Maturity brings reflection, a profound look at our past, a desire to understand our legacy and knowledge of where we have come from. As we in the natural products industry face new challenges, such as Wall Street's fickle embrace; that double-digit growth and consumer acceptance are not guaranteed; and intricate national and global regulatory, legal and trade issues, it is more important than ever to reflect on those who came before us and their convictions that helped get us where we are today.
These natural health pioneers were clear in purpose. They developed products to address personal health issues, either their own or their family's. They held fast to their new ideas, often in the face of social ridicule, government persecution and imprisonment. They weren't afraid to distinguish themselves from the mainstream and forge a separate social and economic path. People shaped by personal struggle with health issues that were compounded by commercial foods and unresolved by allopathic medicine tutored many of our core customers.
Today, the industry finds itself at a crossroads. Who are our real customers? Are they true natural health seekers or trend-driven consumers? Is the uniqueness of our products and insights being lost in the blur of marketing and mass distribution?
We lose our perspective on both positive and negative stories reported in the mainstream media. We forget that, despite media, government and scientific skepticism, this industry has been the driver of today's health movement. Consider that ideas and products once scorned and considered unthinkable have been vindicated, accepted and finally become the norm. For example, just 75 years ago there was not even a word to describe vitamins, but today the U.S. vitamin/dietary supplements industry is worth $5.85 billion and more than 60 percent of Americans use these products. Also, this industry fought for more than 60 years to change a fundamental belief of food scientists from the importance of how much you eat to the nutritional qualities of what you eat—that food is medicine and has therapeutic value.
If we don't understand our heritage, we cannot pass it on. Without grounding in tradition, we become susceptible to the "big idea" of the day. We urgently need to look back in order to clarify our direction. We need to recall our debt to those who pioneered for us so those seeking better health can find the quality information, products and services envisioned by the industry's founders.
Those last summer days she sat in a wheelchair patiently waiting to die. A black kimono patterned with deep-red flowers that evoked somber elegance wrapped her like a shroud. The cervical cancer diagnosed eight years earlier was healed, but aggressive radiation treatments had reduced her tiny body to little more than a bent reed. "I am happy I had the cancer," she said, "because now I understand what other people go through." Seen in profile, her face appeared alarmingly skeletal, as if the skin were vanishing from the forehead, cheeks and jaw. Yet, inside the hollows of her eyes there was no extinguishing the intelligence, even impishness, she had drawn on the last 50 years. Now, in full faith reincarnation would deliver her to a next life, she spent the few days left to her peering peacefully through a window at white clouds passing over New England, west to east. Her thoughts would return to Japan where, years earlier as a young elementary school instructor deathly sick with pleurisy and depression, a scene framed by another window had moved her to poetry:
In pain and sorrow, I am watching their wet sneakers, As my pupils from Maki leave. They keep turning back to wave goodbye, Disappearing along the snowy road.
The poem was composed while her homeland lay devastated after World War II. When Aveline Kushi had at last recovered from her sickness and melancholy, she decided her life's work would now be nothing less than bringing about world peace. The way to accomplish her dream, she believed, began not in the high courts of national governments, but in kitchens where brown rice cooked. And so, in concert with her husband, Michio, this woman who wasn't even 5 feet tall was to launch the macrobiotics movement in the United States (which changed the way many Americans thought about diet, health and longevity); open the first natural foods store here; and influence a new set of pupils who became key figures in what is now the $32 billion natural products industry. In 1999, she and Michio were recognized for their lifelong contributions, when the Smithsonian Institution organized the Kushi Collection containing their artifacts and writings. On July 3, 2001, Aveline died of heart failure at home in Brookline, Mass. She was 78 years old.
"I would look back on the day I left home to study macrobiotics as the turning point in my life," Aveline says in her autobiography Aveline: The Life and Dream of the Woman Behind Macrobiotics Today (commendably written with Alex Jack, Japan Publications Inc., 1988). The date was Feb. 2, 1950, when Tomoko Yokoyama left her home village of Yokota, deep in a green valley between steep mountains where local myth said an eight-headed dragon once lurked. She traveled by train to Tokyo. Her goal was to meet the iconoclastic George Ohsawa, who ran the World Government Association and taught macrobiotics. Although she considered herself "a simple country girl"—and always would—she believed in the old Japanese adage: "When seeking a teacher, do not mind traveling a thousand miles." Later on, young Americans who felt much the same way—some responding to the Vietnam War as she had responded to World War II—would seek instruction from her.
