Nipponzan Myohoji

February 15th, 2018

I stumbled out of the Empire Builder after it pulled into King Street Station in Seattle. I was loaded down with a full backpack, a heavy shoulder bag, and a sleeping bag. Now that I was in Seattle, I needed to make my way to Senji’s temple, Nipponzan Myohoji Dojo. Senji had given me instructions how to find it. First, I needed to get Pier 52, so I could get on the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Senji had told me to go down King Street to 1st Avenue. After that I got a bit confused as to my next turn. Left or right on 1st  Avenue? I wandered into a small coffee shop to seek guidance from the locals.

A petite young lady greeted me from behind the counter. She had the customary piercing and tattoos that are typical of her generation.

She looked at me closely and said, “Nice beard. In the Rastafarian tradition, a long, dreaded beard is a sign of great wisdom.”

I shook my head. “Not this time. I’m lost. How do I get to Pier 52?”

The young woman looked puzzled. Another girl, a black co-worker, helped me out. She said, “It’s not far. Go down this street a couple blocks. You should see a pedestrian overpass. That goes to the pier.”

I sighed.

The first girl asked me, “You okay?”

“I’m a little tired.”

She  said cheerily, “You want some coffee?”

“No, I am already wired. Thanks anyway.”

I walked down the street past restaurants, shops, and homeless people. I decided to head to the water. I had to find the pier there. I did.

I bought my ticket to board the ferry. I had few minutes to wait. Eventually, the ferry docked and I climbed up to the passenger deck. I dropped my bags, and I stood on the aft deck of the boat. The ferry pulled away from the dock, and I watched the Seattle skyline recede away from me. I stood in the blowing wind and saw the churning waves of Puget Sound. It was truly beautiful. I loved it. I could have stood there forever. It was glorious.

The trip across the sound was brief. Soon I was off the ferry and trudging to the taxi stop at the end of the pier on Bainbridge Island. I texted Senji. No answer. I called him. No answer. This was no good.

It’s several miles from the ferry pier in Winslow to the temple. It is walkable. Karin and I walked to the church in Winslow during our late visit to Senji. However, I wasn’t weighed down lie a pack mule that time. I got some directions from a coffee vendor, and I started hiking toward Lynwood Center Road.

I had to go through downtown Winslow on my way to the Buddhist temple. Winslow reeks of money. It reminds me a lot of Carmel: cute little shops with specialty items to be sold at extravagant prices. Most people there looked wealthy and proud of it. Then there was me with my wandering hobo schtick. Needless to say, nobody offered me a ride. I might have gotten the interior of somebody’s Mercedes dirty. I am surprised that a cop didn’t stop me for vagrancy. Winslow has that rich liberal vibe to it. Lots of cool bumper stickers and lots of cold stares. The whole place screams: “You can’t afford to be here!”

I walked up and down steep hills, enjoying the scenery and gasping for breath. I stopped at an Episcopalian church to get my bearings. An old woman with ashes on her forehead (Ash Wednesday) spoke to me with apparent reluctance. She straightened me out. I continued my forced march. Then I saw Senji’s vehicle! He drives pale blue Ford Tempo built during the last century. He honked at me and hit the brakes.

Senji opened the passenger door and said to me,

“I am so sorry! I was on the phone and I didn’t get your message! I tried to call you, but you don’t answer your phone!”

“It’s okay. You’re here. I’m here. We’re good.”  I threw my bags into the rear seat of the Tempo.

“I am so sorry, Frank.”

I grabbed his shoulder and smiled, “We’re good. Thank you.”

He got me the rest of the way home.

Senji fed me and introduced me to his young padowan, Ikaeda. Ikaeda is a novice monk from Japan. He’s in training. He’s going to my buddy on the endless walk, starting tomorrow. We’re going to chant and drum, and go to strange new places. Ikaeda speaks almost no English, and I know zero Japanese.

This will be perfect.

I had planned on chanting with Senji and Ikaeda in the evening. Then I decided to lie down and close my eyes for just a moment. Well, I made it to the chanting service this morning.

Close enough.













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