Interview with Ruthie D

Ruthie D
Interviewed by DC at his home in San Rafael
September 21, 1995

What Suzuki Roshi gave me was not in what he said but how he was, like how he moved rocks.

Suzuki Roshi was my first teacher. What I appreciated most was his humility. He was pretty quiet and unassuming. Paul and I met him at Tassajara when we went there to go camping and learned it was a Zen place. We stayed there four years.

We decided we'd stay and they said they sat in meditation and Rob Gove took us into the zendo for the noon period and we were sitting there and someone came by with the stick and he put his hands up and bowed and so I did too and the next thing I knew whack! whack! I'd been hit on the shoulders and I was so shocked and started crying and crying.

Once I was very angry at Paul and was on the path going toward the baths and I came to Suzuki Roshi and he whipped out his stick and whacked me. There wasn't a trace of anger in him but he just did that. He was always so gentle even when he did that.

Right after Ben was born Paul was carrying him and Suzuki Roshi came over and started talking to Ben.

I really liked being around Suzuki and felt very comfortable and accepted.

I was working outside on a rock wall, a nonexistent rock wall - an old one under the dirt on the way up to our cabin and started digging it out and then one day I felt someone looking at me and I turned around and Suzuki Roshi was there watching me scrape away and he smiled at me and that was that.

He was very supportive of my being pregnant at Tassajara and having Benjamin at Tassajara after he was born. I thought it was a great privilege being pregnant there. All I was worried about was getting enough protein. I didn't even want to leave there to have the baby but I had to.

DC: You weren’t a student.

RD: Yes, so it was easier for me than for Kathy Hoadley who had Amber before - Ben was born after.

I was taking care of Amber when she was a tiny baby. Ben was born during sesshin and I came home and people would come into the cabin and nobody said anything so it must have been sesshin. Paul came with me to the hospital and our mothers were there. Dr. Bill Wenner was there too. I think he delivered Ben. That was '70. I have a picture of Paul and me dancing at a party at Bill's house. He lives here now in Hawaii.

DC note: Bill Wenner has since passed on.

RD: I was overjoyed when Paul got ordained. He always wanted to get away and do his own thing and I tried to keep him at Tassajara. I didn't talk to Suzuki Roshi about Paul's getting ordained or our going to Japan. We went to Japan after the spring training period of ’71 [winter-spring]. We lived with Dick and Ginny and Nakamura-sensei and I had a baby and just hung out and walked around and cooked and cleaned and then Paul and I found an old farm house in the country and moved out there to Oharano southwest of Kyoto - living with Dick and Ginny was awful exciting but we wanted our own place. Paul was gone working six days a week. The house had a well in the kitchen and we cooked on a wood stove. And till Ben was two I just took care of him and gardened. Then I started studying flower arrangement with different teachers and tea with Nakamura-sensei and then I started studying tea at the Urasenke school for three and a half years - half a day. I left Ben with an old lady and then after four years we moved back into Kyoto.

Before Suzuki Roshi died we got a call seeing if Paul wanted to come back and see him but he decided not to. He went back once before he returned for good but it was after that. When he returned I stayed longer in Japan and we separated.

What Suzuki Roshi gave me was not in what he said but how he was, like how he moved rocks. I have his picture in my meditation room. There's a Zen temple near where I live in Hawaii where I teach yoga sometimes and when I go there I stick my head in the incense bowl and remember Suzuki.

DC note: RD is a devotee of Mother Ma? Gotta look it up, the very popular Indian woman guru.