The Walk – Part V – Green Tea

free public domain photo

free public domain photo

She had told him
there were sixty-five cherry trees
in the office park.
He was always amazed at this
jewel of a place set down
in the midst of
strip malls, box stores,
office buildings, gas stations.
Set apart, one road leading in
one road leading out.
It is as if the cherry trees,
the pond, the birds – all were
the purpose of this place
instead of the two tall office buildings.
She had told him
in the spring,
the trees would all burst
into clouds of pink and white –
the pond would reflect the blooms
just as the mirrored sides of the buildings
reflected the sky and cherry blossoms.
She had promised him.
She had pointed out
the different trees as she would
have introduced him to
her friends. It was silent today,
all offices closed.
He was lonely and this place
seemed like home to him.
A few minutes more.
She was working today
in spite of the holiday.
He looked up and there she was,
walking over the crest of the small
hill with a cloth bag in
her hand. Childlike,
he began to wave.
At the upper end of the pond,
under the five small bare cherry trees,
they stood.
Like a magician, she pulled two small
pads from the bag and motioned
for him to sit.
In silence, she spread a
bamboo mat and set out two pottery cups.
A small bowl, a small lacquered caddy,
tiny wooden spoon, bamboo whisk,
a thermos bottle,a small cloth.
In continued silence
she opened the caddy and added
bright green matcha to one
of the cups, poured steaming water into
the cup and softly began to
whisk the matcha and water into
a delicate foam. His breath caught as she placed the
cup in front of him and turned
it so he could see the dragonfly
painted on the cup.
She prepared tea for herself.
In silence they sat and sipped
the tea.
A few flakes of snow
began to fall.
He felt the warmth of the
tea in his body and in his soul.
He looked above him.
In his mind, he saw
the cherry blossoms.

copyright kanzensakura

copyright kanzensakura

The Walk – Part lll – Silent Walking

free public domain image

free public domain image

Ice covered the surface
of the small pond, leftover snow
rimmed its edges.
She was late and he
had worn a path
in the light snow
on the brown winter grass, pacing.
He turned in surprise to
find her a few steps away.
He laughed. “How can you walk so
quietly on this icy snow?”

She smiled. “Someone taught me
long ago how to walk softly
and not make a sound,
to not disturb the air around me.”
He frowned. “And was this some
mystic or mythical ninja?”

She shook her head.
“Only a man, an ordinary man.”
She looked at the ice
on the pond and sighed.
She had bread in a small
bag for her friend the heron
and for extra geese and ducks.
She threw it on the ice
anyway and on the bank of
the pond.

He said, “tell me
more about him.”
She said, “you know as much
as I have wished to say.
He came, we loved, he left.”
The man looked at the bread on the ice.
“It seems my friend,
your love was like that ice.
Freely given but not taken.”

She shrugged.
“How are the cherry buds
coming along?”
He shook his head. Resigned he said,
“They are tiny
but show a micron
of red.”
This time she smiled.
“Geese will see the bread
and eat.
The ice will melt.
The sky will be blue
and the cherry trees will bloom
Great clouds of pink and white.”
She turned and silently
on the icy snow,
walked away.

Wordless Wednesday – a day late! Joyous Angel

copyright Kanzensakura

copyright Kanzensakura

This was made for me by a friend, from an oyster shell she found at Nags Head, NC. It was a gift of great kindness and joy during a dark bit of time this Christmas. I hope Joyous Angel makes you smile, as she does me. I have her hanging on my kitchen door to bless this house and its inhabitants and all who enter with the true spirit of kindness and giving.

Happy 2015: Faith of the Heart

copyright kanzensakura

copyright kanzensakura

Happy new year, my friends who have become family. I wish you all the best of everything that is good to be present in your life and the lives of those you love.

