Letters and cards sent by Shunryu Suzuki to Elsie Mitchell - 1964 - 1970

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Edited transcription

May 16, 1970

Dear Mrs. Mitchell,

Pardon me for my long silence. How are you? Did Shojo-san from Antaiji* visit you? How did you like him? He looks very stubborn but I think he is a good monk. He is supposed to go back to Japan in 6 or 7 months, but I think he should stay longer anyway.

Now, I am reflecting upon my life in America when I had just come here, like what I did with you or what I said to you and how kindly you helped me.

I shall never forget the soft puffy parcel post which you sent me soon after I left your home, as well as the beautiful shell, plants in it, a bird's nest from Cape Cod, and interesting books. I opened the parcel very carefully so that I might not break it.

I do not know whether you remember or not what it was. I hope not. Anyway I was very much embarrassed when I opened it and saw something in it. It was something so important for me as to tie it always around my body, but for some one else it is worse than a handkerchief on a wayside bench.*

Shojo-san arrived at San Francisco on January 15th and next day Tatsugami Roshi* came. Tatsugami Roshi is a famous master for his strictness but our students at Tassajara liked him very much. He is coming for next training period again which starts next October and ends in December.

We had a nice opening ceremony last 25th. I enclosed the clipping from a Japanese newspaper.*

Although I was always in San Francisco, this spring was very busy one for me. Now, Tatsugami Roshi went back to Japan and Yoshida Roshi* is coming to see Zen Center on 22nd of this month. She will stay here for 3 weeks just to see Tassajara and the Page St. Zendo.

This coming fall I must visit Japan with my wife. This time my trip may not be one so busy as before I hope, but it means that I cannot see you this year. I shall miss you very much. Please take good care of yourself and also your husband.

With gassho,

Rev. Shunryu Suzuki

I have been in bed for 5 days but today I enjoyed nice sunbirth* on our sun-deck this year. I am much stronger. I am realizing now how weak I was last year.

* Elsie doesn't remember meeting Shojo. Antaiji is the famous temple of Kodo Sawaki - at that time of Uchiyama - teachers who Suzuki respected. It was a sort of Maverick zazen-only temple.

* "worse than a handkerchief on a wayside bench" - Quite a turn of phrase there - Suzuki is talking about Elsie having sent the haramaki which he'd left behind. Haramaki are sweaters for the waist worn in my experience by older, or more traditional Japanese. He seems to see it as akin to having left behind his underwear.

* Sotan Tatsugami, who'd been ino (in charge of ceremony and discipline) at Eiheiji for many years, came to Tassajara to lead three practice periods in 1970 and 1971.

* "opening ceremony last 25th" - Maybe that was the official opening for the City Center.

* Yoshida was a female priest who taught a traditional method of sewing okesa and rakusu, the garments of ordination.

.* sunbirth - obviously he thought was said when he heard "sunbath." That's close to the way he'd pronounce r's which weren't at the first of a syllable. Japanese r's are hard like d's and made with the tip of the tongue and are always at the beginning of a syllable. He must have liked the Boston r.

see original