There is a telephone booth in Japan, in the outskirts of Otsuchi. It is in someone’s front yard. Its walls are painted white and filled with glass. Glass-paned. It stands, alone, in a man’s garden, overlooking the sea.
Inside, the man placed a rotary dial phone, connected to nothing. The unused cords are neatly coiled and wrapped. He calls it the wind telephone. He placed it there, after a horrific tsunami took away his cousin, so they could talk. The tsunami carried away a tenth of all the villagers there, too. He goes there to stay connected, so his words can be carried on the wind.
Others come. At first there were just a few, now there are many. Some live close by, others come from miles away. The aftermath from a tsunami travel far. People come to talk, to connect to those they have lost, through the wind. They are protected in this little white glass booth. At some point, it was approved for the calls to be recorded for historical significance. Death and life are both significant. Lives matter, as does love.
Many of the callers are Buddhist, seeking the peace needed for their loved one to move on. The deceased need to know that those they left behind are okay. That they can travel beyond the crash of waves and tears.
“I love you” is rarely spoken in Japan. Instead they will say, “Hello? How are you? Have you eaten? Are you cold? I rebuilt the house, but without you here there doesn’t seem much point. I miss you. Please come back. We are waiting.”
This little phone booth feels like an altar to me. It feels like a prayer. The villagers are feeling isolated, needy, hurting, they are seeking connection, peace, and hope. Wanting and waiting to hear the voice they miss. They come in reverence, like walking down an aisle to kneel, offering up their voice. My prayer is that they felt love there, that they felt God’s peace with them in that booth, knowing their voice was carried off upon the wind to Him. That He was there with them in the booth, and in their car, even in the garden. He is always there when we feel isolated or alone, just on the other side of that closed door, waiting, hoping, we will choose to open it, and say, “Hello, I am here.”
Heather M. Browne is a faith-based psychotherapist, recently nominated for the Pushcart Award, published in the Orange Room, Boston Literary Review, Page & Spine, Eunoia Review, Poetry Quarterly, Red Fez, Electric Windmill, Apeiron, The Lake, Knot, mad swirl. Red Dashboard published two collections: Directions of Folding and Altar Call of Trumpets.