Sewing my rakusu
I spread out the pieces of my rakusu, in readiness for dunking in the pot of black dye. A ragbag of precious bits gleaned from the patchwork of my life, these include:
–A piece of denim from faux-bro Ki’s favourite jeans, veterans of many a forest rave we danced at together.
–A scrap from my dear departed friend Robin’s sexy black camisole, worn wildly on hot summer nights .
–Elena and Lola’s pink napkin, stained with pesto and chocolate-blackberry pancake.
–Terry’s white hanky sewn from his Cape Breton auntie’s linen tablecloth. Used to mop his face in the Tokyo summer heat. Imbued with the sweet sweat of Terry, falling in love.
–Obi-nine’s groovy Australian aboriginal cloth, patterned in snakes and bare footprints.
–A scrap of brown wool gabardine: pants worn by my dad as a dashing bachelor, then handed down and worn again by my brother Bennett in his hipster retro phase.
–Bum pocket piece from Romina’s fuzzy blue dance pants.
–A strip of chunky grey linen from Red Sara’s biking skirt.
–My own sand-coloured summer linen pants.
–Oryoki cloth used by Michael and Kate—friends, teachers, and resident priests of Mountain Rain Zendo in Vancouver.
–Pattipow’s home-made hanky, cut from a flannel sheet. Survivor of countless co-counselling sessions. Well soaked with snot and joyful tears.
I wanted a remnant from my mother but couldn’t find anything suitable. I don’t think my mom ever wore anything made of natural fibres—she was partial to mint-green polyester pant suits. Bennett mailed me a tiny scrap of purple velvet embroidered with gold hebrew lettering: my mother’s Passover matzah-cloth. I will hide this inside the rakusu’s back flap.
When the pieces were finally collected and laid out I realized I didn’t have anything long enough to make the border and straps. I ran into the living room of Querencia (Upaya’s resident house) and threw a little hissy fit. “This is a joke! I don’t have the materials, I don’t have enough time, I can’t do this!” The residents immediately scrambled off to hunt for suitable fabric. The discards in the Goodwill box just would not do. I considered, then rejected, Sally’s pants. Sienna came running with a big piece of cloth in her hands—her funky brown wrap skirt with little blue heart hand-sewn on the pocket. Made of pure hemp, how apropos for a BC girl. Will this work? Yes, it will, with a little help from my sangha.
So it comes together, stitch by stitch. More wabi-sabi than geometric perfection, the seams wobble a little, corners not quite square. I sew a seam, rip it out, start again. Chanting my refuges over each stitch: the buddha, the dharma, the sangha. I am, I learn, I depend.
“How’s your rakusu coming?” asks Roshi Joan, flying through the kitchen. “Great! Except for the part I measured wrong, and the bits I need to re-do, and the…” “Oh,” she says, cutting me off with a flap of her hand. “That’s just your mind.” And runs out the other door.