I’m still trying to unpack it all.
The stories shared by the elders.

Loss of property.
Loss of pride.
Loss of dignity.
Loss of life.

Not loss. Stolen.

Stolen property.
Stolen pride.
Stolen dignity.
Stolen life.

Walking through the jail.
A prison within a prison.
The scribbles on the walls.
“Show me the way to go to home.”
The paradox of the permanence of these penciled notes.

Yet every time I let my mind swim with all the memories of the Tule Lake Pilgrimage, it always settles on Stephanie Miyashiro gracefully gliding in her wheelchair to the crooning of Toru Saito. She navigates around chairs, now nearly empty as most of have gone to bed, with one hand on the controls of her wheelchair and the other painting the air. Stan Shikuma, Tule Lake committee member and fellow taiko player, walks up to me as says, “Did you know Stephanie use to be a dancer?” I nod, not because of having the conscious knowledge of this part of her past, but because it’s so evident with her movements.

There are times when she closes her eyes, as if sight is hindering her ability to fully experience the moment. I try to imagine what it is that she’s thinking, feeling. Perhaps, she’s healing from her family’s experience of being incarcerated at Tule Lake and Topaz, another one of the 10 Japanese-American concentration camps set up in the U.S. during WWII. I wonder if she’s reliving her contributions to the efforts to obtain reparations and redress for those who had survived the camps? Or maybe, maybe she’s pulling in the all the energy of the pilgrimage and storing it away for the next fight for justice.

She opens her eyes, and we share a smile.

That’s where my mind come to rest.

-Lee Ann


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