I have had an almost heart-breaking message from a correspondent in Japan. The city of Rikuzentakata, she tells me, was protected from the ocean winds by an ancient forest of 70,000 black and red pines. After the tsunami on March 11th one single tree was left standing. ‘Resin oozes from the trunk where the lower branches were ripped off by the power of the waves, but a thick spray of green needles at the top of the 10 metre tree shows it is very much alive’. Nearly 2,500 people in Rikuzentakata perished in the tsunami. ‘I can’t even remember what the town looked like, said one resident; ‘it is so completely gone’. The lone pine is now the symbol of their resolution to rebuild.
‘Overwhelmed by the images of destruction’, writes my pen friend, ‘I decided to watch Monty Don’s programme which I had recorded the evening before the earthquake and had not seen. I could not take my eyes off him. He had a glorious smile, prancing towards the Alhambra. I realized I had not seen a smile in days, that people smile when they are doing what they enjoy, and I felt it was alright to smile again’. ‘I must switch off my computer now to conserve electricity. Please turn yours off too, step outside and celebrate everything and everyone around you. No power source required’.