With a heavy heart, we send off Genko Kathy Blackman with prayers, candles and incense. Another chajin we will be missing from our life. She was an inspiration to many as she walked her talk and lived a live full of Zen and tea. She was also funny, a good writer, and widely traveled. I studied tea with her in Seattle for a few years before I moved to Portland, but we often kept in touch. We spent time together in Japan on the 25th anniversary event for the Seattle Branch. We would meet at tea events, or sometimes when I visited Seattle to have dinner or just get together. She was always an inspiration to me in the graceful way that she navigated relationships and moved through life.
When she gave away her dogu collection, I was fortunate to receive several pieces from her and whenever I use them, I feel her presence in the tea room with me. There was some kaiseki dogu that we purchased together that was absolutely her taste and became mine as well.
Even though she prepared us well for the end, it still is a shock. Before she passed, her last project was 100 days of haiku illustrated with photographs she took of her many travels, in her garden, or what ever caught her artistic eye. She also included many charming sketches she drew. A couple of weeks ago, I received a book from her titled, “Stardust is Everywhere, 100 days of haiku.” with all the haiku and pictures, and I began to read them one a night, as I hoped she would hang on for 100 more days.
I have a strong tie to Genko as she was the one who helped Genki Takabayashi Roshi name my tea room, Issoan. The first iteration was in Bellevue Washington. I had a seki biraki in March of 2002 and Genko came to dedicate it with an incense offering and chant an incense poem composed by Roshi.
Shofu haru o hakonde
Konnichi kaiseki su Isso-an
Dare ka shiru ichiwan kenkon ni mitsu
Komen no mizudori
Yuyu to shite iku
Spring! Pine wind blows,
Bringing the fragrance of plum flowers.
Today is the opening of Isso-an
Who knows one bowl of tea?
Lake Washington’s water birds skim the
waves with boundless ease.
Genko, may the pine wind blow the fragrance of plum to you, while you watch the water birds skim the waves, and drink many bowls of tea in your well earned rest.