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Chapter 26

There is a place in my house where I sit and draw- the living room:

Tracing, following lines.  A road of mud curves down the plaster wall.  I follow it.  The black leg of the table is a gentle silhouetted curve in front of the straight wooden window lattice.  The two cloths of the old door hanging, connected at the top, fall a gentle beige, a hand's-width apart.  They divide an image of a great tree, sheltering two little girls from a sudden rain.  Another girl, caught in the sprinkle, dashes onto the cloth from somewhere out of sight.  She's lost her sandal playing in the fields.

I follow the lines, winding my eyes around the room, showered by patterns.  Standing in the rain, opening my mouth catches only a few drops, hardly quenching thirst.  But my body is mostly water, a little soft bag, carrying liquid from one great river to the next.

The shower of pattern rains on me now.  Like liquid, it pools, and my pen drinks from it.  And then, onto the empty white field I draw the lines again.  Consumed, digested, and given back, liquid pattern.

Sometimes I remember having tea:

Stop for a moment, the shower continues.  We are here, dry, under this tree.  A ginko, the leaves are bright yellow now.  Many have fallen and carpet the ground.  The reeds and thickets all around are walls of our hut.  We build a small fire and begin to boil water.  I can hear the rain falling on the old logs, branches, moss, mushroom caps.  Steam curls from the kettle and disappears.

In a little black lacquer box, you carry green powder.  Under the lid, is a mountain surrounded by darkness.  In the ancient way, you trace invisible lines in the air, folding the kerchief, wiping perspirations away.  Your hands work their arts and our little dry corner under the tree starts to stretch and bend.  The closer you follow the ancient lines, the more you can play with them, pushing and pulling borders into curves. 

You pick up an old spoon, a wand of bamboo.  Uncovering the lid of the mountain, you scoop, and drop the green powder into the bowl.  The bowl itself is rough, ancient, baked earth from this soil under this very tree.  You dip a long bamboo ladle into the kettle and drizzle the liquid into the bowl. 

A soup of patterns is whisked into a froth: fine bubbles of green, thick and creamy, milk of that mountain surrounded by darkness.

I have been eating; sweets: sticky, crunchy, and ripe; fruits fallen from the tree beside us; ginko nuts in bean paste.  And now I hold the bowl, misshapen, rough, and cracked.  It is my entire vista, a bright lake in an earthen valley.

I drink from the green pool, three times, and pull the froth down with my breath.  The sound is like a thousand tiny bubbles popping, little worlds I can barely see and will never know.