A Day With Jizo
Jizo was a Bodhisattva. A Buddhist saint who would remain on earth until all the creatures were out of hell. Something like that. Jizo was also the protector of mothers in labor and aborted and miscarried fetuses. He was the protector and guide of children that had died. He would help them cross through the scary after-death realms and reach the good place. I was unclear about some of the details. I had thought that Buddhism was without heaven and hell but I didn’t care. I was glad that Jizo might have been there when Lueza had died alone in her bed.
The Jizo ceremony for Children That Had Died was held in a yurt at the Zen Center in Marin County. I wasn’t a Buddhist but I had read bookshelves full of the modern American Buddhist writers. I had been reading about meditation for thirty years knowing that someday when I could calm down I would meditate. I had been collecting Buddhas ever since my grandfather died in the early eighties and when asked what I wanted from his office of things that had been spread out in the family dining room I took the hollow clay glassy green glazed Buddha. After contacting the Zen center to RSVP for the event, I received an email about bringing red fabric and scissors and thread. I wanted the red fabric to be meaningful so I found a pair of Lulu’s stretchy red leggings and cut out a square. I found a spool of red thread and a pair of scissors and placed them in a plastic baggie. The day before the ceremony there was a street fair in our town and a vendor was giving away free fabric swatches and I found the perfect red square and wasn’t it synchronistic.
The center of the yurt was filled with flowers and scissors and more fabrics and bits of parchment paper. The edge of the yurt was covered in candles and there was a bowl of water and rose petals and a black figure of a Buddha. The Jizo statue was standing with a staff in his hand and the stylized face of a calm monk. A relaxed baby monk. Also in the center of the yurt were large bunches of rosemary which were for remembrance we were told by the Buddhist helper priests. We learned about Jizo and his guiding of the children past the hell realms and into nirvana. We would be making offerings for him. We would be writing prayers and sewing them up into other fabrics to hang on the special tree in the Green Gulch garden. I wrote love messages to Lulu and rolled them up and stuffed them into the red pouch that I had sewed out of Lulu’s leggings. I placed some bunches of rosemary inside and sewed the pouch shut with a tiny branch of the piney rosemary sticking out and then sewed the little pouch onto the red square of fabric from the street fair. I wrote messages to Lu and rolled them into a tube shape and wrapped twine around them. We walked in a circle and read the words of a Pali chant about impermanence. Ga te ga te para ga te Parasam ga te Bodhi Svaha. Gone Gone, Gone Beyond, Gone Completely Beyond! Awakened Spirit Aaaaah!
We placed our red fabric offerings next to Jizo in the yurt and walked outside through the grounds to the garden to hang the rolls of paper prayers on the tree in the Garden of Remembrance. Coastal Redwoods and Douglas fir, Monterey Pine and California Bay Laurels. Somewhere was the famed Green Gulch organic garden that fed the Buddhist visitors and tenants and a famous vegetarian restaurant in Fort Mason. Fog from Muir beach was heading up from the lower meadow. Dwellings for meditators were tucked everywhere on the property.
Driving home through Marin County I was holding my belly fat with my left hand as I drove. I had an entire handful of lipid-filled soft flesh that could be grabbed and pulled outwards toward the steering wheel. I tried stuffing it into my pants. Maybe the waist was too low and that’s why everything was hanging over. It was the clothing. How had this happened? I estimated the weight of the fat as low. It was just a fluffy kind of fat. A couple of pounds in my left hand. If I could walk up more rattlesnakey California ridges it would disappear.
Racing down the freeway towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the invisible jumpers I dreamed of life without clutter. I imagined rows of baskets holding gently folded sheets that had been rinsed with lavender water. Everything had labels. Drawers full of supplies. Tape and scissors and paper clips and pens and postage stamps, batteries and glue and rubber stamps with ink pads. Ribbons and paper for wrapping gifts. Beads and strings. Jars of white buttons and baskets of thread. A life of order. I wished I was a devout Catholic. I loved rosaries. Prayer beads. Late at night I would Google ‘rosary’ and read about its history. I loved the Hail Mary. I had to learn the words once for an Irish play and it was as if I had always known it. I’d say it in the super fast way of an Irish woman with mud-covered rubber boots who prayed special prayers throughout the day. HailMaryfullofgracetheLordiswiththeeblessedartthouamongwomanandblessedisthefruitofthywombJesus, said in a thick Irish accent. I imagined tea parties. Plates covered in yellow cakes and buns. I loved the English use of the word bun. Treats and dainties. Buns had nothing to do with hamburgers. I thought of starting a phone-tea company. Instead of phone-sex there would be conversations about tea. Darjeeling and Nepalese black. The smoky Russian teas for samovars. Teapots. Cambric tea and red-lipped children in nurseries speaking in English accents with powdered nannies who would live with them forever. On the freeway south of San Francisco I passed a billboard that said: Sedation Dentistry. I considered other possibilities. Sedation marriage. Sedation grief.
I laid my hand on the Jizo offering. Foresty rosemary sprigs poking through the stitches. A lumpy velour pouch sewn onto another square of soft red velvety material. The car raced south out of San Francisco on the 280. Near Millbrae the fog became visible. Pacifica would be in a whiteout by now. My town would still be sunny. If the winds came up I could sleep under down with the windows wide open and everything too bright from the moon. I would grill zucchini, red peppers and onions until they were black and caramelized and lay them on top of whole wheat spaghetti and shake a pile of Parmesan cheese on top. I pinched off a piece of the rosemary that poked out of the red velour Jizo offering and held it under my nose. It smelled of Christmas.