I read your posts. Like me, I know you all have had rough patches, sad times, fear, despair….I have read of your struggles but mostly, I have read of your victories.  How you kept going in spite of everything.  You have lost jobs, homes, those you love.  You have been diagnosed with illnesses, had accidents. injuries.  But mostly, I have read of your faith and hope.

And always, I read your comments to me encouraging me.  I hope I have encouraged you all as well.

So….Happy 2015.  I know many of you will relate to this song which has reminded me many times of that “faith of the heart”.  I pray we are all of moving from the cold dark to the warm light.  You all lift me up and I hope on this first day of the new year, I can do the same for you.

My prayers go out for you all daily.  Bless you all.

 

Cup of Kindness – 2015

 

And so we come to the end of another year. This has been a year of tremendous changes. In spite of so many hard things, there have been many good things.  In March, I lost my job due to ageism and racism. Ugly combination, hey? And as time has progressed, my mother has become more fragile in her health and after rescuing her from a bad situation in Florida and taking her to live with her youngest sister in Tennessee, she just seemed to just step off the edge of the cliff. Health folks often call it that. She is now in and out of reality. Dementia is a demon from which there is no escape. I call her daily. The other day she asked me where my father was and why he hadn’t been to visit. I gently told her he died 30 years ago. She didn’t remember. This is a daily heartbreak for me. It is also a daily reminder of those fragile relationships that mean so very much and could suddenly….end.

But there has been highs in this past year. I’ve been able to devote more time to my writing, reading, cooking, independent study and went back to school for pharmacy. Being an engineer, my outlook isn’t the typical glass half empty/full thing. Our thing is, if the glass is half empty or half full, then get another glass. So I got another glass.

I am also ending this year finding out that my deep depression disorder is not that at all. I am bi-polar. Not a death sentence by any means but a life sentence none the less. But I can and will cope. I have the best husband in the world and I have friends – beyond excellent friends.  Hope and faith – words for the new tomorrow.  I promise, I’ll do my best not to be whiney about it!

Dear Chloe over at: http://sirenatales.wordpress.com did a post on Automaticity. Just what I was thinking for the past week or so. Basically, practice makes perfect. Practice a dance move, a speech pattern, whatever – until you do it automatically without thinking. Like when I draw my wakizashi with that single sweep and into fight position. I don’t think, I do.

What to practice in 2015 until it becomes so engrained? Here’s my list. What about yours?   Compassion, hope, joy, positivity, sharing, honor, humility of spirit, curiosity, open mindedness, open heart, gentleness, faith…big one – Faith. 

I forget who said this: When we worry today, we rob tomorrow of its hope.  There.  Nuff said.

I thank all of you who follow both my blogs; this one and Aki no Koe. Thank you for your likes, comments, kindnesses, prayers, positive thoughts. Thank you for your posts and all you have shared. Blessings to you in 2015.  I wish you all and those you hold dear, the best that can be granted to you.

And above all, let us practice kindness. Let us drink deeply from that cup o’ kindness and pass it on. Let us practice it until we don’t have to even think about it. Kindness as automatic as our hearts beating. Sharing it without thinking.

The Walk – Part ll – First Snow 初雪 Hatsuyuki

Last year
they walked during a heavy snow
to the place, their place.
It was snowing heavily
but it was not the first snow – hatsu yuki.

She looked out her office window.
Walk day.
she turned from the window
her back to the dark
cold day. Her reflection
was a ghost against the glass.

When next she turned,
it had begun to snow –
Small tight pellets bouncing
against the glass.
She smiled. First snow.

When she left her office
the snow was like the
falling petals of white sakura.
Light, then heavy as the wind swirled.
Already the ground was white
and drifts of snow getting
deeper on the parked cars.

A car pulled beside her.
Down came the window.
“It is too cold. Let’s just drive around.”
She shook her head.
“It is the first snow. I need
to be in it. I need to go to my heart home.”

