The Samurai and the Wren Part IV: The Art of War

Note:  There are five parts to the Samurai and the Wren.  This is chapter four of that story.

Many years ago, a wizard from another universe was teaching me in the art of war. He wrapped my hands around the hilt of his katana and said to me, “Before you start, remember: Accept your death in battle as a given. You will be freed from fear. You will be able to focus more clearly and correctly. Empty yourself. You will be free. You will be more alive than you have ever dreamed”. Then he smiled and in my ear whispered some lines from one of his favorite songs, “Seasons don’t fear the reaper. Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain. We can be like they are. Come on baby… don’t fear the reaper.” (BOC Don’t Fear the Reaper)  And with his arms around me and I, moving with him, learned my first fighting form.

The wizard of course, was Ken. He was looking at me and frowning. He had wrapped his obi around my waist and tucked in his katana. I was standing correctly. I was pulling the sword correctly. “Do it again”. I pulled. “Again”. I pulled. Huge frown and then, a huge smile.
“Short. You’re too short for the blade.” He strode over, pulled out the hilted sword from the belt and replaced it with his wakizashi. “Now, try this. Pull.” Considering look “Again”….”Again”…”Again”…”Perfect!”

He lifted me up and spun me around. “Misosazai, you are too short for the katana. By the time you almost have it drawn, your opponent will have beheaded you. But with this short sword, you will be formidable”. Now I was frowning. At 4’10” and 95 pounds, I was as formidable as a bunny rabbit. But if my lover said so, then it must be so. I trusted him and he was rarely wrong.

It was hot and I was sweaty and irritable. He decided it was best we go sit in the shade by the koi pond and cool off. His hair was pulled up from his neck in a high tail. He stretched out on the grass with his hands behind his head. I sat and leaned against the ancient oak, with the obi and swords pulled from around me. Sun and I do not get along well. I closed my eyes feeling sunburn creep across my face and down my arms. I didn’t want to learn this. I didn’t want a crash course in the levels of Japanese sword technique and history. I wanted a soak in a tepid bath scented with lavender and a tall glass of lemonade while I soaked. He shifted. I groaned. I could tell from his body language, it was lecture time.

“It’s like life. We all die. Accept it. Once you accept it, you can begin to live. Empty yourself of those fears about death.” Ken rolled over and looked at me. “Come here dear heart, lie down beside me”.

Petulantly I muttered, “Grass makes me itch”. He snorted. “Everything makes you itch. Come lie down with me and let’s watch the clouds travel across the sky”.

We had been living together for only a few months. We quickly learned the other needed times of silence and solitude, to back off when told to, that we enjoyed cooking together as much as we enjoyed making love together, both of us had an eclectic taste in music, a sometimes twisted sense of humor, that slapstick humor made us guffaw with glee, both of us an odd and changing mixture of pragmatic, mystical, and spiritual, we always had something to talk about and never tired of talking to the other, and that amazingly, we were born the same day and same year within five minutes of each other at opposite ends of the earth.

I crawled over and lay down beside him. Impishly he grinned. “Now, as you say, isn’t this comfy-cozy-friendly?” And it was. My small form beside his tall form, on our backs, hands under our heads, ankles crossed, my black hair braided and pulled up over my chest. We both sighed and watched the clouds. Peaceful sounds – the koi occasionally breaking the surface, a dog barking in the distance, a cardinal sounding his territory, a lawnmower droning across the way, an occasional car going past, a few yards down, children laughing as they played. We sighed again.

“Now dear heart, what think you of the clouds?” He knew I would answer when ready. We both continued to watch the clouds, be peaceful, and let thoughts drift inside our heads.

I said, “Kobito, clouds don’t live long. They travel across the sky in their allotted time and then when it is time, they end. Yet, they come and go and drift. No cloud stays at cloud-home – it sets out and completes its journey regardless. No stopping until the end. And then they fade and become part of the universe, forever.”

