Monday, December 04, 2017
It sits on my bookshelf just opposite the door of my home office (aka "man cave"). To many, it would seem like just an ordinary piece of furniture, although I doubt you can find one at IKEA (not even here in Japan). The two drawers are functional and meant to hold items like sword-cleaning kits, obi and the like. The pulls are little lions with sparkling stones for eyes.
In fact, this sword rack is very special, and extremely important to me. I think, apart from my wedding ring it might be the most sentimental thing I own (followed very closely by my KM Barong, shown in the lower slot of the rack).
I got this sword rack as a Christmas present from a fellow student at the time, Mark Tome, back in 1985 or so. Mark studied Ninjitsu with me in suburban Chicago. He was everything I was not - tall, lithe, limber and quiet. He had a background in Taekwondo and naturally took to the kicking elements of our art, just as he naturally felt at ease with the sword, almost like he had been born to it.
Other students came and went, but Mark was a constant part of our small inner circle at the school, rising steadily through the ranks.
Mark lived on the far south side of Chicago, near the Indiana border. Many nights he would drive out to the West suburbs to pick me up so we could go to class together, dropping me off after before heading back home. Long drives in his little car with no heater or air conditioning, with a lot of time to discuss Life, martial arts, and all our other hopes and dreams.
Mark learned woodworking from his father, and had great talent in other crafts as well. One year he made these for each of us, some stained or varnished in brown, some in black lacquer and mine, the only one in blonde. We were all simply stunned that he could make not just one of these beautiful pieces - but one for each of us.
For many years it was always directly at the head of my bed wherever I was, Daisho on it with handles in easy reach. The third slot usually held a Jo. When I left the US for Japan permanently in 1993 the stand was the only piece of furniture I kept. I sold or donated everything else.
This stand has been with me from Chicago to Des Moines; to Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Singapore, and now here in Yokohama. For the past 30+ years it has gone with me through all my adventures, a constant companion and reminder of those training sessions in Chicago when we were all younger and I dreamed of what a life in Japan might be like.
I wonder where the other stands are and what happened to them.
Have they had adventures like mine?
Mark, if you're out there, I want you to know that your gift has never been forgotten. It may have been ordinary to you, but it has always been precious to me.