The 26-year-old woman who showed up at Ohsawa's La Maison Ingoramus school and dormitory on a snowy morning arrived after an intense period of alienation, having lost confidence in herself as an educator and struggling to figure out how she could soothe a savage world. She had been raised by her father, a silk-screen artist, and mother as a Christian and could quote from the Bible. Still, she remained open to more traditional Eastern practices—Shinto and Buddhism among them. She believed her precocious personality was in some ways attributable to her birth date, Feb. 27, 1923, the Year of the Boar in Chinese astrology. Tomoko had heard about Ohsawa through a friend, and he was to be the man who turned her idealism into action. First, though, as she relates in her book, he gave her one of several new identities: "the girl from the Izumo mountains with a face as red as a monkey's rump." The reason? Ohsawa said she'd eaten too much persimmon.
La Maison Ignoramus—the House of Ignorance—had as its purpose freedom from fear, doubt, anger, hatred and disease. Aveline says in her book: "The goal was to be free of everything that was preventing us from realizing our true selves and infinite health, happiness and peace." Ohsawa, its founder, was a renegade intellectual who had lived in Paris in the late 1920s, had been imprisoned by the Japanese authorities during the war for seditious activities and had emerged from jail propounding one world government. Born in 1893, Osawa adopted the beliefs of the Shoku-Yo Kai (Cure by Food Society) as a young man, after announcing he had cured himself from tuberculosis through a diet of brown rice, miso soup, cooked vegetables, beans and seaweed. To this, Aveline writes, he attached his eclectic philosophy, predicated on the Chinese idea of the opposite yet complementary forces of yin and yang. "The essence of my education with George Ohsawa [was that] we change according to what we eat and our day-to-day condition. Our health and happiness are entirely up to ourselves."
Ohsawa was "a saint, sometimes a dandy, sometimes an old farmer, sometimes a gangster. ... My abiding memories are of his talking about the Unique Principle [yin-yang], smoking a pipe and calling on Pascal, Augustine and other famous Western thinkers after whom he had named his students and on whom he counted to change the world," Aveline writes.
It was Ohsawa who gave Tomoko the name Aveline, which he took from "Ave Maria," a reference to Mary, the mother of Christ, and combined with the common English suffix "line." He was also the one who introduced her to the word "Erehwon," which is "nowhere" spelled backwards and the title of a satire by Samuel Butler (1835-1902), who is better known for his novel, The Way of All Flesh. In Erehwon, the sick are sent to jail for violating the laws of nature, while criminals go to the hospital for treatment with wholesome food.
Aveline writes that Ohsawa used the book to portray to his students that even though one might escape human law, karmic justice is inevitable. The implication was easy to see: unless one lived macrobiotically, then, Ohsawa said, "We immediately get sick, become unhappy and die."
Aveline had just gone through two of the three—and had lingered at death's door—so Ohsawa's teachings resonated with her. In macrobiotic philosophy, the individual is considered in terms of his environment, which includes the foods he eats, the people he associates with, even the climate and geography where he lives. These environmental influences create who, and how healthy, a person is. Indeed, the word macrobiotics comes from "macros," meaning large or long and "bios," Greek for "mode of life." Living macrobiotically meant living in harmony with the many forms of one's environment. It was a recipe for a more peaceful world perfectly matched to Aveline's idealism. As a social movement, macrobiotics especially appealed to the adventurous young because of the antiestablishment bent Ohsawa gave it. He told his students to do their own thing—though not in those words—and counseled them to avoid becoming wage slaves beholden to someone else. The passionate independence Ohsawa instilled suited Aveline's Year of the Boar personality (she used to admit she was "too pushy") and certainly was a requirement for entrepreneurship. Beyond that, Ohsawa seems to have envisioned a macrobiotics world of small organic farms and tight communities, which was exactly the kind of environment Aveline grew up in and held close to her heart.
Although Ohsawa loved his own brilliance, the man Aveline loved never thought of himself as anything but an ordinary guy. Michio Kushi was a studious, bespectacled, chain-smoking young fellow with a talent for letter writing who had been living in the United States since 1949. Aveline had never met him. Kushi was the first of Ohsawa's students sent to the United States to further the cause of the World Government Association. Norman Cousins, the noted writer and journalist, helped Kushi emigrate to New York, where he became a graduate student at Columbia University. Aveline writes that Kushi spent most of his time in the darkest, lowest reaches of the library researching utopian proposals throughout history. Utopia stopped where dirty dishes began; Kushi worked at restaurants to support himself. In between, he managed to write letters and articles back to La Maison Ignoramus. Some were published in a World Government Association newspaper Aveline proudly hawked on the streets. One day Ohsawa asked her to transcribe a letter from Kushi. In her book, she relates that the handwriting was so fine, the words so moving, that she wept. "Someday, somewhere, I thought to myself, I'd like to meet him. I had fallen in love with Michio through his letter."
