Forest Bathing, Chapter 2


Forest Bathing Book Cover

(Click here for Chapter 1)

Chapter Two
Phantom Chamber

What seems false is real
what is real, is fantasy
when dreams become both.
–Tengu Riddle

Into the courtyard, Tomiko hurried beneath lace blossoms–pink, ginger and white. In the springtime garden, the trees stood like parasols over her mother and auntie. The two women rested among the other ladies, beneath the fragrant trees: plum, peach, and cherry. Lounging seemed the only reason for their visit to the sacred mountains. While the men climbed the steps of Haguro-San to pay homage at the mountaintop shrine. Into the reflecting pond, the men would toss mirrors for the women of their clan. These image symbols served to show the female’s esteem for the gods of the mountains since the women were not allowed to pay tribute for themselves.

Tomiko clicked her tongue in aggravation. It galled her that the women of her station were expected to lead such futile lives. She could never be so compliant sitting around complacent while the “men” took part in the feast of life. It was this skewed thinking that caused her to keep her outlaw thoughts and deeds, such as her trek up the forbidden mountain, hidden in her heart-of-hearts.

Sadness sat on her chest–the weight of a wounded heart. She could barely breathe for hiding it.
Hiding and keeping secrets seemed the only way to live life on her terms.

Desperate to keep her secret, Tomiko held the jade egg close to her breast, like an infant, fragile and in need of protection as she skirted close to a rock fountain that swished and gurgled near the gate.
The last thing she wanted was more questions about her decisions, right or wrong.

The sound of Mother speaking her name jarred her nerves, like the shrill of a water bird, brown and speckled that preyed near her home on the western shore near Tsuruoka Castle.  “Tomiko-san, where have you been?”

Tomiko skidded to a halt. She had no other choice, but to obey. Still, the fingers of her free hand curled into a fist as she turned to face the waggling finger that accused her.

Mother’s voice beat her name in staccato bursts like a mallet pounding the sides of a taiko drum barrel. “Tomiko Hino.” She sucked her teeth in exasperation. “Just look at you; your clothes are filthy!”

Tomiko cringed at the rolling eyes of disapproval, steeling herself for the worst to come as the tirade continued. Bending her face toward the ground, she gritted her teeth in agitation. Her stance was meant to appear as humiliation and shame. But on the inside, she seethed with frustrated anger.

Mother berated, “It cannot be too soon for you to conduct yourself as a proper wife-to-be!”

At the cutting words, Tomiko’s spine stiffened. Her head shot up, eyes glaring with unchecked defiance in Mother’s direction.

Tomiko had known Shun Sanada, her betrothed, since they were children, and had followed him wherever their adventures might lead. Tomiko had always loved Shun since she could remember. As his wife, she believed her life would not change from the freedom she now enjoyed, to that of the confining restrictions most wives of noblemen must endure.

It soothed her heart to believe that she would never have to bear the suffocating existence forced on Mother and Auntie, who sat like painted dolls on a shelf. The mere thought of such a fate clawed like death at Tomiko’s heart.

Her Auntie’s indulgent smile pulled her from the dark place where her mind had fallen. Auntie Said, “Ah, Fumiko-san let her be young while she can. There is time enough to be saddled with wifely duties.”

Auntie’s bold words forced the blood to Mother’s face. She gave her sister-in-law a stern, sidelong-glance filled with raw disapproval.

“Well, I can only imagine what Lord Sanada and his son would think if they could see her splattered with mud from head-to-toe.”

Auntie chuckled gently. “They would think, what a delightful, energetic mother she will make for strong-spirited sons and daughters.” She added without the slightest bow of her head in apology.

Tomiko bestowed a loving smile upon her Auntie. She could envision the serene lady, kimono tied up and fashioned as pants, trekking happily through a stream, or even climbing a sacred, forbidden mountain.

At the same time, an ashy whiteness spread from the roots of Mother’s dark hair to the base of her elegant neck. Her angry ravings replaced with alarm. Her quavering finger pointed toward the jade egg nestled in the scraped raw palm of Tomiko’s hand.

“Wha-what is that?” Mother’s eyes grew round as saucers. “From where did you get that?”

Auntie likewise looked askew at the strange object. “Hmm? Well…” Her gentle tone held no trace of blame, only bewilderment.

