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Thank You and OK!: an American Zen Failure in Japan
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[DC notes to self and others in brackets]

Chapter 69


June 6, 1988   -   GOODBYE TO KATAGIRI


Koji's brush moved from top to bottom, from right to left.  My right hand guided a black felt-tip pen while a small fuzzy white moth sat on the back of my left.  It had been there for at least five minutes and was the delicate mascot of the moment.  Breakfast had ended an hour before and we were writing letters, Koji to his parents and I to Elin.  Katagiri was packing and we were letting Norman spend time with him alone.  The schedule was on hold till Katagiri left.  The moth remained.

Three sharp hits, a roll down and a final whack of the clackers sounded from the kuin deck.  That was the signal for Katagiri's imminent departure.  I got up slowly keeping my left hand as still as I could.  Koji came around and slid open the shoji which had been closed to keep out the morning chill.  I put my left hand out and the moth flew away.

Katagiri was on the deck in a soft brown traveling robe.  He had on a brown cotton hat indented from front to back like a sergeant's headpiece.  Suzuki used to wear one of those when he traveled.  Norman had Katagiri's bag at his side.  Shuko and Katagiri spoke a few words quietly.  Jakushin and Maku walked up.  Katagiri looked at each of us and said, "Thank you very much for your effort.  Please take care of your practice."  He gasshoed and we responded.  Norman picked up his bag and they started down the steps into the sunlit courtyard.

 A suzumebachi swooped down just past Katagiri and he looked up startled and amused at the huge bee.  Suddenly I was reminded that we exist in a living universe of infinite beings.  Ladybugs were flying between us, small yellow butterflies above and the tiniest winged creatures were everywhere moving in short spurts.  It seemed there were more songbirds than ever that morning singing in the granddaddy oak and sparrows pecking on the moss.  The earth and air were full of spring life.

"Bye Roshi, Thank you."

He looked at me smiling.  "Goodbye David."  And then, reaching behind me to feel,  "How's your back?"

"Oh it's fine.  It only bothered me the first week.  It's been okay since then."

"Good."  He patted my stomach.  "Then take care of this."

"Thank you Roshi, and you take care too," I said smiling back as best I could.

They went off down the hill, Norman and my dear friend and teacher of so long.  I would never see him again.