Veteran

In the store today, picking up a few things in a land of strangers where I’d come for a wedding, I met a veteran. He mentioned George Carlin when he noted our hesitation to grab the divider for the checkout conveyor belt. “That thing is law.” He was on oxygen, standing to stretch but sporting a motor wheelchair, and wearing a veteran’s cap.

And somehow “George Carlin” was the peace word, in this world where I was wary for the sidelong stares and certain-colored hats. And we talked about Japan and Okinawa and his time there, and he smiled, for the memories, for the stories, and asked that I think of him when I return there. I said I would.

It was only after that I realized what a Japanese request this was, and so realized that this man, now an elder, once a soldier, now a veteran, had been where I’d been, and the touch of Japan on his heart had never left him.

To hold someone in our thoughts in a moment in a place of sacred beauty is to carry that person’s soul with us to that place; and to do so with prayer and with joy is the way of the traveling pilgrim, who reaches that place’s shrine and prays a proper prayer, to lead that soul in need upward on its journey beyond the grave.

This smiling man, warm in sunshine, cunning of Carlin, warm to a stranger, had asked a pilgrimage of me. Perhaps this is the year I must visit the place he mentioned. As the priest in the Noh play often says, I have long been longing to visit the place I have heard the beauty of, and now years have passed and at last I must go to that place.

Respite

Woke up on the most comfortable couch I have slept on in three years, more comfortable even than the bed I’ve been using on the floor in my Japanese apartment.  Tree leaves brighten to brilliant green outside the window from 6 a.m. to 8 as I make corrections on Google Docs and one cat of two, who is the morning person of the pair, leaps from couch to sofa to table to chair in a kind of morning routine romp.  Whenever she jumps my outstretched legs and crossed ankles, she makes a happy trill like little chimes.

The ceiling fan rattles percussively as it spins.  The furniture has the settled feeling of old things passed from one generation to another more than once.  The carpet is unashamed of its cats because while torn in places it is soft and good for lying on for ceiling staring.  The curtains that are closed to the East glow with the building light.

I have missed the quiet of the wooded world, and that warm feeling that comes with being the first awake in a house of friends, knowing the next thing to happen will be the soul nourishing tradition of foraging for breakfast together.