Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Girls' Day

Yesterday was my birthday. It also was a day of celebration in Japan called Hina-Matsuri or Girls' Day. 

I knew where I wanted to be to celebrate both occasions - a beautiful teahouse called, "Cha An" in Manhattan's East Village. Cha An is tucked away along a street affectionately known as "Japan row."

I had not been there in many months. Thanks to my sister Evelyn's generosity, I had funds for the occasion. Evelyn lives in California. She sent me a card saying, "do what makes you happy" enclosed with a check.

Talking on the phone that day, she told me a story that poignantly brought that point home.

Once, as Evelyn was talking with a friend and struggling to authentically express herself, this friend put out crayons and paper. Evelyn began to draw.  She discovered (as she said to me) that, "I needed to be served those crayons." She needed this because she couldn't serve herself, offer herself the time and space to follow a free-flowing impulse.

She encouraged me to play. Heeding her wisdom, I followed that impulse and walked. Bright sunshine and a cold wind kept me moving along the Hudson River Park on through Soho and Chinatown. Then, I hopped on a subway train as daylight faded. Within minutes, I landed in the East Village at Cha An.

When I arrived after the afternoon of joyful wandering, the women working there greeted me as a long gone sister, happy and relieved to see me. I felt an impulse to share with them that it was my birthday. These dear friends showered me with affection.  We exchanged bows and in some cases, gentle hugs.

The joy in this space is palpable on any day. Even so, on Girls' Day, there was a touch of playfulness and warmth that felt fresh. On each table lay a gorgeous and understatedly elegant flyer describing the day. The origins and traditions fascinate me. One of the customs is to place straw dolls out on a flowing body of water such as a river or ocean to free oneself of hindrances and particularly with focus on protecting children. Families receive gifts of these dolls in honor of their young daughters.

On each table in the teahouse, there were two origami "dolls" reflecting another theme of the day - partnership. I watched my friends serve, these women gliding through the cozy room clothed in earth-toned uniforms, which reminded me of those dolls and of partnership. I felt an earth-meets-water pulse accompanied by a graceful, quiet dignity flowing through me. I thought about family and about community. I contemplated sisterhood and how marvelous it feels to instinctively care for and be cared for. A gift that keeps on giving.

Sipping Genmai cha, a mix of green tea and toasted rice, the texture of time and space softened. My breath deepened and the room brightened even as the light outside continued to dim.

Simplicity and attention to intention opened a door. I wondered how to keep opening, keep flowing. How to recognize home as this body, this boundless body?

Just then, the crayon moment arrived. I reached for a napkin and wrote these words:

          I open my eyes and smile.

              Love is this moment,

            dancing with sisters on Girls' Day.

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