Wednesday, December 4, 2013



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     Some miles still lay between him and his future bride's home. Bunsa didn't mind the walking, or the blisters on his feet, or the wind and the sun taking their toll on his body. In fact, the hardship of a long trip was like a salve for the pain in his heart. The green shades of the forest soothed him and the shapes of the trees and the mountain spoke to his mind, offering new ideas for his craft.
     These were the last days that he was his own master, going where he wanted and enjoying his freedom. He did not only ask the matchmaker to find him a wife. The luck has deserted his own family and clan. War, sickness, drought and the business loss have decimated the hope that he and his relatives had for the future. Perhaps, the reprieve was close at hand, but Bunsa couldn't wait for it any longer. Betting on his reputation of a renown carpenter, he proposed not only marriage into the Toyoda clan; he also asked to take their last name. It was a drastic step, but he had to do something to change his fortune! 

     Before Bunsa arrived in Shinano-machi, he stopped by the lake to wash off the dirt and the doubt. He changed into clean clothes. The cool waters' embrace steaded him. Looking at the expanse of choppy gray waters he remembered the haiku poet's words: "facing the cool breeze straight on... a lake."
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     "I also must face whatever comes, straight on!" - he thought.

      He was well received. The Toyodas were also carpenters and they were overjoyed to have a master of his caliber join their family. He didn't see the girl, Moriko, whom he was supposed to marry until much later.
     One by one, the families from the village came in and bowed, introducing themselves to the groom. The men sat in dignified silence, until enough sake passed their lips. Then the good-natured  ribbing would begin. The women disappeared in the depths of the house after taking a few furtive looks at the stranger, who very soon will become their neighbor. At dinner time, the bride was led out into the parlor. She was scrubbed and dressed and groomed, but all that Bunsa, who was drunk by now, could see of her, was a blurry female form in a gray-orange kimono and a tip of her nose behind the voluminous headdress. This continued for a few days before the wedding. Suffice it to say, on the morning after his marriage ceremony, Bunsa woke up with a sore head, next to a stranger, wondering, what happened the night before. Now he could see her pretty, fresh face, relaxed in sleep. She was a young girl, a little bit on the skinny side, with a pointed chin and a high nose.
     Moriko's dark eyelashes stirred. She smiled, as if feeling the comfort and warmth of the bed, and her slanted eyes slowly opened. For a few seconds she looked at Bunsa, her lips slightly apart, like she didn't quite know, why he was there. Then she sat up, holding the blanket to her chest. She smiled un-selfconsciously. The mane of her hair framed her face and white shoulders. Bunsa's hand, on its own accord, went to tuck an ebony tress behind Moriko's ear. Moriko's smile deepened. Trusting and tender, she put her cheek into his callused palm. The feeling of relief swept through Bunsa: he came home.

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