Then a short time came when I could sit and think about what it was I needed to say. I sat at my desk a moment, but quickly I was called away again by my many duties. The rhythm of what I wanted to tell you stayed fresh in my mind, though. Even through sleeping and rising and working until it was time to sink my head into a pillow and dream again, even through all that, the pulse and the meat of what I wanted to say kept itself tethered to the bones of my mind.
It was nothing so luminous as the movement of a lion’s fine hair in the wind out on the savannah, nothing so phosphorescent as the treetops under the sun this very moment. It was just that I couldn’t stop thinking of all this as an ever-present arrival and continuous departure.
An infant speaks its first words, incredibly. A shark smells blood and moves toward it. We are young and we long to be cared for. We grow old and need long silences to restore our weathered pilings. Our foundation – the underneath of us – can never be the same again. Our windows that once held panes of glass or were boarded up, now become receptive, open, vulnerable, and that is good and will help bring us tranquility, so we might become ordinary, a rake in the garden, a book on the shelf. Let us wander all the rooms of the world-house in astonishment, savor sameness wherever we find it, welcome both flood and fair weather.
What if you yourself didn’t want anything, what if you spent measureless lengths of time just people-watching, ruminating, taking notes of where your mind traveled to, at once engaged yet unaffected, an explorer holding the oar gently as he rows upriver, a tourist observing wide swaths of gold made by the afternoon sun as they spill through the windows of shops while people pass on a street familiar to them. Somewhere deep down inside, these people all know the truth surrounding the illusion of having. No one has anything, there’s nothing to have.
Nothing is fastened. Anything might come undone at any time, and it’s all arbitrary and out of control. Tiger at the window, wolf at the door. At the same time, hummingbirds are drawn to honey suckle, joy is rounded out by sorrow, grief is more thoroughly digested with a little exaltation.
It makes me think of my mother and what it was like, losing her. While I am water – calm and usual at the surface, with everything going on beneath, hidden by murky light – she was fire. She wore her heart on her sleeve most of the time. My mother possessed a tremendous playfulness, tending toward joy, leaning into laughter. But she also had about her a vast, lonesome sorrow. Not the easy sorrow of a bow drawn across the strings of a cello on a dreary morning. An elusive sorrow of wind and bone marrow, the sorrow of long straight highways across the Midwest, the sorrow of a thousand widowed women going up the creaking stairs of a thousand old farmhouses. I can only hope to embrace the two sides as fully as she embraced them.
Sometimes, as I wander through all the rooms in the house of being human, the wandering seems to be the only thing I’m determined to do. I have a habit of giving the living and the dead equal attention, one foot planted firmly in the world while the other extends into the ether, reaching for the unworldly. Listening without ears for some message in the heart of stillness.
May we not lose courage, may we open the flower of our own nature. If we go or if we stay, may we find the Middle Way.
May we overcome contradiction without trying to resolve it. May we feel what we’re feeling without needing to dissolve it.
Everything I thought I knew is just a stroke of brilliant blue, baptized by the earth and clouds. Sparkle in my blind eye flatters, sightless seeing all that matters. Every moment amazes once you’ve learned to sing the praises.
Wood and water, stone and leaf, time’s a terribly quiet thief. World turning, changing me, all that I will ever be is sea and stars, primordial soup, tattoos and scars, then bones, bare bones, among the sleeping broken stones.
May we trust in gratitude, learn compassion, seek forgiveness.
The weight of ten-thousand beginnings rolls over onto sunken shoulders. Chins, long held upright with intention and defiant will, now drop. Hands, once busy and vibrant and ever-seeking, grow idle and limp. Steps are heavy. Minds, clouded.
The masters are in their temples, the caribou migrate, life rots and reconstructs. How did Time feel before we began to measure it? Try, not try. Do, not do. Try not to try to do.
Everything in the hemisphere of consciousness has two sides, reflecting.