"The Mejiro", number 153 of 188 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.
In this miniature Aitken, in a seven sentence paragraph, lays out an intimate scene between him and Yamada Roshi. In what feels linguistically contrived word play, we move from the "lanai of Koko An" watching a "little bird flitting around the Climbing Fig" to the successfully introduction in the 1920's of the mejiro from "Japan to Hawai'i". Yamada display of a bit of uncertainty about all this.
This all seems a fancy and over written. It takes more words to describe this and Aitken took to write it. Maybe this is my own confusion and lack of skill at writing. In such a short paragraph he has set a specific scene with two characters (three if you count the mejiro). The place is familiar to him but a bit confusing to me as he uses one term that is unfamiliar – lanai. This seems the danger of fancy writing. Turns out that lanai refers both to an island in the Hawaiian chain of islands and also a veranda.
This brings up the question for me as to what exactly Aitken means by a "miniature"? So far this collection of miniatures have been a mix of subtle and not so subtle teachings, family snapshots, history lessons and now with this one we get a bit of a writing lesson.
Something a bit different is going on for sure. Have I missed it?
James Krenov, a legendary woodworker, author, and founder of the College of the Redwoods Fine Furniture Program in Fort Bragg, Calif, died September 9, 2009 at the age of 89.
His cabinet making philosophy and skills at teaching and his students continuing work are his legacy. He was someone who had no idea how vast his influence has been. He even has a style of furniture named for him Krenovian. He is also famous for his wooden hand planes. I have been planning on making one and now seems to be the time to start.
Any error or confusion created by my commentary on
Miniatures of a Zen Master
is solely a reflection of my own delusion and ignorance.
Any merit generated by this activity is solely the result of
Aitken Roshi's clear teaching and is dedicated to
all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time.