It was one summer afternoon that I had unfortunately found myself trekking through a local park in 80-degrees Fahrenheit weather. I was alone, under the blazing hot sun, fighting a literal uphill battle against the seemingly endless slopes that drained away my already unimpressive stamina. To add even more to my suffering image, I was lugging around a full suitcase, carrying a backpack, holding a bag in each hand and wearing a jacket. Yes, a jacket in the summer.

I had just landed in Tokyo and had only one objective for the day—to make it to my apartment before nightfall. I did not spare even the tiniest moment to consider how I felt or looked. The first thing to do in a foreign country was to seek out your haven. Yet here I found myself on the brink of passing out from dehydration with less than 3% battery left on my phone. With fear, loneliness and exhaustion, I desperately relied on google maps to take me out of the antagonizing park;which it eventually did. However, little did I know at the time that this park would come to be a place of turning point in my life—the true haven that I was searching for.

Ever since I was little, I have always looked to places of nature as emotional outlets. When I got upset as a toddler, I would hide and cry in the family greenhouse. When I got into heated arguments with my parents, I would run off to calm down at the local park. When I was hopelessly infatuated, I would watch the cherry blossoms scatter during the spring. Nature to me, has always been a place to let your human grief and frustrations run wild. A place to plant the seeds of love and sow them onward. No matter what hardship or heavy emotion weighed on my mind, I would always seek out nature. A recent instance during my stay in Tokyo was no different.

Ajisai

Summer love. I had confessed to my pen pal and crush of one year in that very same park that I had disdained upon arrival. Although the weather was hot, there was a cool gentle breeze blowing through the park. The scent of ajisai, Japanese hydrangea, was lifted through the air. Local children ran around laughing as they searched for bugs. Following at a leisure pace, the elderly watched over them. The neighborhood cats yawned as they bathed in the sun’s warmth. It was the ideal setting for confessions of innocence and naivety. “I like you too,” she replied. In that moment, I thought nature was on my side. As if though we were receiving its blessing, we held hands which produced a heat unlike anything I have ever felt before. It wasn’t like the heat I experienced my first time through the park. It was different. It was comfortingly warm—as if the hands of nature herself had embraced me.

Heartache. Biologist Richard Dawkins once said that “Nature is neither kind nor cruel but indifferent.” I can now see why. After only a week, she had told me that we could not be together for difficult reasons. I couldn’t understand it. I was confused and lonely. Nature had betrayed me. Yet, once again, I ran to the same park for comfort. Having not slept the previous night at all, I arrived early in the morning. Nothing had really changed. The same ajisai were there and so were the same elderly. Although nothing had changed, everything around me felt cold. Upon recalling the day of my confession, I slowly crouched into a sobbing ball. All of a sudden, I felt warmth. Looking up from my arms, I noticed a cat nuzzling against my leg. Perhaps an inhabitant of the park. In the distance, a man strummed his guitar as he sang a folk song. In that instant, I could do nothing but stand there in awe; touched by the beauty and ambiance of this very park. Nature had brought me warmth once again.

Cat

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