Just as she had crossed Japan to meet Ohsawa, she would soon sail the Pacific Ocean and cross the continental United States to meet Michio. In 1951, Ohsawa gave her permission to attend a World Government meeting in Paris. Ohsawa was notoriously penniless, and Aveline did not have money either—but thanks to the support of a businessman she was able to book passage to San Francisco on the Norwegian ship Colona. During the two-week journey, she ate vegetables cooked in beef stock, which was completely antimacrobiotic, and became ill. Once she arrived in the United States, it didn't take her long to decide "there was almost no good food." She next journeyed by bus to New York City and met Michio for the first time on a hot day in a Greyhound depot. He was tall and skinny; she felt sorry for him because he wasn't strong enough to lug her heavy suitcase. Nevertheless, he had what it took to carry away her heart. Aveline never did make it to Paris for the conference. In her book, she quotes a letter she wrote about Michio:
"Once we went to the Catskill mountains to visit the countryside. He tried to avoid stepping on the roadside grasses and commented that we should not kill the smallest fly or mosquito. I have always loved to pick wild flowers, and he was sad when I took their lives this way. Other times he criticizes human folly very bitterly. He is sentimental but also has this other side to him. He really wants to change the world and has confidence that it can be changed. I think he can do it. That's Michio."
Their first child, Lilly, was born in 1953. A year later, with another baby (Norio) on the way, the couple married. Neither one could recall the exact date; Aveline thought it was in the spring, but Michio said winter. Although there had been multiple problems with immigration authorities, menial jobs at greasy spoons, language barriers and money difficulties, both remained positive about their adopted country and the future of macrobiotics. To make ends meet, Michio launched a number of small businesses—he apparently was a better initiator than manager—and the couple rented out rooms in their New York apartment where Aveline cooked macrobiotic meals for guests. They kept having sons, too: Norio (1954), Haruo (1956), Yoshio (1959) and Hisao (1966).
Meanwhile, several macrobiotics restaurants opened in the city, and in 1959 Ohsawa paid a visit. After that, Aveline writes, the macrobiotics community in New York started to grow. Michio began giving macrobiotics lectures in Manhattan, while she taught cooking classes in their new home in Queens. By 1961, they were offering macrobiotics classes at summer camps on Long Island and in the Catskills. Aveline's first student was a strapping young man named Robert Fulton, a relative of the inventor of the steamboat. The name Fulton would go down on a long list of other famous names—among them movie stars and rock musicians—of people influenced by the Kushis. Then, too, there were all those freaky sojourners of peace and love for whom Aveline's future run-in with the FBI was, as they used to call a bad LSD trip, a bummer.
As the tumult of the 1960s gained momentum, Aveline and Michio were in the right place at the right time. They had moved from New York to Martha's Vineyard and from there to Boston, settling into a house in Cambridge in 1965. Boston was a main circuit for the electric current of Kool-Aid acid tests, that is, the new hippie counterculture, emanating primarily from the West Coast. That created something of a paradox for the Kushis: Macrobiotics, which required a certain discipline and learning, was attracting kids who liberally indulged in drugs and freely engaged in sex. Although Ohsawa apparently found hippies disgusting, Aveline and Michio tried to see them, Aveline writes, as people "seeking something larger than themselves, and deeper than could be experienced in the universities or conventional life." Hippies began showing up on the Kushis' doorstep and in typical fashion, the couple took many of them in as macrobiotics students. (Norio Kushi, the eldest son, estimates his family had 2,000 houseguests during his childhood.)
By this time, Aveline and Michio were selling hard-to-find macrobiotics foods from their house at cost. Aveline taught people how to cook, while Michio lectured. A talk he gave about acupuncture, which hardly anyone had ever heard of, got him into trouble with the Cambridge police, who claimed (incorrectly) he was practicing medicine without a license. Michio chose to leave town rather than fight it in court and the charges were eventually dropped. From liberal Cambridge the Kushis went to more-liberal Wellesley. But Wellesley authorities soon paid a call and informed Aveline and Michio they could not distribute food or hold classes; it was also clear to the Kushis that their snobbish neighbors didn't think they fit in. The Kushis next alighted in Brookline.
