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Broken Beautiful Brush Strokes

Above: My Rakusu- Bottom, 2008 NOZT-black, Top 2010 Austin Zen Center, dark blue

I have the day off to pursue calligraphy with Kaz Tanahashi. This guy is amazing! Witty as he is talented, when asked how he gets around so well, he said, "Every time I pee, I drink one whole glass of water."

I've known Kaz through his translation work on Dogen. His translations are my favorite. I had some compensation time building up here at Green Gulch and admitted to the crew head my gaining idea: one day during the Kaz workshop.

He is a very thorough teacher. The handout he provided has some very helpful links to some east Asian calligraphy sources and class is about learning a few kanji and the way they appear in traditional, semi-cursive, and cursive forms. He also details the brush techniques, stroke order, and even makes time for each student to come up and let him "hold your hand" while he moves you through the character. If you ever have the chance to work with Kaz, jump at it- the pace is relaxed, and the teaching solid.

All of a sudden, I very much appreciate my teachers work on the back of my Rakusu- I had no idea!

Lovely day to be rained in. Great to hear the water table rise!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Previous comment was just about an HTML issue, resolved. Thanks for the Kaz vignette. Inspired me to get back out my copy of the Oriental Painting Course last night, which I haven't cracked in over a decade. Have seen the Kaz courses listed at Upaya and always wanted to go. I think he was the one who helped create the giant rainbow brush they used on the floor of their hall?

  3. Really rewarding practice for a tired body and weary mind. I think I'll add it to the end of my day, as I'm too tired to read, write, or work out...

    I'm not sure about their floor, but I've always wanted to go to upaya, also. Tassajara offers an annual week long retreat with Kaz in the summer. There is also an intensive in San Fran. Rather costly, but I think worth it.

    I'm registered for a class in San Rafael at great price on the 21st of April. I just ordered supplies (have no idea when I'll get to town).

    Really inspired by this practice- these characters mean at least 3 things each and then you look at the picture and- what?! It doesn't feel like learning kanji, it feels more like participating in just one more finger pointing at the ineffable. Also, while I've worked with my hands as a mason and a carpenters helper, I've never thought of myself as artistic, and here I am, brush in hand...amazing feeling!

    Vulnerable, too. I kept thinking, "You know, I can cut a straight line down 100 yards of concrete with a 60 pound Sthil saw" as struggled to make the brush move vertically or to drop a dew drop here and there. Relevant and not so relevant.

    The elderly women who surrounded me seemed amused at my presence, urged me to smile, that smiling was integral to this process...Mostly, I chew on my lip!

  4. Wonderful--very excited for you on this journey.

    I've always tried to encourage people to see themselves as creators. The whole separation of roles is so harmful. People say "Oh I can't even draw a straight line" and I say "Great! There are almost no straight lines in nature, you should do fine."

    Kinda stunning, you may know I'm fond of Enku, I just found out Kaz did a book on him:


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