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:
â€“A piece of denim from faux-bro Ki’s favourite jeans, veterans of many a forest rave we danced at together.
â€“A scrap from my dear departed friend Robin’s sexy black camisole, worn wildly on hot summer nights .
â€“Elena and Lola’s pink napkin, stained with pesto and chocolate-blackberry pancake.
â€“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.
â€“Obi-nine’s groovy Australian aboriginal cloth, patterned in snakes and bare footprints.
â€“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.
â€“Bum pocket piece from Romina’s fuzzy blue dance pants.
â€“A strip of chunky grey linen from Red Sara’s biking skirt.
â€“My own sand-coloured summer linen pants.
â€“Oryoki cloth used by Michael and Kateâ€”friends, teachers, and resident priests of Mountain Rain Zendo in Vancouver.
â€“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 fibresâ€”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!”Â 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 handsâ€”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.