Brookline looks like Boston with its trees, hills and streets three horses wide. It was here, on Newbury Street, that the country's first natural foods store got its start in 1966. It was called a "natural foods store" to distinguish its macrobiotic items from those in so-called health food stores. Aveline coined the term "natural foods" by literally translating the Japanese expression "shizen shoku." Half the store, the part Aveline ran, sold items such as rice balls, miso, umeboshi plums and tamari soy sauce. Michio used the other half for lectures. Aveline writes that she named the store Erehwon "because the utopia we hoped to inspire was not to be found in any geopolitical location. ... No single country, culture, community or church could serve as the center. From now on, we were all brothers and sisters of one planetary family." Among the cosmic fraternity Erehwon attracted was the FBI.
At the time, there were few real macrobiotics teachers in the United States. In their rush to transcendence, some people failed to heed common sense. In particular, there was a young woman who supposedly had followed the strictest diet Ohsawa had laid out in a book called Zen Macrobiotics, subsisting on nothing but brown rice. (It was reportedly a common belief on the streets that bad LSD trips could be avoided by eating brown rice and other macrobiotic foods. The girl, apparently, was a frequent drug user.) Instantly, the press and the powers that be blamed macrobiotics for the girl's death. Grave suspicions began to circulate among the public. Aveline worried the government might close Erehwon. Then the FBI arrived. The agents were looking for copies of Zen Macrobiotics, as though it were contraband. Aveline relates in her autobiography that she did have a box of the books on hand. In a comedic scene almost too good to be true, J. Edgar Hoover's men asked to borrow a flashlight. Aveline couldn't produce one, so they went out to their car to get a government-issue flashlight. Meanwhile, she dumped the books into a trash barrel and sat on it. The G-men looked inside the barrel, but the flashlight's beam was so weak they failed to spot the books. Had they found them, Aveline writes, Erehwon might have died in its infancy. Instead, it became a multi-million dollar business.
What was to end as the darkest period of Aveline's life up to then began in glorious fruitfulness. "From one grain, ten thousand grains," was the macrobiotics motto and in terms of money, employees and influence, it also described what was happening in and around Erehwon. The store soon outgrew the original Newberry Street location; expansion continued as the company leased warehouse space and began making its own products (peanut butter and granola were the most popular), some of which conventional stores began to stock. By the 1970s, Aveline writes:
"In Boston itself, Erehwon now had three retail stores in addition to the warehouse. Hundreds of people worked for the company. Orders that came into the Wats lines in the morning were loaded onto big tractor-trailer trucks in the afternoon. Special railroad cars containing organically grown wheat, rice, sesame seeds and other products came in to nearby South Station, Boston's central rail terminal. In the warehouse, the food would be weighed, sifted, made into whole grain flour or otherwise processed and then put into 100-, 50-, or 25-pound sacks for delivery to retail stores. ... What began as a small family business grew into a giant corporation. From South Boston, Erehwon moved to new headquarters in Cambridge. The workforce doubled, warehouse space quadrupled and earnings soared."
And thus were sown the seeds of ruination. In her book, Aveline cites several reasons why Erehwon went bankrupt in 1981. Although the Kushis owned the company, they had relinquished day-to-day operation to a president and management team. By then, the couple had become worldwide travelers and macrobiotics teachers, activities that removed them from company affairs. Indeed, through the years they had become celebrities themselves, attracting the rich and famous—the actress Gloria Swanson and musicians John Denver, Yoko Ono and John Lennon among them. Erehwon, meanwhile, began to stray from its original focus. It began selling cheese and ice cream, which weren't macrobiotic. The composition of the workforce changed, too. Employees had been young macrobiotics idealists out to the change the world, but subsequent hires were more traditional. Believing themselves underpaid, Erehwon workers formed a union and became members of the Teamsters. Continued high inflation coupled with large loans overextended the company. At the same time, wholesalers reduced their credit lines. Although Michio returned to run the company, it was too late. By the autumn of 1981, Erehwon could not meet its payroll. In November, it filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Eventually, Nature Food Centers took it over. "The most difficult period of our life," Aveline writes.