He turned to face me. “And that is the point Misosazai. I would have expected no less of an answer from you. After all, you sat and watched snow fall at Ryoan-ji. You rode a horse into the desert to watch meteor showers. You stood at the edge of the waves at Atlantic Beach and threw your arms out wide and laughed into the wind. You rescued this worthless man and captured his heart, mind, and soul. So I tell you this: In battle, just as in life, accept your death as a given. Empty yourself of the death and fill yourself with life. You have begun that journey. Now continue and never stop. Pursue life relentlessly.” He sat up, “Now go get the obi and my sword and let’s start again.” He stood up and held out his hand. “And afterwards, I will prepare you an amazing bath and rub your little red face with aloe gel.”

I took his hand and stood. A couple of weeks later, he came down the back steps of our home. He was competing that night and was dressed in the beautiful black hakama he was wearing when we first met. He was carrying a long narrow wooden case. “Come here honey chile”, he drawled, imitating me. He called me away from raking the kare-sansui. He sat carefully on the steps and placed the box on the floor between us, motioning for me to sit.

I sat across from him, as I had that first night. He smiled, brackets around his full lips. In his soft husky voice he said, “Dear heart, this is for you. Her name is 南風 Minamikaze – south wind.  He opened the box and I gasped. Nestled in black velvet, was a new wakizashi. He looked at me solemnly. “I will teach you to use her, care for her, respect her, love her. I pledge this sword to you and I pledge my heart to you.” He placed the sword in my hands.

I sat there, tears dripping on its surface. It reflected light and colors from our surroundings. He stood and walked down the steps and I followed. He placed my hands on the hilt and leaned down to kiss my forehead. “When you draw this more than six inches, it must taste blood.” I knew the skin between his thumb and forefinger had many tiny scars and some new cuts.

Carefully, I held the sword and then quickly, drew across that bit of skin on my own hand. Criminy! That hurt. A bit of blood welled up. He took my hand in his and placed his lips on the cut.  “They say the sword reflects the soul of its wielder. May this sword only reflect light and never any darkness”. I slowly moved the sword. It glinted in the sun. I held it up and saw blurred reflections of the stones behind me in the garden, the green from trees – my life reflected on its narrow edge.  At that moment, I have never loved more or felt more alive.

And thus, the Samurai and the Wren (Misosazai) began the great journey of their life together.

In teaching me the art of war and death, he was teaching me the art of life and love. Now years later, it still holds true. Empty yourself of death and never stop filling yourself with life, love, and light.

sword

完璧 – Explanation for David

sword

 

perfection is seen reflected
in the blade of my sword

greens and golds
melt on the blade
with a thin edge of blue

snow swirling,
resting, melting,
white glimmers,
now red as it reflects
early blooms of quince

blood rust, sun gold
seasons change
shades of grey

glints of starlight and full moon
in the blackness after midnight

an ever changing picture
less than two inches wide

Ch-ch-ch-Changes

Thanks to inspiration from June Buggie on Rumpy Dog, I took the great leap and made a change to my site appearance.  I’m not happy with the header but am still working that out.

I am not changing my gravatar.  I’ve noticed lately, a lot of folks changing appearance and their gravatars.  Making this appearance change has caused me to reflect on the changes in my blog from my initial idea of “what” it was to be, to what it is now.

I think of blogs I have followed, unfollowed, commented on….changes I’ve seen in those I’ve been following as long as I have been blogging.

My husband and I went through a rough patch recently because I was making changes in me – actually, reverting to what I enjoyed before I met him.  So I guess, not really changes but recycling.  I’ve found a new depth in that reversion.  It frightened him because I was “not the woman he married”.  We’ve weathered through that and he realizes, that in 13 years, he is not the man I married.  We celebrate our 13 years of marriage today and based upon a long conversation last night, we are comfortable now with our changes.  I finally pulled out my wazikashi a month ago and showed him.  I literally had to pick him up off the floor and when I showed him that I actually knew how to use it, he was astounded.  But as he said, it finally solved the mystery of why I was so good with the totally rocking Luke Skywalker lightsaber he gave me for Christmas.

