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I didn’t take any photos today. The view from Hatanaka’s rice fields was beautiful and it always makes me happy to see the Hiratsuka valley nestled into the mountains. The images are etched in my mind: the red torii in the distance; the mined-flat top of the mountain to the west; the nearby trees and rooftops.

Today ten of us neighbors and friends gathered to help harvest Princess Sari rice. Two small fields needed to be cut by hand – too tight for the machine – then bundled into sheaves with rice straw and hung on bamboo racks to dry.

We completed our tasks in less than two hours, proving that many hands make light work.

Miyako prepared lunch for us. It was a feast of seasonal vegetables, their own rice, and early green mikan that just hinted at sweetness to come. While we waited for the rice to finish cooking, everyone sat outside and talked.

I followed along, adding occasionally to the conversation, and after a while, let my attention drift away from the words themselves to take in the sound of the voices, the scent of the air, and the beauty of the green hills.

I felt one of those washes of happy-sad that have been coming over me recently. Maybe it’s grief finding its way out. Perhaps it’s true appreciation for the friends and neighbors that I have here. Life is good right now.

Either way, I managed not to cry. But it was a close thing.