Friday, August 6, 2010

Another Chance

Thirty years ago, I launched into Green Lake with the Seattle Canoe Club. From that beginning I paddled the canoe leg of Bellingham Ski to Sea, circumnavigated Baja, raced the 2,348-mile length of the Mississippi, expeditioned 21,000 miles from the Arctic Ocean to Cape Horn and miles between adventures. Tonight, I returned to Green Lake and launched a more significant journey. Kathy Garner invited and drove me to "From Hiroshima to Hope." The evening program included Silent Space for Reflection, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Maryam Borghey, National Iranian-American Council, American Indian Storytelling, Seattle Kokon Taiko, Commission for Multicultural Ministries, Japanese Dance, youth poetry, and Mona Akmal, Dreamfly Projects. We made lanterns and participated in the Toro Nagashi. Quoting from the program; "The lantern floating ceremony performed annual at this event is an adaption of an ancient Japanese Buddhist ritual, the Toro Nagashi, in which lanterns representing the souls of the dead are floated out to sea and prayers are offered that the souls may rest in peace. The ceremony is reenacted each year at this time, in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and in many cities throughout the world, in remembrance of the victims of the atomic bombings. The lanterns have come to represent not only those victims but also those who have died in violent conflict anywhere and have become symbols of our commitment to making a more peaceful world." The calligraphers of Beikokuk Shodo Kenkyukai and members of the Gurudwara Singh Sabha of Washington helped to personalize the lanterns with word of remembrance and hope.
When Kathy invited me, I knew that I wanted to go because my father was a P.T. boat captain in World War II. He impressed upon me that atomic bombs are wrong. He bought books about the crime of bombing Hiroshima and gave one to each of his children. I wanted to go to the ceremony because of what my dad taught me and for his memory. Steve went and Shammond too. Kathy brought her new tenant, Harley, a landscape architect student from Taiwan. We made lanterns with all the other people gathered on the shore of Green Lake.
When it got dark, during the procession of lanterns to the lake, I heard drumming, flute, dulcimer. Walking next to me was a Buddhist in orange drape. Others were chanting. I started singing "Silent Night." There was no protest in my singing nor sense of competition. I experienced permission and invitation in the diversity of the gathered community. The lantern ceremony reminded me of a Christmas Eve candlelight service where the congregation sings Silent Night and the electric lights in the church are turned off while each person present holds a candle. The light is passed and candles lit from the Christ candle on the communion table. The Toro Nagashi was outside at the lake with crowds walking toward the water, each carrying the light. We were all walking to launch. I got to the break wall and found that others were handing their lantern to a people knee deep in water assisting with launch. I wanted to set my lantern in the water myself so I walked along the lake shore until I found a gentle slope. Though it was dark, people on shore recognized my quest, reaching their hands to help, showing me where I could step without falling. "Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright." My lantern touched the water. I let go of the lantern's wooden base. My light set too near the shore reeds. I needed a stick to push it further. "Round yon virgin, mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild...." Close by a boat with oars was resting. I borrowed one oar. Now I had a familiar tool. I returned to the water's edge to gently push my lantern into deeper water. "Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace." The lanterns were bobbing. Each, a wooden base with candle in the center. Four corner poles held the white velum paper in a square so that the black ink drawings and markings were vivid banners. A mainstream of lanterns floated with peace messages. I stood on shore holding an oar straight up and watching my light join the parade.

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