Resentment raw in her throat, Tomiko lifted her chin that much higher. “I found it. It, it is mine.” Her voice faltered. Still, she kept her gaze firm and resolute. She would rather die than yield her precious find.

Glancing down, she watched the jade-green skin of the egg suddenly fade into a robin’s speckled-blue. While its size shrank so that it nestled small as a silkworm’s spun cocoon against the lifeline crease that ran down the center of her palm.

In confused astonishment, Tomiko blinked. Her heart beat wildly. Had her eyes played tricks on her? Where had the jade egg gone? Her frantic gaze swept the ground in ever widening circles. Where, oh dear, oh dear, had it gone?

Gut-wrenching doubt swept through her mind, making her wonder if she had ever held the exquisite egg. Had she actually seen the priest on the steps leading up to the top of Haguro-San, or, for that matter, the King of the Tengu that stood before her in the haunted forest?

Panic grew as her mind swirled, making Tomiko feel suddenly sick to her stomach. On the slopes of the mountain, had she picked up an ordinary bird’s egg, deluding herself into thinking she had found some mysterious treasure?

Madness clawed at her mind. Her head ached. Too much had happened in one short morning and it was all crashing down around her.

Then a chuckle soft and quiet broke through the terror and confusion of her mind. Mother spoke, her angry tone replaced by affection.  “Oh run along, Tomiko-chan.”

Astonished, Tomiko watched a tender smile play across her mother’s face. Mother continued,  “But mind, clean yourself up!”

Tomiko stammered, “Yes, Oka-saan.”

Grateful for whatever had softened Mother’s heart, she bowed low in obedience. Then she spun around and hurried from the garden.

From behind, Mother’s strident voice echoed. “And walk like the lady that you are.”

Tomiko replied, “Yes-s-s, Oka-saan.”

Mother’s laughter echoed softly in the near distance. “What does she think to do with a robin’s egg? Brood and hatch it for the mother bird?”

Auntie giggled like a schoolgirl. “Perhaps she does.”

The irrational thought made Tomiko feel slightly unreal as if she floated rather than ran around the next corner. Safely out of sight from the garden and the prying eyes of her mother, she picked up her heels and raced toward the family’s private quarters. Skittering around another corner, she almost collided with an elderly servant. The woman’s arms piled high with clean laundry. Her old back bowed under the weight.

Tomiko tucked the egg inside a hidden pocket of her kimono, something she should have done earlier. She stopped, holding out her arms as if to assist the old woman.

Horrified, the servant ducked her head and hurried away down the corridor, muttering to herself.
A sigh of resignation whispered through Tomiko’s teeth. Why did things that were considered taboo attract her so? The daughter of a samurai master should never carry clean laundry, even in an attempt to help a bent-over, old woman that looked as if her back might break from the strain.

Exhausted both in mind and spirit, Tomiko slipped inside her room. She stepped inside, closing the rice paper door securely in place. Then she sank. Her knees pressed against the braided rice-rush floor.

From its hiding place, she pulled the changeling egg free. Jade-green once again, it lay nuzzled in the palm of her hand, just as it had when she plucked it from the ground near the stairs that led to Mount Haguro’s summit.

Weak with relief, she slumped down; her forehead bowed against the floor. Sojobo-sama, the name of the Tengu King, whispered through her mind. She rolled onto her back, holding the egg toward a trickle of sunlight that flowed through a crack above the door. Both the King and his egg had proven real enough, or else she had stepped into a dream of no return.

***

Darkness draped Haguro Mountain, as Tomiko lay on her sleeping mat. She gazed up toward the rafters. Transparent as fine webbing, the wooden slats melted away so that the jeweled night glittered through. Stars clung like dew drops. While a sharp tang against her tongue reminded Tomiko of salted air, though the edge of the sea washed against the shoreline of the sea, leagues in the distance. The rolling waves soothed her like a feral lullaby.

A phantom wind rattled the rice paper screens, stretched across perfect squares encased in the door face. The spectral wind swept her thoughts back to the haunted glade on Mount Haguro, and her meeting with the Tengu King.

Head pressed between damp palms; she tried to force the image of the fox spirit away as it tracked her through the underbrush. The Tengu King’s fox mistress, come to haunt and seduce her. Kitsune, a spirit creature that could transform at will into human shape. A gasp of surprise stretched Tomiko out, drowsy and content, as the fox maiden filled her mind, making her feel as if she floated somewhere above the floor.

