Posts Tagged songbird

Second Daughter, 8

Kaori and Kimiyasu bounce along in the cart in the rising light of the day. Trying to keep her sister’s mind engaged in things other than the recent news, Kimiyasu asks her for details about Hensei’s guests, their father and the poetry, she asks her for her verse from the poem; whether or not Kaori remembers it, which she does.
“I can’t help notice but an outpouring of description about this Tsubusu.”
“Tsubasa.” Kaori corrects her sister without thinking; her fan moving quickly. “And its nothing… or I should say, in a field of barren grass, its easy to focus on the singular flower.”
“You don’t say…” Kimiyasu’s arched eyebrows on the other hand… Kaori looks forward down the road. “He’s just someone I met.”
“Someone our father introduced you to.”
“I don’t see why that should matter. At any rate, Tsubasa is a foreigner, from some unknown land, I doubt we’ll see him again.”
Kimiyasu watches her sister closely. “Mother tells me Uncle came from a distant province.” Kaori does not move her head, but her eyes flick to the corner towards her sister.
The two of them arrive at the red-painted wooden gate along the road to town. The songbirds, having wintered here in the valley, are quiet in the overcast light of the early afternoon. Kaori and Kimiyasu get off the cart and proceed through the gateway and into the temple grounds. The diffuse sunlight dampens the vibrant colors of their clothes, as the cracked, dry air seeps through their layers.
The path towards the temple is lined with chestnut trees, bare at this time of year, their seeds long since taken by the birds. White stone paving lines the small avenue towards the main building, visible only barely from the gateway as a small, single-story construction made of wood and rice paper. Kaori and Kimiyasu walk slowly. The gravity of the place demands silence, even if the monks do not necessarily require it.
“Look Kaori,” Kimiyasu whispers. Kimiyasu points towards a line of prayer papers strung over the path between too trees. On top of the prayer’s white papers and black ink, a small songbird sits. Even though the songbird is dusty yellow-brown, the sky behind it is a pale, almost-white gray, the thread is a simple twine darkened to almost black from the wetness of the air. Kaori smiles. “’Even the darkest winter day holds many colors for those who wish to see them.’”
Kimiyasu nods. “Its a good omen Kaori, you should pray for guidance. Maybe this songbird will sing your sorrows to the Heaven and bring you wisdom.”
Kaori also whispers back, “A clear answer would be nice, but Father always taught us to depend on our judgment. That if we remained pure of heart and noble of character and virtue we would always know the answer, no matter how confusing the road may be.”
A monk, dressed in the orange robes of his order, appears from between the chestnut trees that line the path. The girls stop. He bows to them and they bow back.
“Forgive me if I startled you, young ladies. I was tending to the landscape on the other side of the trees, and everything is so quiet that I could not help but hear you. Your Father sounds like a wise man, and yet here you find yourselves.”
Kaori and Kimiyasu look at each other. As if to punctuate the strange, almost magical air quickly settling around them, the songbird chirps out a few notes. When the eyes of Heaven lie upon one, the only acceptable answers are to laugh or to cry, so the two girls laugh. Their fans come out simultaneously, in the same motions, as they take the opportunity to giggle soundlessly behind them. When they have composed themselves they turn back to the monk who addressed them.
“Would you deign, honored monk, to lead us to the well, where we might purify ourselves before meditating in the shrine?” Kimiyasu asks the monk.
“Of course, right this way.” He turns, his motions fluid, trained in the disciplines of temple life.
The monk leads them to a well just outside what can now be seen as a main building for the shrine. The two sisters wash their hands, drawing back their sleeves, washing first one hand and then the other, letting the water drip down to purify the ladle between hand-washings and before replacing it into the well. The monk watches, his attentions both present and distant, contemplative even during such simple acts. When they are done and they turn back to him, he speaks again. His lack of whispers helps to ease through the seriousness of place affecting the two girls.
“Where would you like to meditate?”
Kimiyasu quirks her head to one side delicately. “Do you have an opinion, honored brother?”
“I think wisdom is found in peace.”
“So anywhere?”
“If peace is found within, then yes. Otherwise you must find the peace that will tame the wild soul.”
“And where does a soul go when it must be tamed?”
“’Soul and mind must flow like water, there they find peace.’ A troubled soul finds peace among the trees. A troubled family finds peace within the past.”
Kaori inserts herself into the conversation with a small nod. “And a soul troubled by family?”
The monk smiles. “A soul troubled by family finds peace in the lands of its ancestors. You are the Inaba children, are you not?”
Kimiyasu straightens. “We are…” her statement still implies a question.
“I was born to the Akimura family. Though I may be a monk, I have lived in this valley all my life. What seems like a lifetime ago, I played often with your brother in these very hills. There is a place, not far from here, that is still part of the temple. I would be happy to show it to you?”
Kaori nods. “You have been much help, but we would not wish to keep you from your duties.”
“The greatest of our duties is in service to our fellows, I would be honored.”
Kimiyasu bows. “If you insist, honorable brother, we would be happy to see your wisdom.” Kaori nods, and the monk leads the two of them around the side of the main building.


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