In January, 2018, our Beloved, Inspiring, Revolutionary, Misao Jo left us, ten days into the New Year. She was 104 years old. Misao-sensei enjoyed one last holiday time of rest and preparation for the New Year with her family, and then on the tenth day of that new year, she moved beyond.
Misao was so many things to so many people. When I met her she wasn’t really verbal anymore. But the energy of who she was/who she is, could be felt without words. She would take interest in our woven cloth. She would look at it and touch it and nod her head. The cloth. It was the common language through which we would connect. We would sit next to her by the warmth of the fire on cool autumn mornings as she drank her hot chocolate. I would wish her good morning, or ohayou gozaimasu and repeatedly thank her, in words and in thought transmission for all that she was, and has done, for myself and for countless others.
I brought Trader Joe’s maple leaf cookies for her on my past two trips to Japan and she devoured them. She never lost her sense of taste or desire for food. She had sake every night with dinner and anago (eel.) These were but a few of her elixirs to long life, as well as SAORI weaving, of course!
She was 104 years old and her inimitable spirit was strong, even if she did not weigh much and became like a sparrow in her diminishing stature. Her spirit and essence were like that of an eagle. One could sense that aspect of who she was, even though she was not actively teaching any more. Her body of teachings through videos and writings are voluminous. Not so mention her woven cloth, her calligraphy work and her documented history through various media interviews and stories written about her.
I wished so much to have been able to experience (and comprehend) her teachings when she was still vital in all capacities. If I could wiggle my nose, ‘Bewitched’ style and could be fully literate in Japanese, as would be my number one wish, I would read and listen to her extensive volumes of teachings and talks, and of course, weave, always weave. Weaving is the gateway to access this understanding to ourselves.
But, being that Misao sensei did not speak English, and my Japanese proficiency is rather limited to knowing days of the week, saying how delicious a food was, thanking someone for a meal, excusing myself for leaving a setting before others, telling someone to be careful, etc… this limited knowledge of Nihongo does not extend to philosophy and prose, which Misao so eloquently shared with her students. We non-Japanese speakers must be content with reading the few English translations that are available as books and watching a subtitled DVD, which gives a sense of her essence, her command and her passion.
That passion! How life changing this has been. For myself and for so many others…It becomes a drug, and elixir that once drunk from that well, cannot be quelled. We must have more. We must share it. We must weave. We share with friends. We make clothing from our woven cloth which expresses our individuality, There is only one like us. “Each person is like a flower, each one beautiful, each unique”. It becomes a never-ending journey that fulfills ourselves, our souls, our life. Gives our life meaning. Helps us to connect with and understand our soul’s purpose. This thing that we cannot name, but we can. It is SAORI. It is Misao sensei. She gave us this. She planted the seed in us, through non-verbal transmission, it reaches us through her sons, her family, through her passion which was endless and vibrant and beyond creativity, but the essence of life itself. She gave us this. Or, we had it already, buried deep within, but she reminded us of it. She gave us the tools to draw it out, to invite it to blossom, to bloom, to expand, for us to become our fullest selves. She did this and gave us this way, to not judge ourselves, to allow this expression to be called forth.
This gift, this flowering, this encouragement and way of being. Utterly life changing for so so many.
I wrote in an earlier post that Misao Jo changed so many lives with her one life. She did. It is extraordinary. Her intention was to plant the seeds and have SAORI spread all over the world, that we may all weave freely, without thought or intention, just to let it emerge. And this is happening. It has happened. And it will continue to grow and transform more and more people’s lives.
Misao said once that she was a miner, digging out rocks from the earth. And we were the rocks. And that by understanding the philosophy and weaving in this way we would become a radiant gemstone. Polishing ourselves through weaving. Our true self. Our essence, without judgement.
I have no real words to describe how much the life and work of Misao Jo has impacted my life. It has been life changing, liberating, ecstatic, truly freeing. And I know that it does the same for every other person for whom SAORI has touched. It does that. It is my full intention and life work to continue to share and spread her word.
I forgot to mention JOY. This is the essence of SAORI weaving. To find one’s essence is to be joyful, to embrace life, to affirm our presence here in this very topsy turvy world. We have our individuality and our connection with others in the collective to affirm our reason for being. And by accessing that joyful creativity, channeling that energy, we become that. We can become joy itself.
I have gratitude, eternally, for the sheer luck (or grace), that I somehow came upon SAORI. And that is has changed my life in so many ways. And I hear the same thing from so many others for whom this has done the very same.
Thank you Misao. You may be gone in body, but we vow to continue your work and continue to share the seeds of your vision and all that you gave us will continue to bloom, everlasting. Thank you for being. Thank you for having been such an amazing inspiration for all of us.
Light speed to you, dear sensei. Our hearts are heavy with your leaving, but your body of work continues.
January 15, 2018
Los Angeles, California