He did ask why the wazakashi rather than the katana. I just gave him “the look”. Hello, I’m 4’10” tall. He went, oh yeah, you’re a little short for that long blade. Or as my samurai more elogquently put it, “Misosazai, by the time you draw the katana, your head will be on the ground at your feet. this sword is more in keeping with your height. It is unworthy of your valor, but, we must be realistic.” and so saying, he put Minamikaze (South Wind) for the first time, in my hands.

My husband isn’t as afraid Minamikaze anymore or me or changes – as as afraid.  He’s 10 years younger than I so it is harder for him to adjust – ironic, yes?

I imagine there will be changes of all kinds.  If you ain’t changing, you aren’t growing and if you ain’t growing, you’re dead.

Here’s to life, growth, future blogging, and 13 lucky more years with my husband.  Y’all live long and prosper and the Force with be you.

wazikashi

 

And finally, the beginning of The Story of the Samurai and the Wren

Samurai Kiss     I have to say, the first time I saw him, I gasped.  I told my friend Jackie, “That is the most beautiful man I have ever seen.”  She looked over my shoulder at Daniel and said, “Yes he is one gorgeous piece of humaness….wish he’d dump you for me.”  I looked up at her in confusion and realized, we were not looking at the same man.  I turned.  “Oh. Him. this is our second date and I can say, it will be the last.  Total….and I meanTotal Jerk. In fact, this date is ending now.  One and a half dates – he’s history.”

Jackie laughed and said, “I love you!  Does Daniel know he has been dumped and are you going to point him in my direction to be comforted?”

“No, but when you see him act like the jerk he is, you will know he knows.  Get ready to be picked up.”

Daniel was beyond excellent with saber.  Seriously into epee’, saber, kendo….if it had any type sword, he was into it.  He was average height but blade thin and whip quick with wheat blonde hair he affectedly wore in a braid  – the kind that was anchored on top of his head and brushed above his shoulder blades.  He hoped it made him look like a Viking badass.

The man with whom I had become transfixed looked like he had stepped out of a time machine:  Tall for a Japanese, black hair pulled into a warrior’s knot, katana and wakizashi in his obi,  and dressed in a black silk umanori hakama. Later, when I was closer, I saw black on black embroidery of cherry blossoms.  I just sighed and shook my head.

I had been on one date with Daniel and when he asked me to accompany him to this competition, I was happy to say yes.  I had always been interested in such arts and was looking forward to watching the several hours this would take out of my day.  Daniel was the center of an adoring group – those impressed with his prowess, his good looks, – his whole being.  To this day I could never figure out why he had asked such a plain, short female to go out with him but in truth, I think it was because I made him look so danged good.  He was a Major Planet and I was but a satellite.  He gave a disdainful glance to the man sitting beside him in combatants row – he had never seen the Japanese man before and took him for a minor combatant  – one to be crushed and tossed aside while his friends and followers cheered.  Looking at the man, I had my doubts this would happen.  Daniel felt me looking and turned and snapped his fingers.  I pointed to myself, “Me?”  He motioned me over.  I stood there frowning….I’m not a dog. I’m not his lackey…..He snapped again and anticipating ugly, I decided to go.  To put an end to the ugly.

“Got to my car and get my bag. I forgot to bring it in.”

“You have 10 minutes, get it yourself. I want to get seated.”

Like a sidewinder, his hand shot out and grabbed the long braid of my hair and pulled me down close.  “get my bag.”  Another wrap around his fist and a stronger, more painful jerk.  “I need it.”  Well, what an empasse.  He’d continue to pull and if I wanted to continue experiencing pain, I’d try to pull away.   I didn’t want to make a scene.  I just wanted to be away.  I had already decided the date was over before this based on our first date but now, I was determined it be over.  Low voiced I said, “please let me go.  I’ll get your bag and bring it. Then I am getting a ride with Jackie or James and I am leaving.”  Another wind and jerk of my braid.  “You don’t end this, I do.”  I was finding the ugly side and rumor of Daniel to be uglier than I knew.

