Endo descended into the grove of bamboo, yellow and gold slashes on the white landscape, as he followed the marks in the snow. They seemed to appear at the brook, with no point of origin. He thought it very strange. The way the finch looked at him...was he a buddha? Hijo taught the monks never to shun the lessons of sentient beings, in whatever form. Of course he believed in reincarnation, and so the idea that a being had returned (albeit in animal form) to earth to teach humanity what it could not teach itself was perfectly acceptable, though he did not understand it. Who could understand such things?
He passed small piles of scat, splintered shoots...he even surprised a small squirrel napping. Endo smiled. He recalled the days when he and Kichijiro would sneak off to the meadows during work detail to nap in midday, always returning in turn for zazen. They would share secret smiles during lecture. How happy he was to be a monk, and how he loved his brothers.
At the bottom of the grove, the bamboo thinned, and led out into a meadow. Endo could see the red clay roof of the monastery far in the distance, the light of midday illuminating the shoji walls. The sky was radiant, and clouds lazily drifted across the blue abyss. As he looked down, the tracks he was following appeared to have stopped. When he looked up, he saw suddenly the swan, the woman of his dreams. She wore the same white silk kimono, and her arms were extended, as if they were wings. He could not believe his eyes. In fact, he was convinced he was still dreaming, that he had never woken up. The woman was consumed by light.
She spoke no words, nor did she move. But Endo entered into her in the same way he had in his dream...her eyes collected him. There was no burning desire. In fact, he felt as if he had no body with which to desire at all. As the gaze of the woman intensified, he felt himself being lifted up; yes, as if he were flying. Never did his eyes wander from hers. And then, as she closed her eyes, Endo felt himself floating, then falling, cloaked in darkness. He felt the edge of an abyss, the empty air, and knew he was not far from annihilation.