The sidewalk wanders past the tiny shops. I notice a pharmacy its shelves lined with aspirin in antiseptic white bottles across from a Chinese medicine store with a window lined with bottles of ginseng roots floating in amber liquid, a stationery store no larger than a walk-in closet, and a coffee shop. A businessman hurries past me into shop, releasing the aroma of the freshly ground beans into the cold air.
Today, I say, I will be aware that I am alive. Today I will notice, I will see, I will be.
Ginkgo trees stand between the street and the sidewalk, each an equal distance from the one in front, stretching as far as I can see down the thoroughfare. All are completely bare of leaves. I wear layers of clothing beneath my warmest coat. It is February in Tokyo.
Up ahead I see one tree laden with the round, feathered fruit of sparrows. Dozens sit in that one tree, and only that one. It surprises me, and my happiness doubles when I notice two men inside a small shop noticing them, too.
We do not speak, the men and I. We stand, watching, filled with wonder and delight.
Some years have passed since that cold winter day when I stopped to see the world. Even in a world empty and barren, hope lingers. A tree bereft of leaves can blossom forth in birds.