For twenty years I have suffered bitterly.

How many times have I gone down into Blue Dragon’s cave for you?

~ The Blue Cliff Record, Case 3, verse

This Blue Dragon seems to be following me around a lot lately. Last week, on a virtual dharma call, and before offering a guided meditation into the Blue Dragon’s cave, a friend mentioned the first time his father took him out to practice driving. Bouncing around in an old double-clutching manual pickup truck, he took a left turn too fast and ran into a ditch. It made me recall a similar experience I had with my own father, who at the time seemed omni-competent in all things hands-on. He had learned to drive a tractor and smoke by the time he was ten. Working weekends and summers on my grandfather’s 100-acre flower farm in Hayward, Ca., my grandfather would pay him $1.10 a week, and take out 90c for room and board.

So when I turned 16, I asked my father to accompany me on my first drive around the block. We took the family’s gold Pontiac station wagon (a car I would total within six months ~ not my fault, I still claim). A few blocks from home, I stopped at a “T” stop sign and then turned left, but took the turn too wide, and ran up onto the sidewalk, which was, fortunately, clear of pedestrians. He looked over at me and asked, “Are you driving, or am I?” I said I was driving, and I soon finished up my first and last driving session with my father.

During our guided meditation a week ago, the virtual group went down into the Blue Dragon’s Cave together, to see and experience all the mystery and beauty that might be there. I took my father down into the cave with me. Like most children, perhaps, I had a complicated relationship with Buck, the tough guy nom de guerre my father assumed when he left home before finishing high school. There was violence or threat of it, booze, arguing and yelling. But also love. Like the time he came to winter Boy Scout camp with me, and brought me a cup of hot chocolate when I was outside in the snow.. He, too, had a complicated relationship with his own father and would often say, “My dad and I got along great, as long as there was 100 miles between us.” Most of the time, I felt the same about Buck. But this time we were deep in the Blue Dragon’s Cave, and none of the old complaints mattered. We were just there together. And we needed each other. When we were in the cave together, another koan came to me. A poet was visiting a teacher, and the teacher asked: “I’ll die and you’ll die and we’ll end up burnt into two heaps of ashes. At that time, where will we meet?” We will meet in the Blue Dragon’s cave. And it will be nice.

Print: Mayumi Oda, Musical Offering