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Chapter 29

How can we pass by a hundred worlds without noticing?  Some notice.  Some hear calls from these other worlds; and some, from their sleep, awaken.

I sat across from Truth and Grace.  We were at a place called Gusto, a "family restaurant," floating in space just above northern Otoyk, outside the gates to the monastery of the Wondrous Heart.

We had parked our craft below the shop and then climbed the stairs up into the eating room.  The cuisine was standard.  In Nohin there are a hundred thousand other Gustos or Gusto clones- Friendly, Joyful, Seizeriya.  They all offer flavorless meats in gelatinous sauce; rice polished, bleached, and gooy; colorful laminated menus; and of course, all you can drink soda.

Truth and Grace are artists, potters.  They are learning the ancient arts of putting fire to mud: molding soil and mineral into stone of human design.

Truth used to work at a desk in Akaso, her energy poured into data processing for a big machine.  Worthy, perhaps, but she heard the call of the worlds below and beyond.  She remembered her talents, and she decided to answer those voices.

Grace has traveled the galaxy, working in space or on various planets.  She has picked apples, cleaned houses, and now, she follows a spinning clod of clay, shaping it between slender fingers.

I was having fun and I told them they should "dig deeply from the well of shadow"- something funny.  But really, it was the tea that said it, speaking through me.

Truth comes from a tea plantation, a place that refines its product like a fine wine, only using the leaves of certain fields on one big mountain.  The green tea is bitter, astringent, tastes of vitamin C, like edible pine needles, yet as deep and as flavorful as grape wine.  The lady of the house poured the tea, in traditional style, just enough water in the kettle, steeped quickly and shaken intensely three times for every last drop, although not one leaf is allowed to come through.  Ice cream, of three flavors of tea- roasted, green, and the soft tips of the leaves- was served on wafers, thin and beige, that crunch and melt at the same time.  I had seconds too: heaps of ice cream, bitter and sweet, on a waffle cone, dark green like the long globular rows that line the mountain fields.

Truth's mother remembers walking the old streets in the center of the town, Trust Enjoyment, in the world of Nourishing Joy.  She used to buy goods there, and meet friends in the long yard of the old shrine.

The shop windows are boarded up now, the path is nearly empty.  We floated through the lanes in our rocket, squeezing through its tiny human scale.  A river runs through here, and with it, perhaps, hope for new life.

At the center of the town is the shrine lined with tall pines.  By the shrine's tall stone gate, where 6 roads intersect, a huge leafless persimmon tree stands, heavy with orange fruit.  Truth looks at it, so full and ripe. "It gives me a bad feeling," she says.  Who will eat it?  The square is empty, the persimmons will fall and rot alone.

We land here and step into the pottery museum.  The rooms are filled with fantastic pieces of earth. Dipped in "medicine," they glow.  Raw, they show the red baked soil of the land, streaked with melted ash, green and gray.

The pieces are here: lanes, river, bowls, tea, fruit, Truth, Grace.  Where is the link?

This morning we stopped by a gorge, livid with red leaves, and climbed the long stone staircase up the mountain.  We washed at a cool spring gushing out of solid stone.  A small monastery sits, nestled among colorful branches, at the top of the climb.  In the courtyard was a small bronze child, rubbed dark.  A saint of mercy, Ojizosama.  His red and white bib was draped around him like a cloak, his big eyes were nearly shut.  Before him was a fan, singed by a small candle, and on a pillow, a big fat persimmon as round and large as his own head.  He stood on a pedestal of stone and moss.   As colored leaves fell in the courtyard, he seemed pensive, almost unforgiving.  I walked around him counter clockwise and said a few words.

The monks were carrying big pails of water up the mountain on foot. As they went, they lit incense along the way.  In the fresh mountain air, among the dark scents floating up, I had the feeling that I could really live at this temple, that I could land on this mountain and stay.  But, under changing leaves, following a local guide, Truth, Grace, and I came back to the gorge by the river that cuts esoteric shapes out of the solid rock. 

Back to our craft, we flew to the Peach Blossom Valley and the Miho Museum.  The valley is home to the religion of Natural Agriculture.  We parked amid bushes and moss.  At the gates, we waited for a small car to pick us up at a circle of white bricks.  The car took us through a strange tunnel of brightly lit metal and out across a wire bridge.  The museum is designed by the galactic artist I. M. Pei.  It sits in the saddle of a forested ridge.  Its door is an automated sliding glass circle, always separating but becoming whole again.  The grand foyer faces out onto the far valley.  The vista is framed by a pine like an ancient painting.

The exhibition was titled "Jakushu: Wonderland."  Jakushu lived 300 years ago, a time of realism and renaissance.  He grew up the child of merchants in Otoyk, quickly mastered contemporary and traditional styles, and then injected a sense of mystery, a sense of the work of the "underthink."  He created a wonderland.  We watched Jakushu's cocks and hens dive about golden screens.  Grace nodded her head silently to each painting.

I wonder if Jakushu brought the birds to life, if they brought him to life, or if he just captured the birds, alive, forever.  Perhaps, in the last 300 years, they have inspired a thousand other birds to take flight.

The crescendo of the show was the the arrangement of the Whale and the Elephant.  The greatest creatures of land and sea, frozen in gray shades, they appear colorful, pink, blue, white, soft, playful, yet almost brimming with mysterious power.  Behind them, strange soft hills roll into the horizon.  It is not clear if these hills are of sea or land.  It had to be careful not to fall into that odd world.

And then, at Gusto; Grace, Truth, and I ate syrupy foods on plastic trays.

As I sit in this park now and write this, the memories float about me.  The frustration of living in such separation dangles like threads.  The pages of this notepad fall among fallen yellow ginko leaves on the skin colored sand, one leaf next to another.