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A Hokyoji wedding

I spent the summer of 1995 at the ango at Hokyoji. There were around 10 of us there I think. Bruce the chiropractor lived in an RV he parked next to the kitchen. Most of us lived in tents (mine took a serious beating from the sun). Shoken lived in the house with the three Japanese guys. There was Shohaku Okumura, who led the ango and talked on Dogen’s Chiji Shingi every day, and two others–Taiken Yokoyama, who was a fantastic presence all around our midwestern Zen scene in those days, and Seishi So, who had pretty much no English. Even though we couldn’t really speak to each other Seishi and I had a deep connection. Seishi and Taiken stayed in a room downstairs in the house. I’d go after breakfast to visit them there most days just to be around them. One time I was with Seishi in the zendo, I think he was teaching me something about forms in a service. He got out his minidisc player, cranked up the volume on the phones, and sang along with Benny Goodman playing ‘Sing Sing Sing’. Later he gave me a pair of socks with toes. I still have them.

For years after that summer I had recurring dreams of trying to get back to Hokyoji. I could never figure out how. Sometimes I had to find my way through a maze in a swamp at night. Sometimes it was just over the next hill. Sometimes I got there, but it wasn’t right–I knew I wasn’t really there. I was someplace else, some kind of simulacrum. Even today I have those dreams once in a while.

So, when Kjirsten and I decided to get married I suggested we have the wedding at Hokyoji. She agreed–she’d visited a few times and she loved it too. It was kind of a crazy idea. It was convenient for exactly no one. Shohaku agreed to officiate, although he would have to fly to Japan the next day from the Lacrosse airport. His wife Yuko made the food. It was incredible and included lots of sushi, which meant lots of rice. A couple days before the wedding Yuko called me and said she needed me to get a plastic kiddie pool to make the sushi rice in. I went to Target to get one, but all I could find was a bright pink Barbie pool. We have some amazing photos of Yuko making the sushi rice in that pool on the porch of the Hokyoji kitchen.

It rained every day for a week before our wedding. We really had no contingency plans. The day before the wedding it kept raining until mid-afternoon when the guys showed up to put up a big tent. It stopped raining just like that, like flipping a switch. No more rain, just bright blue beautiful skies. The next day our friends and family put flowers in vases, rang bells, and the two of us got married. At night the band played bossa novas and everyone danced.

Brian Roessler