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March 17, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Barbara Wood's On the Home Front: A myrtle tree grows in Japan Barbara Wood's On the Home Front: A myrtle tree grows in Japan (March 17, 2004)

In the small Japanese town of Shobu grows a young Oregon myrtle tree.

The tree is a living symbol of the relationship between Shobu and Roseburg, Oregon, a relationship grown and nurtured over a 10-year sister- city relationship as their residents exchanged visits. Friendships have flourished, as has that tree, which began as a seed found by a Shobu resident during a visit in 1995.

That tree, now 6 feet tall, is special to me for another reason. Buried beneath the tree are some of the ashes of my father, who died two-and-a-half years ago, and who loved Shobu and his friends there so much that he named his street Shobu Lane.

I was in Roseburg when the myrtle seed was gathered, with my three children and my parents and Chiaki Koyama on the banks of the Umpqua River. We had taken Chiaki there when he requested seeing a site of "local natural beauty," which the river, splashing far below an old-fashioned metal arched bridge and its tree-covered banks, certainly qualified as.

Chiaki was matched with my parents as a host family because he shared a love of gardening with my father, Wiley Wood. Chiaki showed Wiley how to prune and shape a bonsai tree; Wiley showed off the koi ponds he had built with his own hands and the hundreds of plants in his Japanese-themed garden.

Neither man spoke more than a few words of the other's language, yet they communicated just fine. Their friendship grew in subsequent visits, when my parents went to Japan and when Chiaki and his wife came for more visits. Each worked in the other's garden. Wiley convinced a service club to put a Japanese garden in a local park.

When my father died, my mother saved one of his wool plaid shirts and bolo ties for Chiaki. She presented them to him on his next visit, along with a ceramic container containing a few of Wiley's ashes.

In November, Chiaki and his wife wrote to my mother this letter, which they had translated by a local English speaker:

"Dear Judy,

"This year is 10th Anniversary of Shobu and Roseburg Sister-City relationship. While the delegation stayed here, we had many anniversary events. One of them, we held commemorative plant tree. The tree was Myrtle tree which I've raised from the seed.

"I found the seed at the park near your house with your daughter and grandchildren on my first visit to your home in 1995. It grew like the enclose pictures.

"We dedicated Wiley's ash with the commemorative tree. All the Delegation from Roseburg and Shobu people put the soil and pray for the repose of Wiley's soul.

"He will be pleased with this.

"Judy will you please come to visit Shobu again to see Wiley in Japan.

"We are looking forward to seeing you near future.

"Always your friend, Yasuko and Chiaki Koyama"

In October, my mother and I will travel to Japan with the Roseburg group to visit Wiley and his tree. He is, I'm sure, pleased with this.

Barbara Wood writes from her 1889 farmhouse when she can avoid the distractions of her three red-headed teenagers, work-at-home husband, chocolate labs, chickens, bunny and garden. Her column runs the third week of the month.

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