I thought I’d told it all, but yesterday when I was doing an all-day sit at the Hazy Moon, I remembered something. Without realizing it, I began this recollection on February 24, which would have been Maezumi Roshi’s 77th birthday. I decided to add this benediction, with a smile.
Coming softly down the carpeted stairs on the last morning of sesshin, she saw Roshi and his attendant having tea, the way they did every morning when she passed by. This time, Roshi asked her to join them. He introduced her.
She’s been having her own business for over 15 years, but she can’t be over 16 herself! He laughed at his own flattery.
Actually, today is my 37th birthday, she said.
Why would you want to spend it here? His smile spread.
I was hoping not to meet you, she said, letting the truth be playful for a change.
Then let me write you something. And come to see me before you leave.
After the morning sitting and the work period and the closing remarks, she came to see him, giddy to be finished and facing only the full blue sky of a return flight to Texas.
He sat in his study, behind a deep wooden desk made serious with the surrounding stacks of papers and books. Looking up, unshaven, he handed her a square flat package wrapped in sturdy rice paper. When she unwrapped it she saw that, to Roshi, writing meant calligraphy. The bold black strokes danced down an ivory bristol board.
Let me read it to you, he said as he came forward. Congratulations on the anniversary of your birth September 26, 1993. He pointed to two large characters stacked on the right side. Spring and fall.
Do you want to see my inspiration, he asked, pulling a leather bound volume from the bookshelf. He turned to a page, pointing at the last two lines.
She read to herself: No matter how much the spring wind loves the peach blossoms, they still fall.
Do you know what it means? he quizzed. She shook her head no, but she knew without knowing. He had seen through her all along.
That would be 1956, then, the year you were born? He scratched his stubble and she nodded.
That was the year I came to America, he said.
They hugged then, a full familiar embrace, and she ran to catch the ride that would take her home.
Happy birthday, Roshi. Happy birthday, Everyone. It’s always a good day to be born.