After a Cherry Blossom



After a Cherry Blossom




The alders whispered through amber leaves, reverent morning blessings borne upon the succulent, breathwork of predawn sky. Several of the eldest generations of tree people released their morning prayers on the flags of their limbs. Soft curls of gold and auburn fluttered meditatively downward to soften their feathery weight onto the floor of the grove

Firm, cool surfaces of artfully placed flagstones, smoothed and worn by the feet of fathers, mothers, grandmothers and great-grandfathers encouraged Kane’s sandaled feet. Each step for him was an effort, his limbs overworked and un-pampered for nearly four decades. But Kane knew the inexorable pull toward this morning’s ritual and relished it with every ounce of life in his aching branches. The threads that had bound him to his eldest progeny from the moment of her gushing birth intertwined anew within his aging chest, welling up passion that compelled his ripened feet to ensure his body would be fully present for her on her auspicious and sacred day.

For the entire hamlet of survivors’ descendants it was a momentous day, the day when one of their own promise arose to take her place among the Budokan, the protectors and guardians of the peace in this small, carefully dressed corner of the re-emergent world. Kane would have risen from his very deathbed for this day, and it almost was the aging warrior’s deathbed from which he’d compelled and commanded his body to journey from the small modest home at the mouth of the narrow valley leading up to the family dojo placed gently in the grove of alder and cherry.

As his feet shuffled and weighed on the generous flagstones toward the small dojo his great-grandmother and father built with their own hands from the rubble of a ruined world, a late cherry blossom dropped with its morning prayer into the air above his head. The blossom followed him for several slow, shuffling paces before finding a resting place on the man’s stooped left shoulder. The soft white and red-veined petals slipped under the hem of his do-gi’s quilted collar, curling under it to hold on and join the old man on his journey.

He reached the dojo’s redwood steps and rested a moment, closing his eyes to listen to the sound of the brook in her final days before slipping beneath the surface of the earth where the winter rains would soon replenish her body and resurrect her to the surface. She played and gamboled through carefully placed stones and boulders, sliding with a hushed whisper beneath the layer of alder leaves and browning cherry blossoms. Her voice fell on Kane’s aching shoulders and around his head like a wrap against a winter chill. 

He nodded, agreeing with her lament that such pain and aging as his was too soon in coming. But Kane was grateful for the fulfillment of his years. Most Budoka didn’t live beyond their early thirties; such was the residual legacy of a ruined world and a civilization forged upon the fossilized blood of ancient giants.

His eyes opened as his ears detected the soft whisper of bare feet on tatami. He could feel her body, her power and grace in the space ahead of him.  A sob suddenly rose up into his throat, and he discreetly caught it in time, releasing it in a slow, measured, melancholy breath. 

So like her mother in every way… The whisper of her feet on the rice straw mats prompted his heart’s ageless memory.

Keeping his head lowered, Kane stepped up onto the aged redwood sill of the dojo’s entrance. There was silence before him as he bowed to the dojo’s space, space that had trained and taught, broken and humbled generations of Budokan who shared Kane’s genes. The dojo’s four walls were perfectly aligned to the four directions. The shoji-screen doors slid aside to open all four walls to the ambiance of the grove, a small oasis in devastated coastal oak savannah, recovering from the blasting heat and savagery of random El Niños that tore up the coastal ranges from the tropics. To Kane’s reassured soul, the grove’s legacy was such that it was now merely one of hundreds of hamlets modeled on his ancestors’ creativity now occupying niches in the ruddy oaken hills of the Central Coast.

He removed his yucca sandals and inhaled the sage burning in the abalone shell upon the shrine’s altar that sat in the north of the dojo, a smile curling the corners of his mouth at her tender gesture, a most honorable recognition of his sober position as her father. As Budokan, she was not obligated to burn sage for him, and he welcomed her affectionate memorial.

His knees softened as he moved onto the tatami and bent forward, placing his hands with practiced discipline and precision, lowering his face to the mat and extending the tops of his feet behind him, feeling the rice and bamboo surface of the mat depress gently beneath his aching weight. He faced the north wall, where the shrine held a charcoal drawing on handmade rice paper of O Sensei situated above the swords of his great-grandmother. He thanked the Founder for his Way and teachings, and his ancestor for keeping the Founder’s teachings from the ruin of humanity for the survivors and their descendants. As in all living things, the pathway from the past was drawn into the grove and into the dojo space fully born into the present moment, from which the future waited to erupt. 

And into the future I emerge… he breathed as he straightened and lifted his eyes at last to take in the radiance of his eldest daughter.