He parked and joined her.
She spoke softly.
“Years ago, I sat in the hatsu yuki
at Ryoanji. Snow settled around the
rocks like a white shawl.
The empty space became filled
with such peace. I sat
until I could no longer endure the cold.
It is my heart home.
And this snow reminds me
of another karesansui.”

He looked down without asking.
She was silent.
They walked slowly
the snow petals falling on them.
She looked at the snow.
“Iteboshi.”
He looked at the snow on her hair.
He nodded. “Frozen stars.”
Then he understood.
In silence they finished the walk.
At the door to the building,
he touched her cheek.
“He was a fool to leave.”
She smiled, a small and wry smile.

Christmas Memories: Cocquito and Friendship

public domain Wiki image

public domain Wiki image

When I was 12 years old, due to financial reasons, I was placed into the public school system. It was a shock to my system and sensibilities and it was at the point, I began to hate going to school. I did not adjust well and that adjustment was not helped by being called Four-eyed Midget, The Snot, and Weirdo by my classmates. Many of them knew my family and knew I had been one of those too-good for their own good society snots. I became outcast and except for a couple of teachers and one of the lunch room ladies, without friends. I walked to school alone and walked home alone; groups of kids passed by me, sometimes knocking my books from my arms, knocking me down, and always calling me names. I’d arrive home and go to my room and alternate cry and rant.

One day, during recess, I had had enough. One of the bigger boys who was taunting me (I see London, I see France. I see Snotty’s underpants) just plucked my last nerve. I looked up at him and challenged him to a fight. He found this most amusing and pushed me down on the ground. I gathered my wits and then launched my small frame full into him, head butting him in his crotch. We both went down rolling, punching, gauging, me biting, scratching. A crowd had gathered cheering him on when he grabbed me and held me up from the ground. I was flailing and sometimes connecting with a good kick. Suddenly, it became silent. Thank God, I said to myself. It is a teacher. I will be expelled and never have to come to this hell hole again.

It was not a teacher. It was Billy Rodriguez. To the bully, this slender boy said, “Son of a whore, put the girl down.” I was thrown down and Billy began to circle the boy. Next thing I knew, the bully was flat with Billy on his chest pounding him. It was a good moment. From that moment, Billy became my protector and his younger sister Therese, my friend as well. Old Southern family meets blended Cuban-Puerto Rican family.

They did more than keep me from a serious beating that day.  Billy, standing between me and harm with all the arrogance, honor, and bravery of a true hidalgo, helped out others who were being bullied.  Billy and Therese also walked home with me that day to explain what had happened so I would not be punished and so my family would know of the bullying I had been subjected to for several months.  The next school year, I was placed back in my old school.  That did not keep us from continuing to be friends.  That afternoon, they walked home with me. I had friends! We talked, laughed and began a walk of friendship that lasted until Billy was killed by a drunken driver and Therese died of uterine cancer a few years ago.

Billy’s mother had fled Cuba bringing her two small sons to America. His father had been murdered in the bloodbath there. Therese was the daughter of a Puerto Rican widower. it was a happy marriage and a wonderful blending of cultures.

That first Christmas of our friendship, his mother came to call on my family. She brought a large pitcher of a holiday drink: Cocquito. She explained it to us; the ingredients, the tradition of serving it at Christmas, the warning that it was lethal and to be sipped and savored. When I make Ida Ortiz recipe for Cocquito, I honor the memory and lives of these precious people who rescued me and became part of my life.

We became three families blended by friendship, food, tradition, love, and honor.  Their pork roast and cocquito have become part of our family celebrations just as their memories have blended in with all the other memories.

I raise my glass of cocquito to the friends who became family and to their memories that bring me joy.  I raise my glass to all of you, friends who have become family.  Blessings to you all and may you always be blessed with friends who become family.

