On the night before our departure we logged in to Sensei’s quarters, which we never do, unless its for a private council. We stood at casual attention, projected into a oblong tight little space like a ships cabin. It was his kitchen. He told us ‘The Story of the Trickling Stream’
“There was once a little stream,” He began, and we settled in to listen.
“That wanted to rejoin a tributary,” He continued, and his faint old body slid dangerously off the table on which he had been perched, and crumpled into an uneasy stance inside his sweatpants which he wore whenever he was off duty, and crossed the submarine-like interior of his eating quarters and went to stand beside a counter. We weren’t sure if this action was related to the story.
“At the bottom of a hill.” He finished. The counter was actually a fridge, from which he pulled out a cheese tray with a couple slices of bread and some cheese. He was making himself a sandwich.
He buttered the bread and put some cheese and tomatoes into the sandwich, at which point it seemed to be to his satisfaction. We thought he was going to dig standing up at the cramped counter he seemed to notice the chair that was at the table he had previously been sitting on back on the far side of the room. We lunged, impotent to help as he launched those old bones into the long journey back across the hard and uneven planks flooring his dinner cabin.
“Every time it encountered an obstacle,” He said, and almost ran into the garbage bin.
“It turned to find a way around,” He was about to move the garbage bin-
“The rock or tree that stood in its path.” -But he noticed that it was full, it had been left out because it was full to the brim, so he put the sandwich on the table and started tying up the garbage. It was mostly filled with orange and apple rinds, and what appeared to be some sawdust-like powder that I guessed was dried pulp.
“When the stream stopped to look,” He seemed immersed in the garbage now.
“For where it would rejoin the tributary,” He put the garbage down and put on his boots, jacket, and hat like a leather and fur aviator hood
“It found itself,” He picked up the garbage again, strapped on his goggles, braced himself against some unknown force of the elements, and threw open the storm door and was sucked into the vacuum of lower space.
A second later he swung back in like a marionette and slammed the door. He took off his hood and jacket and boots.
The story seemed forgotten.
He crossed the room in his usual fragile way, his hips jogging like the crank of an old slow bike, and collapsed into the chair in front of the sandwich on the table.
“Where was I?” He asked.
Nobody said anything.“It found itself.” I ventured.
“Oh yes,” he said.
“It found itself back at the top of the hill.” He took a bite of his sandwich, and then completely ignored us while he ate.
We stood in a line hmming and hawwing in a good-natured sort of way, until somebody lost it, and starting sniggering, everyone risked losing their cool for a few moments.
Sensei looked at us levelly and we smiled and shook it off.
When he had finished eating he cleaned his plate, washed his hands, had a drink of water, and went back to perching on the long high table like a bar, that appeared to be, other than the chair, the only furnishing that wasn’t built into the modestly compact – wooden- we were sure of that- cabin.
“Where you are going nobody else has gone, because you take only yourself.”
“Each experience is unique, but we are not always the person we think we are.”
We nodded sagely.
“We must be tested.” He looked at each of us steadily.
“The downward flowing stream does not deviate from its course,”
He lept forward in a deft movement that traversed half the length of the room in a blaze of cloth and 100% cotton elastic cuff and stood coursing with energy and light from head to toe in the middle of the cabin.
“Its adversary is only weakness in itself,” His eyes fumed.
“And it follows its own path.”