Haibun: "Clothes Make the Man (and Woman)"
-- with thanks to Barbara Dilley and her validating work
about "art mothers and fathers" and "lineage streams,"
and gratitude to Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos...who knows and understands
Another Juan Chi poem helps ripen wine's renown
in bamboo forests full of crystalline wind.
You sit half-drunk, let down flowing sleeves
and sweep your dragon-rimmed ch'in clean.
Then it's a fresh tune for each cup of wine,
dusk's blaze sinking away unnoticed. Soon,
thoughts deep among rivers and mountains,
I hear this mind my former lives all share.
--- Meng Hao-jan (689-740 CE)
Among some of my earliest memories are haunting flashes of images that I am now convinced are from another life, precisely because, quite clearly, they are not from this one.
The elements are simple: A low table. A scroll hanging on the wall --- water-stained from rain but no less precious. A partially-open rice paper door. The sound of katydids, cicadas, flowing water, a nearby shishi-odoshi, thumping repeatedly --- tonk, tonk, tonk (shishi-odoshi: bamboo water fountain device used to scare deer away from gardens). Angled late afternoon autumn light shining in. Sunbeams on tatami floor. Even now, I can conjure the sweet, fresh fragrance of the woven grass mat and how that smells blended with the aroma of newly-brewed tea.
Years ago, in the mid-90s, I had a conversation about these particular "memory flashes" with an unlikely character --- the late Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a.k.a. Reb Zalman (1924-2014). Unlike many people, who tend to glaze over and nod politely-but-suspiciously with the mention of "past lives," or who outright brush aside such notions as rebirth and reincarnation, Reb Zalman did not. He nodded knowingly and immediately offered, "I too have lived before. I remember my life in India as well. It's why I feel such a bond with Sufism."
One of the main things I remember most from our discussion was something he said about clothing.