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Chapter 31

In autumn, the men of this old neighborhood in Otoyk take the portable shrine through the streets.  The shrine, hidden for most of the year, is a small golden house.  It is a center of this place, a center of gravity.  Although it may have appeared as if we heaved it high into the air of our own effort, actually, we danced around it, drawn to its gravity at times, and, at times, orbiting in ecstatic free fall.

Early in the morning I went to the Base of the Mountain, the house of two elders.  Here, I was dressed in white shorts, white shoes, a white festival shirt, and a white sash.  Mr. Base of the Mountain and I posed for a picture.  I carried a little smiling child in my arms, the son of one of my students.

Myself, along with a few other able-bodied men from the neighborhood were drawn here by the gravity of the shrine.  We arranged the apparatus for moving the little golden house, we drank beer, and we ate fat, white, rice balls.  The sun was shining brightly.

We walked slowly, holding onto the shrine.  Slowly plodding through the streets, to houses old and new, to the temple, to the long black latticed Horn House, to the broad Correct Face street.  We stopped often, heaving, cheering:

With us, wearing our white clothes drenched in sun, cheering and sweating, the gold shrine brought the center to each corner of the neighborhood.  A new beginning, a new binding to ancient ways, unknown people become neighbors, neighbors become friends, friends renew bonds.

The party followed in a room with a long u shaped table low to the ground, big wooden tubs of raw fish and vinegared rice, and more than enough beer.  People kept refilling my glass.  People of different shapes, sizes, and status met.  I knew just enough of the language of words, and fish, and rice to understand the important details.  We meshed like a puzzle, pieces plugged in, we wove together a ring constantly refreshing itself, coming and going, dying and living.  Here we are, home in the center, for a moment, weaving this ring of invisible, delicious strings.