Sunday, July 15, 2007

A story

Very early on a winter morning, a young girl is walking up a hill. Twenty years old, and very young. A full moon is shining. She is going to watch a class, a martial arts class, that she is not yet skilled enough to participate in.

Watching class, she is inspired. The words of the teacher reach deep into her soul. The dojo seems filled with a golden light.

Later she learns that her presence in the dojo, so early every morning, watching so intently, has attracted attention. The teacher expresses an interest in her. Without meaning to, she is drawn into a relationship with someone who seems to exist on a higher level. When she inevitably discovers he is human after all, she feels betrayed. Her fury, scarcely contained, is poisonous.

She leaves to study another language in another state; while she is gone she looks back on her six months with this man. She sees his constancy. She knows she has found a stable center where she can be safe. When she returns, they marry.

Shortly after, they leave for Japan. They have known each other a year. Together they practice martial arts in a small village on the coast. They live in a house next to a mountain. There is no heat, no insulation, no hot water, no bathroom. For transportation, they have their feet and their bicycles. In the winter, the wind blows through the house. In the spring, termites swarm from the wall studs. In the summer, their clothes grow mold from the constant damp.

In the dojo, sometimes snow blows onto the mat from small windows near the floor. In the summer heat, she sometimes feels so sick she can barely train. At times she resents the relentless pace: every morning class from 6:30 to 7:30, every night class from 6:30 to 8. No absences, no excuses. In the end, she grows to love it. She never wants to leave. Leave they do, however, over the objections of the head teacher. It is not a good parting.

They return to the States, they run a school, they have a child, their marriage falls apart. Forced to look for a way out, she never finds a good one. Another bad parting. The business connection remains, for a while. Their child grows up and there is no point of contact left between them. Her life has changed, she has left the martial arts behind now the dojo is no longer her home.

Yet somehow the martial arts have not deserted her. A teacher, one she knew in Japan, comes to teach a farewell class. He is old, too old to travel to America again. Watching him teach, she is overwhelmed by his simplicity, his generosity, his honesty. Through all these years, he has remained dedicated. It is amazing.

Her heart has never lost its yearning for truth. Looking back, she can see herself young and in pain, a black emptiness in her soul she could never get past. It is small wonder she could never really fit in, never truly lose herself in practice, never completely give. Feeling old, she wonders. Is it her children that have made her whole? The man who gave her a connection so deep and loving it lifted her up and gave her new hope? Or is she just fooling herself to think that she has grown at all?

Standing apart, it is so easy to see clearly. In interactions, in words, in situations, clarity evaporates so easily -- what once seemed so simple gets lost somehow. Is there value in these insights? How can she remember, remember when it counts, how can she continue, how can she move forward?


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