In 1969, war protestors at UCLA occupied the student union. Among them was 22-year-old Blake Rankin. He was the first to notice there was nothing but peanut butter and white bread to eat, "so I went to the head hippie and asked for 50 bucks to get some real food." His request granted, Rankin wandered down to a store on Beverly Boulevard called Erehwon, which the Kushis had opened after the success of their eponymous Boston store. There he met Paul Hawken (now of Smith & Hawken, the successful retail store and catalog company headquartered near San Francisco) who told him a Japanese lady was giving macrobiotic cooking classes in West Hollywood. Rankin went to see Aveline. "She was petite, full of energy, very dynamic about what she was doing and having a lot of fun," he says. "I got not only a cooking class, but a head full of macrobiotic philosophy. I thought, 'Boy, this is neat,' and so I went back to Erehwon, bought a 50-pound bag of rice, 20 pounds of carrots, a couple gallons of tamari and went back to the student union. We put this meal together on the food service line in the cafeteria and had a donation basket. We took in $350 for a $50-outlay and I've been in the food business ever since."
Like so many others in natural foods, Rankin eventually made his way to Boston and worked at Erehwon. "I was this flunky macro initiate living in a study house barely able to chew my food 10 times," he says. "I remember Aveline playing soccer. She was fast and agile, very full of fun and energy. Over the years, if I got bogged down in business stuff, I'd think about her. She always had a twinkle in her eye. For all of her dedication to macrobiotics, she'd also pull a loaf of French bread out of her purse and share it. It wasn't always chew your food with a frown on your face. She was always a fun person to be around."
Rankin went on to found Choice Organic Teas, which is now a brand of Granum Inc., in Seattle; he is now the company's CEO. "Ninety percent of our business is organic tea; Japanese teas are fundamental to that; macrobiotics is still underlying that; and Aveline and Michio are still underlying that. She's at the core of my adult life in natural foods," he says.
Another future industry leader, Michael Potter, was moved by Aveline. Potter is founder and president of Eden Foods in Ann Arbor, Mich., which began as a co-op in 1968 and has become a major organic products manufacturer. "Aveline," he says, "was my teacher and counselor, an example of how to overcome problems and face difficulties. I relied on her a number of times in personal matters." As a young man, Potter attended Aveline's cooking classes. "She wasn't overbearing or ostentatious. A lot of snooty people came out of Boston and you wonder where they got it from—not from Aveline and Michio."
Still, Potter recalls one incident that "really set her off." His Eden Foods truck drivers were reporting to him that things weren't going well at Erehwon in Boston, so, out of friendship, he paid a visit to the Kushis. "One statement I made, 'You have four people for every one you need,' really made her angry. Here's this Midwestern American being blunt, as opposed to the more indirect Japanese style. But she never held it against me."
Potter says Aveline affected Eden Foods "powerfully. She helped me get clear on the mission—what the role of the company should be. The thing I'm most proud of about Eden Foods is that what we started out to do in the 1960s we're still doing." Of the Kushis' legacy, Potter says, "Where did macrobiotics come from in the United States? What influence has it had on the natural foods industry? The organic foods industry? The first people who came from George Ohsawa were Michio and Aveline, with the mission of sharing knowledge and providing a path to happiness. They were the vanguard of East meeting West."
The October issue of the Utne Reader contains an obituary of Aveline written by Eric Utne. In 1969, he was a store manager at Erehwon in Boston. He'd earlier suffered an unexplained growth in his neck while attending the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. "Then I ran into a hippie named Toad. He told me, 'Hey, man, there's this dude in Boston who can teach you to be your own doctor with food.' I wasn't very conscious of the effects of what I was eating on my health, so I dropped out of architecture school and went [to Boston] as quickly as I could." Soon after that, Utne moved into the Kushi's home, where he spent about a year and a half.
"I recently had a small epiphany describing macrobiotics to someone," he says. "I realized how much it informed my life and world view. Macrobiotics really means 'big life.' It's not about brown rice and miso soup, but living life 'writ large' and being interested in everything. So often people have this narrow definition because of the way [macrobiotics] is used to heal particular conditions. But it's really much more about living life fully, enjoying every aspect of it and doing it in balance and proportion. Just as Western traditions have the Golden Mean, Oriental traditions have yin and yang."