The man to his left turned and began to gently unwind my braid.  “No, I think I will be ending this.”  Soft voice, sure hands, calm demeanor.  I looked into his eyes – gentle as his voice but steady and kind – and steely.  He smiled slightly.  “Fly away tori hanashidesu (little bird).”  I stood and I could tell Daniel was enraged although he dared not speak.  I bobbed my head at the man in thanks and went back to the bleacher seating.  I told Jackie what had happened.  She rolled her eyes and said, “You realize of course, this means war?”  I sat with my arms folded on my knees.  “I hope the Samurai beats the crap out of the Viking.”  She shook her head.  “For such a little person, you make Big Trouble.”  I just shrugged.  Being two inches shy of five feet nothing, what could I say?  That I lived for trouble?  That I enjoyed antagonizing dangerous men?  To be honest, I tried to capitalize on being short by trying to have my shields up and to be invisible.  Oops.  Missed on that one this time.

We watched as men were paired off and the losers went to one bench and the winners to another.  It was of course, inevitable that the Viking and the Samurai ended up being last ones standing to spar.  A break and then the last match.  I stayed put.  I had caused enough trouble.  I was invisible.  I was tori hana-something or other.  I had flown – right.  In my dreams. Now I had become a target.  I told myself how stupid I was to put myself into such a situation.  I told myself that the gorgeous man had a gorgeous girlfriend/wife and was simply a rarity – a true gentleman and he didn’t like seeing women treated badly.  I kept looking at him and told myself…….in your dreams honey, in your dreams.  I was not living in one of those 1930’s romance movies, I was living in the big bad 80’s and fairy tales were no more.  At least I could look at him until I left the place….I didn’t hear anything Jackie was saying to me.  She nattered and I dreamed and looked.

The two men faced each other.  The crowd began that susurration that means:  Something Is About To Happen.  It appeared they had decided to use live blades, first blood wins.  Oh my.  Jackie looked at me – “Dumbass, dumb dumb dumbass,” she hissed.  Oh my my.  I wished myself away in another universe, hopefully being brain sucked by Darth Vader or something.

It was quick.  One would have almost missed it had not the crowd seen Daniel’s braid drop to the floor.  One pass of the katana, before Daniel barely had a chance to complete his blow.  it was over.  They stepped away from each other.  The Samurai hilted his sword with a soft snik and bowed slightly.  The Viking turned and stomped away.  I looked at Jackie, “If you want him, you’d better move.  The girls are gonna be on him now like white on rice to give him comfort.”  She took off running.  I was out of a ride but I didn’t care.  I’d call my roommate.  She had broken up with her girlfriend last week and was at home licking her wounds.  I was standing in line for the phone.  The gentle voice, “do you need a ride?  I seem to have……changed plans for you.”

I turned and looked up.  He was a lot taller than I.  I smiled.  “No, I changed that plan myself.  I can call my roommate.”  I saw then the black embroidery on black silk. That was when I sighed.  “Thanks anyway.”  I continued looking up at him.  “Oh and by the way, gorgeous hakama”  He blinked.  I hastened to explain.  “that’s all I know, trust me. And, what is….tori hana…..?”  “Little bird.  You look like a little wren, misosazai.”  he cocked his head.  “Misosazai, would you like to come and join me for tea and conversation?”

Okay, I knew variants of that line and it showed.  “On my honor, tea and talk.  After all, I saved your braid.” and then, “Mitsouko.”  I blinked.  He grinned.  “Your perfume, Mitsouko.”  “Yes, it is.”  and thus began The Story.  The story of the Samurai and the plain brown little wren.

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