Cocquito
8 oz. half and half or whole milk
4 oz. cream or half and half
1 (14-ounce) can condensed milk
1 can cream of coconut
1 can coconut milk
Pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ ground nutmeg
4 – 8 oz.Puerto Rican white rum
Ground cinnamon – dusting

Directions
Place all ingredients in a blender and process for 3 minutes at high speed until frothy. Store in a glass container in the refrigerator and serve chilled, dusted with a little cinnamon. NOTE: Use a rubber spatula to get all the cream of coconut and sweetened condensed milk from the cans. The egg yolks are optional. Some versions use the egg, some do not. It seems to vary from family to family.

The Walk lV – The Heron

Gray rainy day,
Steady drops changed his Umbrella into a drum.
Rain, plops of drops
Around them.  No conversation
But man and woman agreed – the hill.
They both walked to the
Cherry trees at the top of
the hill, rain spattered pond below.

The grey heron stood
In the pond blithely ignoring
The falling rain.
Knowing him well, the woman
Balanced herself down the slope
To stand on the rock
That reached out
Into the small pond. The heron
Stood still, waiting for
The bread she held in
Her hand.  They’ve done this before.
Bread dropped and floated on
The water bobbing
Before he quickly scooped it up
With his long bill.

The man at the top of
The hill laughed in delight but
Halted at her upright
Hand.  “He doesn’t know
You.  Stay there. “   She climbed back up
The slope to stand and
Watch the heron as
He finished his treat.
Envious geese muttered
And flapped their wings.

The man is quiet
and waits for the heron to
Fly away.  The cherry trees drip
And the rain softly
Falls around them.
“No wonder this seems like home
To me.”  He whispered.
“I could be happy
In such a small grove of trees
With a pond nearby.
There was a place like this,
Near our home.”
He held out his hand,
solemnly watching the rain
create a tiny pond in the palm of his hand.
“寒雨 Kanu.” He whispered. (cold winter rain)

She smiled at him.
He walked her back to
Her office, holding the
Umbrella carefully over her.
“I want to come here again”
He whispered.
“Then we shall.”
She bowed deeply to him.
“おかえり Okaeri” (welcome home)
He bowed in return.
“ただいま Tadaima.” (I’m home).

The Walk – First of Many

For an hour, the snow
had been falling. I looked
across the parking lot beyond
to the winter bare cherry trees
that sat at the top of the
hill and overlooked
the pond at the base.  I left
my desk to walk for my lunch
break, to visit the trees, bleak
and bare until spring.
Somehow he knew I would be
out, unable to resist
the lure of the snow.
He smiled and asked where? and I
pointed with my chin across the
white covered lot, to inky trees
beyond.  No words between us, just
the crunch of our shoes on the snow
and near silent swish of the falling snow.
Under the trees, he reached up
and delicately touched buds on the branches.
“Deep pink” in answer to his unasked
question.  “Will you go home for hanami?”
Hunching in his coat, he was silent.

The snow fell upon his black hair and
the cashmere of his coat.
“Home?  Where is home for me?
Where I buried my wife and son and
Where the wave washed away their graves?
Where my house was washed away?
Under these trees
is home enough for now.”
The branches caught small clumps of snow.
I smiled at him and touched
the clumps of snow caught in the branches.
“Look, winter cherry blossoms.”
In the clean winter air, I caught the scent of his
aftershave – Astor.
I closed my eyes and breathed deeply
and then looked into his eyes,
Coffee brown, almond shaped, grief dimmed.
“I need to go back to work”..I added,
“Home?  Home is where your memories
take you and you feel at peace or whether beneath
these trees, or in a building, or home is where
you are loved, in spite of yourself.  Home is
where you make it.”  He smiled.
“Then here is home, my friend.”

I walked away and then turned around.
Tall and thin, alone under the trees,
He stood with his face to the sky
his eyes closed, tears of snow on his cheeks.

Happy Birthday to Me….and the rest of the 11/16 Society

I love birthdays and I especially like my own. My birthday is my New Year for me, not January 1. It is the beginning of starting a new chapter in the book of my life and for reflecting on the chapter I have just finished writing.

