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the beautiful exception


Cloudlessly summer, I was sketching on my eisel in the park when I noticed him having sat across the field from me, as if to dare me to include him in what I was drawing. It broke a long list of cultural taboos for Sato to find me and claim me as his. Matter-of-factly, he said to me, "I know what you are - and what you need."

Being a bearded football player sized farm boy, I stood out already, but in his service, locals would know that I was his by the traditional brand at the base of my neck and the learned position behind him in my steps. He had many names for me, i'm not sure he even knows or chooses to remember what I was named before I was his. I became Reigai, the beautiful exception.

"To produce colorfast, yellow cloth, the cloth is first dipped into yellow dye that has been formulated to match the nature of the cloth, and then held in the sun to be bleached away. The process is repeated, and each time the cloth retains more of the yellow pigment that gives it its color. It serves no purpose to hold the cloth in the dye for extra time. There is no advantage to bleaching the cloth until the sun begins to rot its fiber. Into the dye, then into the sun, then into the dye, again, and back into the light of day, until the reality of the sun repeats its part of process. There are no short cuts, it all works as it must to produce the final result."

The "letting go" experience is like sitting on a branch, and sawing that branch away from the trunk of the tree. A reasonable man will do that only if he knows that something or someone is going to protect him from the fall. A branded Shoyū shite iru dips himself into the dye of the path forward until it becomes as natural as breath itself. You step out of your quarters, slip on the zori and begin another day of service and devotion.

"There are no short cuts, it all works as it must to produce the final result."