198 • pearls around the neck
“Master, this is where I am,” she murmurs in a whisper.
A strand of hair hangs across her face, wet with tears.
She doesn’t sob; not even a slight start. She is still, statuesque.
Her head directed slightly downwards, she stares at the ground, three feet away from her. Only the
movements of the lips allow a semblance of life to emanate from her.
“First the noise, interior conversations, the hubbub of thoughts, the back and forth of things that have
to be done, or forgotten or postponed.
Then the “me”, the ugliness of my nature, lust, selfishness, vanity, false modesty, lies, wasted love,
regrets, children not loved enough, or too much, or loved badly, or too exclusively.
The descent, the inner glance; eyes, toward the ground, toward the stomach, in the stomach. From the
groin, from the navel, eyes coming out. They look up and observe my body, in lotus position, arms
straight, resting on my knees. They don’t judge me; the eyes look and see an aging woman with long
hair. The eyes look up and into the distance, observing from above. I am the body of a woman.
An enormous void in this woman’s carcass rises, first secretly, surreptitiously, from my shoulders.
Then suddenly I recognize it: The Emptiness, the vacuum, the desert, the absolute pointlessness, plain
and unsuspecting nakedness, nothingness and…
Why this sadness, this infinite sadness facing such interior vacuum…
At this instant, the tears start to flow.
A sadness that is so vast, so overwhelming it can’t belong to me.
It can’t be mine only: isn’t this everybody’s sadness? This pain is ancestral, archaic, age-old, petrified.
Isn’t it so?
“That is all, Master. That is all Sensei. This is where I am, now, in this place.”
The Master answers: “Soo desu, soo desu.” (“It is so, it is so.”)
The Master adds nothing else. He presently becomes silent and prays.
Author: Catherine Beeckman, Kamakura, Japan, 2007
English translator : Joan Lagache
Illustration : Catherine Beeckman