“Man models himself on earth,

Earth on heaven,

Heaven on the way,

And the way on that which is naturally so.”

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (Book I – XXV)

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In the house of a particular gentleman who went by the name Master Seishi lived two small mice scholars. Beneath the floorboards and in the rafters they roamed discussing and debating or engrossed in silent contemplation. The elder of the two, the Sensei, was ever leaning upon a stick. A slim, severe mouse with greying fur overlapping youthful tufts of brown, large ears that eclipsed the full moon and clothed with an unmistakable aura of authority. The young mouse, ever the companion to the Teacher was known by the moniker Gakusei. Youthful in colour and bright of eye and nose; Gakusei was a diligent student to his Master.

The house was in the style of a peaceful urban dwelling; with lotus and blossom and pond filled with glistening koi. The local cats held in abeyance by the distinct tranquility of the abode; without wanting to intrude, they chose other places to congregate and hunt. The long grasses, plum trees and ornate flowers with a singular maple tree completed the veiled gardens of Master Seishi. Among the gardens lay peace and solitude, within the house lay comfort and solace.

‘Sensei; where else in the World can anyone find tranquility such as this?’ Gakusei ever eager to begin learning asked of the Teacher one day as they walked beneath the maple; her leaves spilling softly as they stepped. With a thunderous voice and frown that should split the Earth in twain, The Teacher replied in a perishing tone:

‘In the deafening mountain avalanches and wild, vibrant cacophony of dawn. In the din of a shattering waterfall and in the mouth of a roaring lion.’

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Gakusei was bewildered by the response. They walked on in silence before reaching the plum trees that encircled the pond. Surrounded by fruit fallen free to the floor, ripe and soft, tender and juicy; they invited the mice to take their fill. After eating they stood before the water, the light mirrored the mice as they gazed on the surface. Their ripples gazed back with shimmering uncertainty.

‘Sensei; where else in the World can anyone find bounty such as this?’ Gakusei asked of the Sensei as they drank in the surroundings.

Pausing to look upon the reflection of his youthful companion, the Sensei waved his stick into thin air.

‘Where else Gakusei, but in the ethereal air that we breathe, in the splintered wasteland left following wars, it is found in the destruction wrought by gods, spirits, animals and man. Where the spirits are most mischievous and destructive in how they travel.’

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Upon the final syllable, as it drifted dissipating into the air; the Sensei strode back towards the haven of the house. For the weather looked to be turning inclement as black clouds pushed the white out of the way, scowling down on the World. The Student bowed his head and followed swiftly in his wake.

The house had an air of melancholy tinged with nostalgic sweetness. The aroma of the lavender scented polish on the wooden floors, those that shine brightly with a glow of vitality; pervaded. The paper walls decorated with reason and art inspired all who entered into silence. Not created out of awe but out of reverence; for the World was depicted on the walls and made all who looked kneel in respect. Books on broad shelves, unbound parchment in heaps, a desk of deep oak and upon it steaming jasmine tea. The house truly was a sanctuary, an asylum of spirit and mind.

‘Sensei; where else in the World can anyone find knowledge such as this?’ The inquiry was made. The Teacher stood before a depiction of a jade serpent fixed in the middle of battle between two warring clans. Leaning upon his stick he replied:

‘Gakusei; I would take the threads of every picture and scene held within this room and weave you the World; but it would miss two things that you cherish and remain with you as you walk this World.’

Walking to a depiction of a mother and child, he pointed with the gnarled staff.

‘Life and spirit dear Student. The answer to all of your questions is found within.’

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From Tall-ish Tales (Short-ish Stories)

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Words and cover: ©DJA 2016. Traditional Japanese art copyright respective owners.

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