Plum Blossom Snow
The present snowstorm of
White plum blossoms
Blinds me to sorrow.
They cascade over cheeks
Like perfumed, satin tears
Too warm with the promise of life
To chill flesh.
(poem by Jane Kohut-Bartels, copyrighted, 2008)
It has taken me 8 years to finish this long novel. It is a time warp, from 21th century Japan to late 16th century Japan. Mari is a 32 year old Japanese/American, in Kyoto with her husband Steven, a computer consultant. For the majority of the novel, Mari has been snatched by a magical kimono, appearing in feudal Japan where she meets Lord Mori, a powerful daimyo in North Japan…around Akito, the Gassan (Moon) Mountain.
The ending didn’t come to me easily, until last night. Fighting with stupid Geeksquad, I got little sleep, and when I did awake, the next chapter, the ending …was in my mouth.
I am grateful. I have a couple of long novels floating around, mostly unfinished but at that stage where it would take only a couple of months to do so. So whatever propelled me into the ending (of which this next to last chapter isn’t….) I am grateful. Even to stupid Geeksquad. Who knows where inspiration comes from?
The character Lord Fudo is obviously a Tengu….a mystical being, usually birdlike who can transform themselves into (mostly) human appearance. In the novel, he is called Lord Yuki…who is also a Yamabushi.
The Kimono, EARTHQUAKE
Mari was dreaming of snow. Snow was falling on her face, but somewhere in her mind she knew it was spring, and now too far from winter. She woke up, cold, as Lord Mori had turned in the night from her, and had taken all the quilts.
She sat up, pulling her thin kimonos around her. The dawn’s light hardly infused the bay before them, only thin tendrils of light skimmed the sky above the distant mountains.
Something was wrong. It wasn’t snow, but cherry blossoms. They covered the ground. There was a humming beneath the soil and Mari placed her hands firmly on the ground, feeling the vibrations. She wondered why Lord Mori did not awake.
Mari stood to get a better look at the bay, but even standing was difficult. She felt drunk, unstable on her feet. Something was wrong, and the water before her looked as if something was punching beneath with a million fists, causing it to roil and churn.
Lord Mori woke up with a start, sat up and for the first time, Mari saw fear on his face.
“Do not try to stand, throw off your geta and run”, he whispered.
He grabbed her hand and at a crouch, they ran up the hill towards the others, Mari gathering her robes above her knees. They were knocked to the ground with the tremors of the earthquake a number of times, and each time Lord Mori covered her with his body.
They could hear screams and shouts in the distance. Nothing seemed real to Mari, and those beautiful cherry trees were uprooted and fallen in a jumble against each other. Lord Mori saw Lord Nyo scrambling towards him and shouted for him to try to get back to town and get their horses. They must ride to Gassan or get as high as possible. They were in the lowlands and following an earthquake could come the feared tsunami.
A small fire had started with a brazier turning over on some quilts. Lord Mori stamped it out, and then looked for survivors. Lady Nyo and her servants were lying under some branches of a fallen cherry tree, and Lord Mori and some of the men lifted the tree to pull them out. Lady Nyo had blood streaming down her face mixed with soil, but other than a flesh wound, she would survive. Some others were not so lucky. A few servants from the inn were buried by a few fallen trees, or laid out like they were just asleep on the soil. Lord Mori’s men dragged them out and laid them together on the ground. Someone covered them with the half-burnt quilts.
Mari scrambled to where Lady Nyo was sitting against a half-fallen tree and with her kimono sleeve, wiped the blood from her face. Why didn’t Lord Nyo free his wife first before he obeyed orders from Lord Mori to bring their horses? Clearly the rules of this century, and this country were very different than her own. She would hope that Steven would have attended to her first, but then again, this was a very different culture.
“I am fine, don’t worry about me, please”, whispered Lady Nyo. Mari could see that she had suffered shock and her pale face showed the effects of this trauma.
“Is my Lord Nyo alive?” Mari nodded her head, and told her that Lord Mori ordered him to bring the horses from the town.
Lady Nyo looked doubtful. “Surely the town has suffered what we have here. The horses might have bolted and he will not find them.”
“We can only hope he does. Lord Mori wants us all to ride to Gassan Mountain. He says the higher we are the safer we will be.”
Suddenly a man appeared over them. Mari looked up startled. It was Lord Yoki.
“Do not fear, my ladies”, he said bowing. “Lord Mori is right. The higher we get the better our chances of surviving will be.”
Another tremor, this one lasting only a few seconds, but Mari screamed in fear. Lord Yoki laid his hand on her shoulder to steady her. Mari buried her face in his robes. Either he had very hairy legs or she was feeling feathers through his clothing. In any case, she was glad he was there. Lord Mori was off directing the men, gathering what they could that would be useful for their flight to Gassan Mountain. He was not around to comfort a hysterical woman.
She continued to wipe the blood from the face of Lady Nyo, using the sleeve of her kimono. Lady Nyo was chanting something in a low voice. Mari thought she was praying.
Suddenly, Lord Mori was bending over her and he pulled her to her feet, leading her away from the others.
He put his arm around her waist and drew her to him.
“You must leave. If you stay, you will die.”
“Yes. I will die with you.”
Lord Mori grimaced and put his hand around her neck, close to her chin, bending her head back. He increased his hand’s pressure on either side of her jaw and the last thing Mari saw was his eyes staring at her, two liquid black pools to drown in.