Aloha, Rising Sun

A typhoon is raging outside on my last day in Japan, crippling umbrellas, keeping school children at home, turning the many rivers of Osaka into beautiful monsters, flexing and stretching their muscly bodies higher up the shores, racing towards the sea. Last time I left Japan, falling cherry blossoms accompanied my departure. This time, torrential rains and wild winds are caressing sun-burned shoulders and sweat-soaked hair, announcing the beginning of autumn. Even a thin sheet was too much cover till last night, when I lay down to welcome a dream, and realized I needed a futon. 
Spring and autumn are the best seasons in Japan. The best seasons to be here, the best seasons to leave. With an appetite. Cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. Warm relief from cold winters, cool relief from hot summers. Pink cupcakes decorated with salty cherry blossoms and stone-baked sweet potatoes. Transitions that remind us: life is beautiful because we are mortal. Because time passes and things change. I look up to the Rain and the River, the Wind and the Falling Leaves to help me through my own transition.
I’m going to Hawaii. Tomorrow morning, when the Typhoon gets tired, I will sing Her a lullaby and watch Her breath grow calm as I ride the bus to Kansai Airport. My song will contain words like ‘Mahalo’ and ‘Aloha’, and its melody will be reminiscent of splashing waves at Kehena beach, nocturnal koki frog cacophonies, crackling camp fires, holy shark skin drumbeats, and the laughter of dolphins. It will calm me, too, as it is always painful and a little disconcerting to pull your roots out of a place that has turned into a home, a garden that has nurtured your soul, and a family that has helped you grow into what you are. It will remind me that I’m going to another place that will do just that, another place that has Gods to turn to, seasons to live through, gardens to grow in, and a family to welcome me. 
People are irreplaceable. Every single one of them. But the kind of self that grieves separation can be replaced with one that turns such pain into gratefulness and sends all love it feels to those who created it, preparing to accommodate new love, embrace new beauty, and grow new roots. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. This is why I feel attracted to Zen and Aikido, two paths born in Japan that have turned my initially unbearable stay here into one of the most fruitful stretches of my life. Both are systems that help develop the self through diligent daily efforts. 
One of the irreplaceable human beings I am leaving behind here is my teacher S., master of zen and aikido. He was recently diagnosed with cancer and had to have two thirds of his stomach removed. This was a more painful reminder of the seasons described by the Buddha: Birth, Disease, Old Age, and Death. And of another transition: the path knowledge, skill, and experience take as they are transferred from teacher to student. 
Talking about his own teachers, S. said a lot of the time we don’t realize how important something is to us until it’s gone. He reminded us to express gratefulness while we could and added: ‘There is a saying that goes Alive yet dead, dead yet alive. If you do not respect each passing moment with gratefulness and effort, your life is no more meaningful than death. But as my teacher’s spirit is still with me, and his teachings manifest themselves in my daily actions, I feel that he is still alive, even though he passed away many years ago.’  
Another important teacher of mine, P., who is much younger than S. and taught me the same discipline years ago in another place I called home, another garden from whose earth I extracted my roots, was attacked by the same demon and is still wrestling with its grip. In his case, the monster is inoperable. His reaction: he has started the ‘P. Death Sweepstakes’ in which he asks people to pay £ 2 and guess how many more months he has to live. Half of it goes to charity, half is the prize. He has penned a poem: 
There was an old man with a cancer,
Who had finally found all the answers,
To those riddles of old,
In the depth of our souls,
But he died before he could…aaagghhh
And he says the good thing about it all is that facing death has only made him realize that all he wants to do is keep doing what he has been doing all along. 
Watching my teachers look at Death like I am looking at the Falling Rain, watching them walk their paths unflinchingly in the open-jawed face of the ugliest monster, watching them maintain their gratefulness, diligence, kindness, and humor makes my breath quicken and my feet hurt. I have to run at the speed of light, and my feet need to grow by several lightyears to fill their shoes and help continue the efforts of their lives. They have transcendental skills in seed planting and root growing while I am still a toddler. I need to catch up. 
But my only hope to achieve this is to keep following their teachings with love and gratefulness while patiently adding the odd pieces that make my life mine and myself me. S. says while it is necessary to follow the old ways, we also have the responsibility to create our own. Once we have learned to walk steadfastly no matter what obstacles we encounter, we will leave a path behind that others can walk.
So what are the old ways my teachers have passed on to me through Aikido? 
Bow humbly. Keep your center. Initiate movement from your center. Be grateful. Connect seamlessly through touch. Blend and unite with your partner. Maintain good posture. Turn around a stable axis. To have somebody agree with you, start with love and acceptance whatever his stance, then grab his center with yours and make him spin with you around your core. Move together. Seek and create harmony. Work on improving your character in the presence and proximity of others, in cooperation with others. Test and polish yourself as part of a group. Send each other flying. Take pain gratefully from those who inflict it to help you grow. Keep moving. Move together to accomplish the same goal. Harmony. Bow humbly. 
These are the things I am taking with me. These will be my offerings to Pele and my new family. These will be the first paving stones on my Hawaiian path. 
S. says aikido in its most polished form becomes a dance. Dance is another center around whose strong attraction my existence has increasingly begun to orbit during my past few years in Japan. But this passion was initiated by another teacher: an American who is waiting for me in Hawaii. Our next dance will be dedicated to P. and S., two teachers who will stand at the end of everything I write as I strive with all my heart to honor the seasons, to keep the cycle moving and the core still, to live in the true sense of the word and never let them die. 
But before I get to dance on the pumping bloodstreams of Pele lit up by the countless stars over Puna, I have a Typhoon to put to sleep. It’s time to start singing my lullaby and send off a farewell letter to the Rising Sun, written with all my love and gratefulness. Aloha Rising Sun! 
P.S. May you shine on generations to come. 

1 件のコメント:

  1. You're taking a truly beautiful luggage with you to Hawaii, Anna. And quite a number of co-passengers, too. Your teachers, your friends from Japan, all those irreplaceable humans - the dearer they're to you, the closer they are to you, travelling with you, wherever you go.
    And just as that Rising Sun keeps on shining, the wisdom of your teachers will keep spreading far and wide thanks to your own dedication, your love, your gratefulness. I've known you long enough to get to know your amazing Masters through you, and I'm proud to say their words influenced my life, too.

    It's a truly beautiful thing, to say goodbye to Japan and hello to Hawaii by revisiting your teachers' wisdom. Thank you for this.
    May the Big Island welcome you with some less extreme weather.