Pilgrimage

All day long, I see things a painter would paint. What is there to complain about? Even my own pain has been endured by thousands before me, and depicted by master sculptors.

Pilgrimage, penance, failure, learning to hold one’s self tenderly, in friendship – all these have relevance to my experience of life. Honoring the earth, or a Saint, or a God, a parent, a personal hero, the wind, rain dripping from trees.

Turning to look into one’s own heart, seeing what’s there. It is a brave thing to search your own soul. You will endure accusations of selfishness from others, and from your own mind.

We all just want a door to open and let the light in, but what if we are the door? What if we are the light?

To the world, I say I’m sorry for so many things. To the world, I also say thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

Basho’s Traveling Companion

On the jade-colored plate, yellow fruit.

Between the window and folding screen, a bed, some clothing.

In the stillness of the forest, water flowing.

On the mountainside, plum blossoms.

In the rain and mud, wild horses.

From a bowl in the hermit’s shelter, steam rising.

In the iron stove, embers glowing.

At the edge of August, all that I am.

 

 

Big Sur

A whale spouted by and I dreamt of the story my life could tell.  I remembered many loved and lost, I received the world, had a conversation with the cosmos.

A whale spouted by, the vastness deepened.  I sat, hands in lap, left over right, palms up, thumbs touching.

A whale spouted by, I smelled sagebrush.  I watched the buckwheat sway along the sea cliffs, became hungry.

A whale spouted by and I contemplated the fallen.  Standing among fallen acorns, I too am a fallen one.

A whale spouted by and I stopped searching for things.  I vowed to stop searching for a horse while riding a horse.

A whale spouted by and my fingertip touched itself.  The blade of my sword cut itself, I ate two bowls of soup.

A whale spouted by, it came and it went.  Sounds come and go.  Wind, rain, pebbles in a pool.  Time to chop onions, prepare soup again.

Dragon Gates

While drinking cold tea from a glass jar and dividing your thoughts between Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Neruda, you cut a kiwi in half the long way and consider the oval ring of black seeds at its heart.  You always see Our Lady Of Guadalupe there, proving that eating a piece of fruit can be a private ritual, an example of eco-psychology, a rite of passage, an odyssey.

It occurs to you how disposable – though indeed miraculous – your body is.  To your mind it is sacred, almost holy, containing all the memories of your life, your ancestry.  You sit there, sipping your tea, and contemplate how not-sacred your body actually is.  How it is an idea that exists only inside a human mind.

You shed the illusion, leave it behind like a shipwreck you swam ashore from, like a prince giving up all worldly pleasures to go be a hermit.  You decide to relax into Being until the time comes for you to pass into Non-being.

Finishing the kiwi fruit, it occurs to you that when life becomes too fixed – too rigid – the Trickster god comes in some form and rattles you to the bone.

Wiping your mouth on your shirt sleeve, you remember that in Hong Kong there are architects who build skyscrapers with huge holes in them “for the dragons to go through“.

Merlyn

The mountains are alive with fire,

transcendent breath, vigorous and endless.

Though they have been given a name,

a part of them will always be nameless,

and I could say the same about myself.

I heed the call, after all, of mist-laden glades.

I walk among stones with broken blades.

I come to you, mountains of fire,

full of so many things that matter,

yet they will not matter to you.

I come to you as a whittler of days,

a world-worshipper who knows he cannot fool you.

I come to you as a man who has a boy still looking

out from behind the bars of his rib cage.

I come to you with an owl on my shoulder

who comes and goes as she pleases.

I come to you as a failed magician,

with iron, ash, light, dust, rain

on either side of my skin.

I come to you as a failure, but at least I am a great one.

I come to you with the meaning of my name,

do with it what you will.

I come to you as the recorder

of my small life, pockets filled

with scribbled notes

of little use.

 

Beginner’s Mind

Spirit of breath and practice, holy mystery of movement and stillness, grant me the discipline to just sit here, though the old fires still burn in me.

Grant me the wisdom to remain plainspoken at the doorstep of the mind’s entanglements.  Let me keep a balanced, empty mind.

Grant me patience, not only for my own sake, but for the sake of others.

Wherever I am, may I not lose the sight to truly see the colors, forms, shapes, all around me, then and there.

And whenever I walk, may I have the sense to notice the soles of my feet touching the ground, meeting the earth – even when they are housed in shoes.

 

 

 

Sand

All the things you

thought were true

in your life turned out

to be built on it.

Even mountains

are sand yet unground

by water, wind, and time.

Use my bones, oh world.

Make a ladder

so that someone in need

may climb.