I bought this Medicine Buddha -- Bhaiṣajyaguru, भैषज्यगुरु, Medicine Master and King of Lapis Lazuli Light, Supreme Healer, My Bodhisattva -- late one afternoon in the autumn of 2004 at HempFest in Myrtle Edwards Park on the shore of Elliott Bay by Seattle Center. It's a very important icon in my home. The bottom of the lotus flower, its base, opens and prayers can be stored inside. I got it at a very fraught time in my life. Now it's a kind of beacon in the room that concentrates on healing and being in the right place. When I bought it, though, I did so somewhat carelessly, as you might expect at HempFest. In the seven years since, I've begun to see what it is, why it is here, what it might mean on my path.
Seattle is not as much a hub in my life as a screw in the next ring from the center where the spokes attach. I've lived there time and again because it is between all places, not because I am driven to live there. It is a good city, not a great one, but its vistas are of Valhalla, Olympics to Cascades, it is set amidst a Sound strung by ferries, islands by bridges, deep dark woods, colors of gray, moss, granite, mercury light, white water.
I first visited family in Seattle around 1974. My recollection of is of Pike Place Market, a labyrinth full of strange shops, great windows onto Elliott Bay, a wild, and for a child from Germany via Alaska, frightfully diverse lot of people including a fair share of Native Americans and Black Folks.
In 1990, I left Missoula for the first time, after graduating from University, to live in Seattle. This episode lasted a few seasons before I returned to Missoula for another, final year. 1990 Seattle was as you might imagine, a burgeoning city set to shoot up the pop charts in a grungy, angst-ridden, cathartic rocket. I saw so many bands, drank a lot of coffee, volunteered at an anarchist bookshop in Pike Place Market, and did a poor job at copy shop at the base of Smith Tower called Sudden Printing. before the anxiety of the First Gulf War drove me back to Montana. Not long after I left the rest of the World found out all about Seattle.
I found myself in there again in 1999 after a long period in San Francisco and a brief spell in Portland. I was trying to avoid The Bay Area's dot.com Boom by 'getting back to the garden,' as it were, but in retrospect I was only being contrary and restless. I certainly didn't escape the Irrational Exuberance of the era. I was lucky enough to be on the launch crew for Experience Music Project, Paul Allen's irrationally exuberant display of Hendrix memorabilia, a vast showcase of Pacific Northwest music history, concert hall, and Frank Gehry smashed-guitar-of-a-building at the base of the Space Needle. For one year, 1999 through 2000, I had a rock and roll job with rock and roll people. EMP opened. We had a massive party involving Beck, Eurythmics, Neko Case, Patti Smith, Bob Mould, Mudhoney. Then the contract was over. I left for Japan in October 2000 for nine months.
September 2001 I was back in Seattle again. The century began disastrously on a bright blue morning in New York City. I had gotten incredibly ill the week before and ended up in a hospital, briefly, before spending the horrible aftermath recovering in an RV I had bought and lived in as if always on The Road. It was a classically fucked up time. The period between 2001 and 2005 couldn't have been more different than my time before Japan. I had no work for a long stretch, was very ill for a long time, living with friends, sleeping on couches, visiting the food bank. I finally found a job, almost a calling, in Pike Place Market when I scored a position helping to open a cheese shop where they made wonderful cheddar as well as sold regional hand made cheeses. For two years, 2003 until I left Seattle for the final time in October 2005, I dedicated myself to Market Life, the miracle of fermentation, and getting my proverbial shit together. After a life-changing trip to France in the Summer of 2005, I came back to the States determined to go back to San Francisco for good. I went to the HempFest just before I left Seattle.
A Bodhisattva is a wise being whose path is to help others escape samsara, the cycles of birth, life, death, rebirth, and reincarnation so that they may attain Nirvana.
Namo bhagavate bhaiṣajyaguru vaidūryaprabharājāya tathāgatāya arhate samyaksambuddhāya tadyathā: oṃ bhaiṣajye bhaiṣajye bhaiṣajya-samudgate svāhā.