This past year has been full of many troubled times, challenges, and grief but it has also seen times of great joy, deep peace, incredible new friendships (thank you with much love to the Bitten Babes!), beginning again with a new profession and proving that no, I am not beaten and yes, I triumphed.

Last night at dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant with some friends and my husband, one told me, I am so proud of all you have done this year and how you used a great injustice to move forward and grow. Wow.

So….happy birthday to me! Happy happy happy birthday. And thank you to all of you who continue to fill my life with your thoughts, travels, experiences, poems, photographs, friendship – all of you whose blogs I follow. You help me expand my universe but most important, expand my heart.

the group of us, those whom I term the 11/16 Society, I wish you all happy birthday and year filled with joy, health, and growth. I love you all. The 11/16 Society lost two of our unique band, Jeff and Jamie but….a year ago today, one of the 11/16 Society became grandfather to Jackson. So!!! Happy birthday my Band of Brothers:
Beni, Billy, Itoshi, Jackson, Mashashi, Takahashi-san, Thomas, Will, William and as noted on M-R Blog, Luke. M-R posted a Happy Birthday Greeting to Luke and I.    She is a fine lady from Oz and she keeps us all in line and honest and…wishes us happy birthday! Go visit her and go wish Luke happy birthday. Tell him Kanzen sent you by way of M-R.      http://margaretrosestringer.com/    I am link challenged but M-R is gifted – she has a link to mine and Luke’s blogs on her website…. Thank you M-R for the cake you baked as well.  I am so glad I got the pretty one and not the chocolate one.

And rest sweetly, Jamie and Jeff.  Your lifesongs have ended but the melody is still there in our hearts.   The 11/16 Society:  My friends, brothers, and maker of many of my smiles.  And a Happy Birthday wave on my 7th birthday, in the snow, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Kanzen's 7th Birthday   copyright Kanzensakura

Kanzen’s 7th Birthday copyright Kanzensakura

 

Mrs. Kanzen, you have cancer…

I have written before about being diagnosed with cancer and now being a cancer survivor.  I was diagnosed in October six years ago.  We see all of the time information about and campaigns for breast cancer. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer – normally a silent killing cancer, but again, because of vigilance on the part of my PA and the grace of God, I am here to send you all this love letter. Ovarian cancer is almost always diagnosed too late and mimics symptoms of other diseases. We don’t hear as much about the other cancers as we do breast cancer for some reason.

Ladies: please have your gynecologist, when doing your PAP smear, take a swab from higher up in the uterus which is where this cancer starts. Tell your daughters, your sisters, your mother, your friends. Men, you do the same thing with women you love and want to continue to love for many years.  Everybody, get those colonoscopies and men, bend over and crack a smile for your MD.

Taking care of ourselves – men and women, is important. Lots of fresh veggies and fruits, low fat diets, exercise, certain foods to eat; stop smoking and stop fooling yourselves with those steam cigarettes that contain nicotine. Just stop it. I stopped smoking over 30 years ago from a 2 pack a day habit, cold turkey. You can do it. I know you can. We’ve heard all of this so many times, we don’t hear it any more. When my dear papa was dying, he had me promise to stop smoking.  I did it out of love.  I think you all have people you love and who love you.  As a cancer survivor and your biggest fan, please, please, please take care of yourselves.

I hope this works as I am always link challenged.  This is supposed to be a downloadable cancer awareness color chart….ovarian, my ribbon, is teal.

ribbon_color_chart_printable

Hugs and love….

 

Twofer Thursday – Kick it….

This post is especially for my friend Huntie over at Chasing Rabbitholes and for the other Bitten Babes – and you know who you are as well.

We’ve had hard times, sad times, bad times. Let’s put a smile back in style…

For just a few minutes, step back, breathe, relax and shake that booty. Go on girls…rock it. Hugs and love to the other onnabugeisha in the Bitten crew.

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