Thursday, January 19, 2012

Heart Sutra / Scott Watson

The following text was sent out by friend Scott Watson, from Sendai, Japan, to his email list.  Scott sends along all manner of material, keeping friends up to date with things lyrical, political (particularly the current nuclear situation), and biographical.  After this moving piece, he sent along some poems.  I asked his kind permission to reprint his news and to append one of the poems as I know readers of the Hut would be interested.  He graciously granted it.



My daily correspondence begins after breakfast. Today there is an email from Mark in Nevada who is on his way to West Virginia to his grandmother’s funeral. Then I listen to music on Youtube, post Love, Devotion, and Surrender on Facebook. Possibly in some connection with Mark’s grandmother I find some sutra chanting and listen. It’s the hannya shingyo (The Heart Sutra).

This evening Morie and I have dinner with a former student at a Thai restaurant downtown. We take a subway part of the way home. We part with Keiko at Asahigaoka Station and get on a bus heading for Tsurugaya. An old woman, long white hair, boards with difficulty and sits in a red upholstered bench seat designated for elderly passengers.

Not long after we are on our way the woman’s shopping bag falls onto the floor. A teenaged boy standing in the aisle looks down at the bag, looks over at the woman. He thinks she is sleeping. He picks up the bag and replaces it one the seat next to the woman who is slumped against the bench’s back. From where I’m sitting I watch the woman closely to see if she is breathing. It is hard to tell. But all of a sudden her body slightly moves with a start. I’m satisfied that she is asleep.

At a bus stop in Tsurugaya a younger woman in a white coat is moving along the aisle towards the exit. She seems concerned about the elderly woman. I imagine that the younger woman knows that this is the stop the elderly woman gets off at; she tries to wake her. The old woman does not wake up. The younger woman reports this to the bus driver.

At the same time a man who is early old age, silver hair, gets out of his seat  and goes over to the old woman. He moves her upper body down along the bench so that he can perform CPR. He seems to know what he is doing. I get up and go to help, picking the woman’s legs up in my arms and holding them so that her body is level.

He asks if there isn’t something we can put under the woman’s head. I pass him a bag with a neck and shoulder warmer Keiko has given me. This goes under her head.

I mention that the Tsurugaya Open Hospital is just up the road at the next stop and that they have an emergency room there. The man performing CPR agrees and suggests this to the bus driver, but he has his mobile phone out and is about to call for an ambulance.  I take it that this is the procedure he has been instructed to follow.

The elderly fellow continues CPR and I continue holding the woman’s legs, at times massaging her hands where the thumb joins with the pointing finger. When I first do this I notice that her hands still have some warmth but while we wait for an ambulance crew to arrive her hands become colder. Her calves too.

Between 10 and 15 minutes later an ambulance and rescue unit arrives and their crews takes over. I can’t say whether going straight to the emergency room one stop away would have saved the woman’s life. Maybe. Maybe not. She would have been able to receive treatment 10 minutes sooner.

The ambulance and rescue unit crews carry the woman off in a stretcher into one of their vehicles. Meanwhile another bus has arrived and passengers from our bus transfer to that. Our bus driver will need more time to fill out an on the spot report.

Morie and I get off at our stop. I say to Morie that this woman’s is a good death. Quick and seemingly without pain. In her sleep. I tell her about listening to The Heart Sutra this morning. She chuckles.

--- Scott Watson

in my arms
all her goodbyes
Scott Watson


the master being dead
just ordinary...
cherry blossoms
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Bart said...

This is a powerful piece of writing. What should be a sad story so gently & lovingly conveyed.

Charles Gramlich said...

The observations of a life. Amazing.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Bart, so very well put.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles, as soon as I read the piece, I knew I wanted to share Scott's observations with others.

Another big thanks to him.

Lyle Daggett said...

Yes, a deeply moving account.

And his haiku at the end, "in my arms/ all her goodbyes..."

...which took me immediately. Next month will be three years since my mom died, at 85 years, in hospice, of the effects of Alzheimer's.

The last coherent word I heard her say (about a week before she died) was my name.

Thanks for posting this.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Yes ... the poems Scott sent made the entire piece feel a haibun. And this one was just perfect.

I, too, was very moved. A sense of detachment and involvement. And compassion.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Because of some kerfuffle (Word Verification has now been disabled on this blog to solve the problem) with the comment posting, some things are not getting through. TC sent me the following via email which he tried to post:


TC said...

Death, so ordinary
Compassion, so rare

Awaiting the spring blossoms
& the cessation of pain --

no greater than any other thing --
a dear friend's

quiet chuckling


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Beautiful, Tom - thanks.