from it, and shakes it, right in front of Saito’s face. Still, Saito can see that Haru is very invested in the description of this small place—it was important to Haru—maybe others? What Saito did was, he took out his camera and took a picture of the hole in the ground, and also a magnificient picture of Haru seemingly choking nothing at all.
Saito knows that Haru was using this microcosm as a metaphor for the city. If Haru understood Japanese custom, then he would understand the importance of attention to detail in even the smallest of endeavors. So here was this hodgepodge of flora, carefully cordoned off from the surrounding traffic—which Saito also noticed, consisting mostly of bicycles at the moment—and Haru was telling him—well, Saito couldn’t be sure, of course, but he felt what Haru was telling him—that in Portland, even such a minute element of the landscape is given great attention. Like the trees in the neighborhoods, like the eclectic architecture of the houses, like the bicycles passing them by even now, this was a place where people concerned themselves with their effect on the world and the world’s affect on them.
Saito was not jaded by any stretch of the imagination, but he had become complacent to all the news about the dangers of humanity’s impact on the world. To Saito, it seemed inevitable. There was no turning back the clock. There was no such thing as a zero-anything footprint. Humans changed the world the moment they arrived. They cultivated some plants and not others; they wiped out some species and not others, simply for food. Of course there was an impact on the ecology, even the atmosphere. What humans could do was plan the impact a little better. The solution to any problem began with the recognition of the presence of the problem. So Saito was not jaded, he just felt that people who wanted to reverse the impact of humanity were wishful thinkers.
Haru, forcing him to pay attention to this minor detail of the city seemed to be communicating exactly that. And Saito was grateful. It was something that had gone missing with Miko. She had become—not obsessed—Saito was not sure of the exact word—overtly concerned with the sea of status. Saito had concerns about quality of life and Miko had developed concerns about status in life, concerns about what the neighbors thought. Saito’s work, their home, their shared time together, the money he made; it all had become, for her, he thought, a means to an end, and not the reason d’être.
In that moment, Haru had stopped talking and the two of them, squatting in the middle of the Parkway, had a moment of silence and meditation. Saito knew then that because he understood the problem with he and Miko, that the relationship could be salvaged. It could be negotiated. He would have to tell her why he had been so sullen the last few months. She might listen. He knew she loved him deeply and maybe this preoccupation with presentation would be something she would see through if he told her how unhappy it made him. She might not, of course. Once, she had not been concerned with those sorts of things. Maybe she would again. Saito, in the midst of that thought, felt connected with Haru, felt thanks for Haru giving him something he could relate to, something he would not have known to seek out, and he pat Haru on the back, as they squatted together in the middle of the Parkway and said, “Arigato, Haru dese.” Then, Saito holds the camera out to implore Haru to take a photo of the moment.