My friend Gary Mawyer and I were corresponding, and he mentioned tanuki, which are magical creatures in Japanese folklore. He recalled this tale from Lafcadio Hearn.
A forest hunter sees at midnight the Buddha in his astral form surrounded by a host of angels drifting through the sky toward him. He fires an arrow into the Buddha, and the scene vanishes. The next morning he finds a dead tanuki with his arrow through it. That night the tanuki appears in his dreams and asks, “How did you know?”
“I am a hunter,” he replied, “and I handle hides and meat for a living. The Buddha will never appear to me.”
One reason I was so moved by this story is that Gary Chang, whose book cover I designed, had been a hunter for several years and was still deeply affected by his hunting and killing experiences. Many of the poems in his book Nowhere near Moloka‘i describe those times. When he was in high school, he was a member of the rifle team at McKinley, our alma mater. He later became a hunting guide and a member of the group hired by the federal government to eradicate goats and pigs on national park land. He shared his stories with me and once said, "I have blood in my blood."