16. Tree of Hope

I looked up at the enormity of it. The tree was almost 100 feet tall. It grew here in the city of Rikuzentakata as part of a forest of 70,000 pine trees for hundreds of years. The trees protected the people from storms and strong coastal winds and were once chosen as one of the 100 most beautiful landscapes in Japan. But now they were all gone, all except for this one surviving tree. …

15. The Cookout

The food just after the tsunami was terrible. Every meal was treated like an emergency situation. Refugees and relief workers alike, we all lived off of emergency rations, canned and instant foods. This kind of food may keep the body going for a day, but it sure lacks the vitamins, nutrients, and life-giving beauty that we so desperately needed. …

13. A Party One Evening

The parking lot of the old Buddhist temple was packed full of trucks and vans. It sat on a hilltop, on the outskirts of the city of Higashi Matsushima, the only structure still standing that was big enough to hold a large group of people. One of the relief workers we met that day invited us to come here for a party. …