Utne attended Aveline's funeral service. As he considered the scene a few weeks later, "It was amazing to look at the natural foods family and see how many branches trace back to Michio and Aveline. They were real pioneers and forces in the natural foods and holistic, alternative health movements."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, used similar words when he acknowledged the Kushis in the Congressional Record on June 7, 1999. Kucinich spoke of their "significant role in the development of alternative and complementary health care and to the formation of natural and whole foods movement." Two days later, the Smithsonian Institution held a day-long event at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., celebrating the Michio Kushi Family Collection of macrobiotics-related material. Aveline attended wearing a lovely white and blue kimono and carrying a cane. Since the demise of Erehwon, everything had turned into its opposite, to paraphrase a favorite saying of Bill Dufty, the author (Lady Sings the Blues, Sugar Blues), macrobiotics disciple (with wife Gloria Swanson), Ohsawalike iconoclast and longtime friend of the Kushis.
Aveline, who promoted the cancer-prevention benefits of macrobiotics, had herself contracted cervical cancer in 1993. She had been living her typical whirlwind life, teaching at the Kushi Institute (a school for macrobiotics education) and traveling internationally with Michio to promote One Peaceful World, a friendship society he founded that is dedicated to world harmony and health. She had also written, or co-written, at least nine cookbooks and a children's book (Years earlier, she and Michio had started East West Journal, now Natural Health). The double tragedy of 1993 was that Lilly, her first child, was also diagnosed with cervical cancer. Lilly died two years later at age 42.
According to Christine Akbar, a family spokeswoman who lives with the Kushis, Aveline's tumor disappeared after she underwent six weeks of external radiation treatments and subsequently visited Japan where she ate a proper macrobiotics diet. But, Akbar says, "the doctor [later] twisted her (Aveline's) arm" into accepting internal radiation treatment that was too strong, and that led to scoliosis (curvature of the spine), a shrunken bladder and serious bleeding. Aveline's health began to decline after that. Akbar says Aveline's diet was imbalanced—"too yang"—since she favored foods like salty bread and fried chips. Marc Vancauwenbergh, who says he's a nonpracticing physician from Belgium and who also lives with the Kushis, says Aveline's cancer may have been inevitable because of her diet before she became macrobiotic; it was only macrobiotics that enabled her to live as long and fruitfully as she did.
Some people have speculated, Utne says, that carcinogenic dyes Aveline's father used in his silk-screen business, specifically indigo, may have entered Aveline's body when she was a child and were later transmitted to Lilly. Regardless, Dufty points out that Aveline was a cancer survivor and says it angered him to read in the New York Times that cancer caused her death. "Complications on complications," are what kill people, says Dufty, who was among the eulogizers at Aveline's funeral.
A week before her death, Aveline gave her final interview to a writer for NFM. Her houseguests carried her in a silvery wheelchair from an upstairs bedroom and pushed her carefully into the home's great room. The room was arranged with flowery couches, somewhat worn, amid Oriental rugs. A shrine dominated one end and it was here, amid cards and photos, where Lilly's ashes were kept. From the beginning of the talk, Aveline's voice was barely audible, her responses brief, and as she tired during the two and a half hours she sat there, her pain seemed to worsen. Yet she made no complaint, and showed complete forbearance.
Does she still believe world peace begins in the kitchen? "Of course."
Are people becoming too lax in defining what natural foods and macrobiotic foods really are? "No, food depends on people's condition. People can discover for themselves [what's best for their unique health]. But they have to study. Every day, just as the weather changes, our [food] needs change."
What does she think of genetically modified foods? "I don't understand it. It'll be the end of the planet. Our food creates who we are. If food is tampered with, our bodies will no longer have integrity. [GM] is against human rights and life itself."
In her book, she confesses she was "too pushy." She still feels that way. "And too ornery. I just go. I get an idea and I start already. My husband is very patient."
She also writes that if she had succeeded at all in her life, it had been in nourishing Michio. "I didn't do well." (To which son Norio added a point universally believed: "I don't think he would have done what he did without her.")
And, as to death? "No distinction between this life and the next. Next life is reincarnation."
When the interview was over, Norio accompanied the writer to his car. "You know," Norio said, "my parents were among the first to work with AIDS patients. They were so upset these people were being treated like lepers, and they went to New York to give the patients macrobiotics. My parents have so much compassion." As he spoke, his eyes filled with tears. The summer wind was pushing the clouds past the sun. The day suddenly darkened, but moments later the light returned.
The Kushi Family Collection will not be formally on display during Expo East. To see it, call the archives center at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History (202.357.3270) for an appointment, says Katherine Ott, the collection's curator. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue between 12th and 14th Streets N.W. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXII/number 10/p. 27, 30, 32, 34, 36-37