Monday, April 11, 2016

MORIKO - repost


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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 when 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 steadied 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 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.
 When I started this story, I thought, it will be about my husband's family in Japan. Since its so hard to get the facts from the land of the rising sun, I decided to write a fiction. So, its based a little on my hubby's family, but they would, probably, be upset, if they thought that I am writing THIS about them. Its a fiction. OK?

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     After spending a week with Moriko, Bunsa couldn't imagine living any other way. She was the reason he woke up in the morning and went about his day, and she was the reason why he almost ran back home in the evening. Moriko's parents gave the newlyweds a little cottage at the edge of their property. The forest came right to the backdoor there. Moriko claimed a few yards of the land for a small garden, but, more often than not, she'd go into the woods and bring back some mushrooms, herbs and tubers for their meals. Bunsa never saw most of those plants in his life. Nagano was the landlocked prefecture; the people there didn't have the benefit of fishing for their food in the sea. The results of Moriko's foraging were the most nutritious part of their diet. Apart from being the lucky husband, who would've quickly began to get a nice belly if he didn't work so hard, Bunsa felt deep joy when he stepped into his house or even just thought of his wife. When he came home in the afternoons, she was always gardening or walking in the forest or sitting in the sweet smelling grass by the trees. He would join her there, and spend time together, gazing into the dizzying blue skies, holding her, until the thoughts of the daily life would intrude on their bliss.
     When the time came for Bunsa to go to another village for a carpeting job, Moriko was inconsolable. Overnight her face became swollen with tears. She grieved so much, that Bunsa couldn't resist her pleas anymore: he agreed to take her with him. It was a few hours' walk away from Shinano-machi, but they spent some time running in the trees and just taking in the lush splendor of a forest around them. Later, Bunsa would think of those few hours as the happiest in his whole life! Moriko seemed to become more alive among the green. Like a new leaf, she unfurled and delighted Bunsa with her own beauty and liveliness. She found some things for them to eat for lunch, and they cuddled in a small clearing. Bunsa knew form her parents that they adopted Moriko, but here, in woods
 filled with the birdsong, she told him the whole story. One day, her folks found an infant girl behind that same cottage, where Bunsa and Moriko lived now. She lay, naked as a jay, in the grass amid the trees and screamed her little head off! They never found out, whose baby she was. Some people said, they saw a young pregnant woman wandering in those parts, some claimed that they espied a whole band of strangers, but Moriko's father and mother knew, it was a blessing from the gods: for many years they couldn't have their own children. This didn't make Bunsa doubt his young bride, but he appreciated the wonder and the mystery of her even better than before. "Mori" means forest in Japanese, "ko" - a child of. It was an unusual name, but he understood now, why Moriko's parents were compelled to give it to her.

To be continued...

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