Wrapped in veils of mists, like the ones that had surrounded King Sojobo, a man leaned over her. A glimmer of moonlight glowed softly against his cheek.

“Shun?” she whispered the name of her betrothed.

Though the man’s face stayed hidden in shadows, she could feel strong arms wrap gently around and beneath. Her breath quick and urgent, she entwined her arms around his neck, as she pulled her beloved close.

When Tomiko woke, morning light trickled past the edge of the open door, where she lay just inside the threshold. The sky above burst blue with yellow and orange light cast from the gates of the sun goddess’ sky palace. Tomiko listened to the warble of a lark, cheered by its exquisite love song.

“Shun…” Tomiko moaned, stroking fingertips across her bruised neck. The light touch ignited the earthy fragrance of pine needles that clung to her hair and robe.

Remembering something, she sat up straight, sending her confused glance around the room. It settled on the empty places where Mother and Auntie’s futon bed rolls should have reclined. Had the two women already gone to breakfast, or had they never come to sleep next to her last night?

Tomiko shifted her gaze toward the rice paper doors, opened onto the garden beyond. A smile spread slowly across her lips. Of course, the two women must have decided to spend the night with their husbands. After the wedding, she would forever spend her nights beside her beloved Shun.

***

Later that day, the family pilgrimage ended, and Tomiko found herself seated in the palanquin. Straddled across the muscled shoulders of its bearers, she felt the sedan chair, suspended by a single beam, move beneath her. Eyes drooping from lack of sleep, she leaned heavily against the inside wall.

Her fingers rested on the bamboo curtain. Chin propped against the window’s edge; she watched mist-shrouded Haguro. The mountain seemed to breathe, its summit filled with lungs that rose up and down in the crisp morning air. Her hungry eyes devoured the mystical village as both it and the mountain disappeared around a curve in the road. Her heart ached as if part of her soul was left clinging to the mountain’s haunted cliffs.

She slumped down in the cushioned seat, letting the bamboo curtain fall back in place. Her heavy eyelids slid shut as she drifted into sleep, so deep that not even the King of the Tengu could enter her dreams.

Copyright © 2012 by Ledia Runnels

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(For all of Ledia Runnels’ published works press on the book image below.)

Tengu Prince Cover for Kindle 05252015

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Chinese Civilization 2009-07-06 Secret of Painting Scroll at the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony


A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains Scroll by Wang Ximeng  (1096–1119)

 

(Qilin Tavern 中国·时事·财经·军事)

Related Sites:

Xuan Paper

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuan_paper

Wang Ximeng

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Ximeng

2008 Summer Olympics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Summer_Olympics

Song Dynasty

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_dynasty

Marvels of Japan


Guardian in Todaiji, Nara
Guardian in Todaiji, Nara (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marvels of Japan

The third and last Pinterest link for anyone interested in Japanese culture. This is the quintessential link for Japanophiles from me to you. Enjoy!

Tessenjutsu: The Art of Fighting “Japanese” War Fans


In Ancient Japan, fans could cool or kill.

Types of War Fans

Japanese war fan (gunsen) made of iron, bamboo...
Japanese war fan (gunsen) made of iron, bamboo and lacquer depicting the sun (1800-50) on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, California. Object ID: F1998.40.25 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Gunsen: folding fans used by the average warriors to cool themselves off. Made of wood, bronze, brass or a similar metal for the inner spokes. Often used thin iron or other metals for the outer spokes or cover, making them lightweight but strong. Warriors hung their fans from the belt or the breastplate.
A typical tessen of the Edo-period (1603-1868)...
A typical tessen of the Edo-period (1603-1868). This weapon is used in tandem with the jutte in some forms of Ikkaku-ryu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Tessen: folding fans with outer spokes made of heavy plates of iron and designed to look like normal, harmless folding fans. Another version came as solid clubs shaped to look like a closed fan. Samurai took them to places where other weapons were not allowed. Also used to fend off arrows and darts.
Japanese (samurai) solid iron signal fan "...
Japanese (samurai) solid iron signal fan “gunbai or gumpai” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Gunbai: large solid open fans made from solid iron, metal with wooden core, or solid wood. Carried by high-ranking samurai officers who used them to ward off arrows, as a sunshade, and to signal to troops.

