Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chapter 6, Girl Punches Out (Sen No Sen)

Chapter 6

It had been a mere two weeks since the tournament in Norfolk. Emily won the black belt kumite, fighting in the men’s division since there were no other women competing at her level. Her victory, her total mastery of her opponents, had been little short of amazing to everyone there. Of course there were videos of her matches, lots of them, circulating on the web. They would go viral soon enough. A few kids in school had already seen them. Eventually everyone would see them.

Chapter 5, Girl Punches Out (Sen No Sen)

Chapter 5
Bows and Arrows

The ceiling of Emily’s studio was only partially finished. The area over the kitchen, bathroom, walk-in closet and dining table was overhung with standard acoustic tile under joists covered in turn by a rough plywood floor. It was just exposed rafters over the sofa, coffee table and the sleeping area. There were a few recessed lights here and there along the walls, but most of the floor above the ceiling was clear. She had often mused about moving the bed, or at least the mattress, to the attic and creating a sort of loft. The area under the peaked roof was barely high enough to stand up in near the center. But for a bedroom it would be high enough. On the downside, there was only one small window at one end which was shaded by a large magnolia tree. No direct light ever entered there, and very little air either. In the end, this reflection always ended with Emily deciding it wasn’t worth the trouble to move the bed, even if it would have added to her usable floor space.

Chapter 4, Girl Punches Out (Sen No Sen)

Chapter 4
Tea in the Kitchen

She sat in her pickup truck in the driveway musing about the doctor. She was so nosy, so insistent on tests. What was she not saying? Maybe that’s just how doctors always behave. What would those tests show? Could they provide answers to her own questions? It probably hadn’t occurred to her beforehand that a routine doctor’s appointment might become an existential inquiry.

Kusanagi, Sword of the Goddess of the Sun

The Shinto story goes that Susanoo, the god of sea and storm, wanted to make up with his sister, Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun. They had been bickering for ages and she hardly trusted him at all. He presented her with a gift to win her over: a magnificent sword he found in the tail of a dragon he had slain. She named the sword Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi (which means "sword of the cloudy heavens)

Later she gave the sword to her son, Ninigi, who was lord of the earth, which consisted at the time of an archipelago in what is now called the Sea of Japan. The sword was handed down in his family through the generations until it came to his great great grandson, Jimmu Tenno, who is usually thought of as the first emperor of Japan.

Centuries later, during the reign of the twelfth emperor, Keiko Tenno, Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi was given to the warrior Yamato Takeru when he was sent to pacify treacherous warlords. In a famous incident, the warrior is trapped in dried grassland ignited by flaming arrows. He uses the sword to cut a fire break in the grass, but discovers the power to control the wind. He uses the sword's magic to drive the fire onto his enemies and destroy them. The sword was renamed Kusanagi no Tsurugi (or "grasscutter sword) to commemorate this event.

Kusanagi became one of the official symbols of the Japanese imperial family, along with the sacred jewel and the Yata no Kagami (or "eight-hands mirror"). Kusanagi is kept at the Astuta shrine, but is not available for public display, and its very existence is impossible to confirm. It is not even known what the sword would look like if it were to be displayed. It could be an enormous Nodaichi (or long sword), or a double-edged broadsword, or even something quite different. It may seem anachronistic to imagine it as a Katana, a sword style of the late middle ages, though this is a common representation. But since it is really a magical sword, we might as well say it can have any appearance.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Emily's Dream, from Girl Punches Out (Sen No Sen)

That night she brought the dingy old family sword to bed with her. It’s not that she feared losing it or having it stolen. She wanted to make up for lost time. It had been there, with her for so long, and she’d never paid it any attention. It needed to become a bigger part of who she is, that much was clear. She slept heavily, blankly, probably for several hours, until a dream of great intensity seized hold of her. She walked through the glade and the meadow, the familiar sound of the stream burbling. Two shapes awaited her in the distance, one warm and bright, the other barely a shadow. As she approached, the light grew brighter, shockingly bright, but didn’t seem to hurt her eyes. The shadow grew dark and huge, like a hole in the world. She wasn’t afraid.
She turned to the shadow and began to speak. She heard herself say: “You love my mother, so I must love you. You will show me who you are.”
She turned to the light and said: “You love my father, so I must love you. I know who you are. You are Amaterasu Omikami, and you love me. I’ll call you Granny. Thank you, both of you, for sending Kusunagi to me. Show me what to do with him.”
In a voice sweet as fire, the light shrilled at her: “The true master takes life when necessary, but gives life when it is good. You will walk on water as if it were land, and on land as if it were water. No one will be able to trick you.”
She knew how the saying ended and cried out: “Am I to be without friends forever?” Tears streamed down her face and on to her arms. She was holding a sword in one hand and a mirror in the other. Her tears rolled down the sword, and where three drops landed in the grass three luminescent women sprang up. Her tears rolled down the mirror, and where five drops landed in the grass, five luminescent men sprang up. They clasped hands in a circle around her, dancing and chanting her name:
Michiko, Michi-san, Michi-sama, Michi-kami,
Michiko, Michi-san, Michi-sama, Michi-kami,
Michiko, Michi-san, Michi-sama, Michi-kami…
She looked up to see the light and the shadow towering above her at opposite ends of the sky. She saw her place in the world now with more clarity than ever before and whispered: “Thank you, Granny.”
She woke with a start, drenched in sweat, tears streaming down her face. Sitting upright in the dark room she ruminated on what she had just seen. It was just a dream. The dingy old family sword glowed like fire next to her as she drifted off to sleep.

A bit of Sword Mysticism from a Japanese monk

“…the true master wields the sword but does not necessarily kill. He wields the sword so as to give life. When he must kill, he kills. When he should give life, he gives life…. Walking on water is like walking on the ground, and walking on the ground is like walking on water. If he achieves this freedom, no one on earth can confuse him. But he will know no friendship.”

Taia-Ki (Chronicles of the Sword of Taia)

Takuan Soho