She knelt in formal seiza for him, facing the eastern wall where he had entered the dojo. On her right, her short and long swords had been carefully placed. Her perfectly pressed hakama spread out on the tatami away from her legs, her clean white gi jacket bearing the embroidered symbol of their family dojo, the cherry blossom. Her deep copper hair was carefully pulled up off her strong shoulders with neat leather cordage. Her clear, piercing gray-blue eyes had a faraway look, that look of one who is between the worlds, both here and not here, but fully present, fully aware. Only her lips showed the burden of her obligation to the old man as he lowered his hands to the mat.

Be strong, my flower. He directed his thoughts toward her, thinking he detected a catch in her breath, a subtle movement of her upper lip, when she returned the formal bow.

They straightened together, elbows close to their torsos in readiness, hands resting lightly on the tops of their thighs, their bodies fully relaxed. Their bellies, however, were tightened beneath the knotted obi.

Their eyes should not have met, but they did then, and a flicker of hesitation passed from child to father and father to child. He should not have spoken, but his lips formed the words before he could stop himself.

“Not yet.”

Her voice, silken on the edges the way he remembered her mother’s voice, filled the space formed by his mouth.

Kane nodded, understanding as the corner of his lips slipped upward, making her cheeks cloud softly.

Just like your mother.

With sudden liveliness, the old man rose up onto his heels and stepped forward into a hanmi stance, facing his offspring, who simultaneously matched his movement. She moved slightly slower to honor her former sensei and father.

She moved first. In an explosion of controlled force, her left hand sliced upwards from her waist; her weight sprang forward with savage intent. He smiled as he observed her perfect timing, her perfect positioning and balance.  In his distraction, he almost mistimed his own responsive motion. His hands flowed through the practiced circular arc, splitting the air, meeting the energy of her arm and her wrist as he slipped aside to avoid the full force of her well-placed strike.

Their bodies spun and whirled around each other across the mats, each throw and pin sending young and old frames across the clean surface, each nagé throw so powerful, the air crackled and sang while the warriors’ garb snapped and flowed in the turning, spinning paths. An euphoric hour passed as the sun rose toward the rim of the world at the valley opening and filled the alder and cherry grove with deep golden hues and warmth that evaporated the collected mists from the night before.  A whirlwind spilled from the open walls of the tiny dojo in every direction as father and daughter practiced together for the last time. 

When they stopped, Kane’s body no longer ached, though his breath came with more effort than hers. The elder Budoka knelt across from his beloved child and smiled so broadly, tears brimmed in his illuminated eyes. He bowed to the new Budokan before him

Their eyes met again as they straightened, a momentary breach of tradition.

This time there was no hesitation. He inhaled deeply as he straightened his rejuvenated back, carefully unfastened his obi and removed his jacket.  He folded it carefully and wrapped it in the worn obi, blackened from decades of practice and training.  He wore a silk kimono specially commissioned from his nephew for this moment.  He untied the delicate laces and waited in seiza for his daughter as she placed the short sword of her great-great-grandmother before him. 

Kane bowed reverently before accepting the sword of his ancestor.  After taking it in his hand, he bowed once more to the shrine to the north, then turned to face the east.  He moved swiftly forward in three, crisp knee-walk steps to the edge of the mat, turned and bowed to the space for a final time.  He turned back to the emergent dawn, and the Budokan moved into position behind him.

The grove came alive in that very moment, bringing a tear of joy to Kane’s eye.

He faced the sunrise at hand, the redwood hard beneath his softened knees.

He was ready; he knew the world was being restored, the promise of his ancestors intact, the future secured through his very own offspring. His heart was calm, and his hands felt sure as he lifted the short sword. He inhaled sharply as he pulled the honed steel blade from the lacquered sheath. He lifted his eyes to the edge of the grove below him. 

In the practiced, but never before fulfilled circular path, specially reserved for this very moment in his long, beautiful life, Kane turned the razor sharp blade onto the powerful inward conduit toward the very center of his Ki power. The smaller star of Be-ing flashed in the explosion of the ancient star that leapt finally into view, bathing the father’s face with light and heat, and he fulfilled his concluding strike. In the sameness of that euphoric and illuminated moment, the father felt his child’s sure feet on the wood behind and to one side of him, her lifeforce supporting him buoyantly, when her hands skillfully guided her blade to cast him upon the final path.


A deepened silence lay in soft layers of breath on the forest floor as old merged with young; life begot death, and death emancipated life to flourish upon the final breath that lifted the prayerful cherry blossom aloft from the rim of the dojo into the damp air of a new day.


 Christopher CK Page


Christopher “CK” Page wrangled a creative writing degree from an unsuspecting Californian university, authored & published speculative fiction stories, along with several novels, among other shenanigans. CK writes from overpopulated, under-watered California with a brilliant Mate and some Beasts (adorable knuckleheads of felus domesticus)—there are some grown-up Offspring somewhere—“Call yer father!”  

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  1. The spiritual significance of the cherry blossom is so manifest here.

  2. "And into the future I emerge…" Cool.

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