Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Gratitude to a Textile Teacher..

Gratitude is the emotion that is like the breeze rippling over the fresh tea leaves by the  gently cascading river on a perfect blue skied morning with buddies helping harvest that same delicate tea while quietly humming Van Morrison paying homage to Mick Jagger....

I can see the lights way out in the harbor
And the cool, and the cool, and the cool and the cool night
And the cool, and the cool, cool night breeze
And I feel the cool night breeze
And I feel, feel, feel the cool night breeze
And the boats go by
And it's almost Inde, Inde, almost Independence Day
And it's, and it's and it's almost, and it's almost Independence Day
I took the bullet train down to Mie prefecture to spend a few days with Uchida san the "Intangible Cultural Asset" stencil cutter for a few days. On the way back home I stepped onto the local train near my place and sat down. 
My heart dropped when I looked over to the seats next to mine. 
I wanted to vomit and cry. Crawl off the train and curl up on the platform and close my eyes and transport myself back years to the beauty of the days spent in a small village with old friends....
Two women I knew from what seemed like a previous life were sitting there. I instantly knew what they were doing. 
They were sisters in their 60s. On the way to visit their 97 year old mother in an old age home tucked away in the mountains. 
Near my house. 
They wouldn't recognise me.....years have gone past. I'm in my 50's. Thin as a rake. Shaved head to deal with a receding hairline I haven't made friends with yet. 
(Not the twenty-something-year-old with a trace-of-baby-fat left and long hair tied back...)
Any hesitant pause would make me a liar....I stood up and sat with them. Channelling Robert Downey Jr.....Three conflicting emotions playing off my face simultaneously. 
Guilt, relief & gratitude... 
Not wanting to scare the hell out of them with that amount of emotional energy punching its way out of my body I did my best to smile softly and be a gentleman.... 
One second... cocky and scruffy and unshaven, tattoos visible... comfortable in grungy jeans needing a washing machine and a sweaty shirt... from a long train ride from Kyoto.....and the next second feeling self-conscious.... a lean fragile existence under my skin...
These two women were the daughters of my old teacher and friend Minako Kato and her husband Ko. The woman I spent six years learning to silk farm and weave from....
Those dozens of fine processes there is no place to learn except by spending years with someone who has been doing them their entire life...
My life would have been nothing if I hadn't met her....
Those years.....spent learning all those precious... precious... precious... ancient skills of making cloth from silk....from the moth breeding to reeling thread and digging roots and harvesting berries to make the dye baths......
Again Van Morrison was humming in my ear.....
'No guru, no method, no teacher...just you and me in the garden wet with rain...'
No classroom...no fluorescent lights... it was in an ancient village in the ancient fields surrounded by the ancient mountains with ancient paths everywhere and misty spring mornings and chilly autumn evenings with desolate winter days with precious low sunlight lighting the old bamboo reeds we threaded...
During those years I knew I was the luckiest person on earth....the clouds had opened and rays of grace and blessing were sitting on my shoulders like fresh snow....
I am not exaggerating. 
And now she has been in a fucking old age home for years and I hadn't gone to visit her in years....
Face the facts...feeling like a piece of shit...arghh...
I drove the two daughters to the old folks place and we met again. 
It wasn't easy. Both of us sobbing and she wailed in happiness. 
I remembered many years ago when I had some family problems. She was the only one who looked me in the eye and understood the situation instantly and uttered just a few words and tears that eased some terrible pain for me. So odd..two human beings with such insanely different backgrounds..we spoke the common language of using our hands to make textiles.
I picked her up in my arms and put her in the van and I drove the narrow back mountain crazy ancient roads to my house. We reminisced and talked for hours. 

First comes the acknowledgement of goodness in one’s life. In a state of gratitude, we say yes to life. We affirm that all in all, life is good, and has elements that make it not just worth living, but rich with texture and detail. The acknowledgement that we have received something gratifies us, both by its presence and by the effort the giver put into choosing it.
Second, gratitude is recognising that some of the sources of this goodness lie outside the self. At this stage, the object of gratitude is other-directed; one can be grateful to other people, to animals, and to the world, but not to oneself. At this stage, we recognise not only the goodness in our lives, but who is to thank for it, and who has made sacrifices so that we could be happy.

The streets are always wet with rain
After a summer shower when I saw you standin'
In the garden in the garden wet with rain

You wiped the teardrops from your eye in sorrow
As we watched the petals fall down to the ground
And as I sat beside you I felt the
Great sadness that day in the garden

And then one day you came back home
You were a creature all in rapture
You had the key to your soul
And you did open that day you came back to the garden

The olden summer breeze was blowin' on your face
The light of God was shinin' on your countenance divine
And you were a violet colour as you
Sat beside your father and your mother in the garden

The summer breeze was blowin' on your face
Within your violet you treasure your summery words
And as the shiver from my neck down to my spine
Ignited me in daylight and nature in the garden

And you went into a trance
Your childlike vision became so fine
And we heard the bells inside the church
We loved so much
And felt the presence of the youth of
Eternal summers in the garden 
And as it touched your cheeks so lightly
Born again you were and blushed and we touched each other lightly
And we felt the presence of the Christ

And I turned to you and I said
No Guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the father in the garden

No Guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father and the Son and the holy ghost
In the garden wet with rain
No Guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature and the Father and the son and the holy ghost
In the garden, in the garden, wet with rain
No Guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father in the garden


  1. oh, oh - and still, at 97, Minako-san is making a reed. Blessings to you both.

  2. C'est Beau, fort et précieux.
    ça me touche beaucoup.

  3. Oh how beautiful. I wept with you, for the losses and the movings on, but mostly because I know how you feel. And for gratitude.

  4. thank you for sharing this story. much love to you.

  5. Lost for words. You live an amazing life and meet amazing people. Thank you for sharing your experience and for passing on the beautiful skills.

  6. Thank you
    How it is, reaching inside
    Others can also know
    Thanks to our teachers

  7. I can visualise you speaking these words to me - these are such relatable feelings, so human - the way life proceeds. People are important.

    love, Leila

  8. This is an incredible read.

  9. I cried as I read your story. Your written words vividly painted a picture...I could imagine you both in the garden in the rain and hearing the words 'No guru, no method, no teacher...just you and me in the garden wet with rain...' Thank you for sharing.