File:Kumagai Naozane and Taira no Atsumori.jpg

The warriors Kumagai Naozane and Taira no Atsumori fro the Taira clan (Artist Unknown)

Statue of Kato Kiyomasa

 at Nagoya Castle grounds

Nagoya is located in Japan

in Nagoya, Japan on the Island of Honshu

YouTube Video: Pendragon Tessen fan kata

Article Source: < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_war_fan&gt;

Photograph of Kato Kiyomasa source: <http://www.flickr.com/photos/rekishinotabi/3557084910/&gt;

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The Development of Japanese Washi


English: Cranes made by Origami (Washi paper)....
Image via Wikipedia
Wittig.collection.manuscript.01.japanese.art.s...
Washi paper (Sugihara paper)
Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

Here is the second installment from the Washi Paper series. If you read the first post, “The Discovery of Paper” at https://lediarunnels27221219.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/the-discovery-of-paper/ .

In the reference section of this blog post, you can find the link to the parent site from which this article was printed in full.

Washi paper is not only an ancient art in Japan, but many beautiful art forms have come out of its use, such as creative wrappings for gifts, origami paper folding and intricate, paper dolls.

Making washi-paper-like projects are as easy as placing pieces of torn paper and water in a blender and then laying the wet pulp on a piece of screening and adding bits of flowers or other things as decoration. Here is a video to help you through the entire process. http://video.about.com/familycrafts/How-to-Make-Paper-With-Kids.htm

Enjoy!

World Papers and Washi

写真 Kozo楮
Kozo
写真 Gampi雁皮
Gampi
写真 Tororoaoi黄濁葵
Tororoaoi
写真 Noriutsugi糊空木
Noriutsugi

■The development of Japanese washi
Because of its location across the sea east of the coast of the Asian continent, Japan was influenced by China mainly by way of the Korean peninsula. Scripts and paper were first introduced to Japan in the fourth to fifth century, and these symbols of advanced civilization greatly influenced the thinking of the Japanese people. The subsequent introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the sixth century had a major impact. As part of its efforts to disseminate Buddhism, the government increased paper production for the transcription of sutras. People were encouraged to grow kozo, paper mulberry, as a raw material for paper, and Buddhist priests were invited from the Korean peninsula to introduce the new technology. During the high culture of the Tempyo period (eighth century), techniques to manufacture and process paper developed, and papermaking spread nationwide. As demands for paper grew, manufacturers looked for raw materials other than kozo to produce it and discovered gampi, a plant indigenous to Japan. This prompted the transition from the imitation of Chinese paper to the creation of washi, Japan’s own paper. Gampi fibers are delicate and have a natural viscosity, so although forming them into paper requires sophisticated techniques, the finished product is both beautiful and durable. A new method to make paper from hemp and kozo was invented in which the viscous mucilage of tororo-aoi (the root of a hibiscus plant) or noriutsugi bark was added. This method, established in the late eighth century to the ninth century, is today known as nagashizuki. In the Heian period (794-1185), a government – owned paper mill, or kamiyain, was established in Heiankyo (Kyoto), then the capital of Japan, to make paper for official use. The mill also dyed and processed paper and trained technicians. In addition to being used for sutras and official documents, the paper was also used for private correspondence and poetry, helping to promote the development of literature. Kana, or the Japanese syllabary, was invented from kanji, Chinese characters. A unique Japanese culture flourished, becoming free from the influence of the once predominant Chinese culture. With its abundant forests and clear streams, the Japanese environment was highly suited to papermaking, and the Japanese people, who respected nature and its cyclical changing of seasons, took pleasure in making fine papers and using them beautifully. By the time the government moved to Edo (now Tokyo), paper mills around the country were producing papers characteristic of each region. The common people used these papers widely and in this way paper became part of daily life, adding both convenience and beauty, and washi reached its zenith around the 17th century.

Japan in Motion


The view in spring from near the upper-most te...
Yamadera

This website is so amazing! I just had to share it with you all. The two web pages that are listed below tell something of the places I used as the backdrop for my novel, Legend of the Tengu Prince.

Dewa Sanzan  http://www.japan-in-motion.com/jim/item/mov_19/

Yamadera  http://www.japan-in-motion.com/jim/item/mov_16/