So simple. So beautiful.
So simple. So beautiful.
The dog rolling and skidding and sniffing happily. The small smile on my face. The warmth of the air. Dog bark echo on limestone cliffs, the water running, the chickadees in the soft sound of wind cedar. Cleansed. Embraced. Remembering hot tea in the howling wind snow falling cold ears. Crush. Crushed. I look for the ice cave and only see the wide flat sheets of ice, like cracked creme brulee, running rivulet. Contemplative. Head bowed. Curious. Not curious at all.
Broken grape vines jammed into hard pack foot prints, curlicues, crush. Crushed. Rocks exposed, Loud voices echo on limestone cliffs. Snow falling, sound of some bird, unrecognized. Remembering why I started coming here. Remembering why I return. Peace. Curious. Not curious at all. Nevermind then. Just keep walking. One step at a time.
It all means absolutely nothing. And that is wherein lies the truth of its meaning. How rich is this life, even when the creme brulee is just ice on the top of snow.
There are days when sleep is a blissful slide into not knowing. Where you neither wake nor dream. How I sometimes seek this status. Where I do not plead with God for warm arms to once again embrace me, where I do not plead with the cat to get her furry butt off my pillow, where I do not notice that I am getting older as the mattress creaks under my shifting weight, where the worries of this life do not settle on my shoulders like a heavy blanket. I just close my eyes and then when the alarm goes off I open them again. When I was younger these blissful nights came more often, now it seems they can only be induced by a cocktail of Valerian Root and Melatonin and perhaps forgetting to turn down the furnace before I go to bed.
But when I wake all the things that did not come to me in my sleep seep under the covers with me. I muse on this quest for love, or more accurately a lover. I argue with my cousin, I don’t want just anyone. I could have just anyone. I want the right one. I think I find it and again and again I wait. What I want apparently doesn’t want me back. But I keep this candle flame of hope that at some point the two things will come together. That at some point what I want WILL want me back. I am not patient.
I muse on the transient quality of life, the utterly unstoppable changes that whip the air from your lungs, that leave you shivering uncontrollably as you weep on the bathroom floor, echoes of criticism like icicles in your veins, is this insanity to be shaken by loves promise abandoned? Your ghost clicks its tongue as it stands over me. I want to be angry but I cannot be any more. I think of death and the small signs of the spirit that gives us hope, a butterfly sticker on a photograph, a cardinal or a killdeer singing at a time when you need masculine energy in your life, a doe and her fawn when you are worried about your child, a lost dog returned at the wake of your mothers funeral. The stories we tell to satisfy the spirit. And the butterflies that now flutter in my stomach. As I contemplate the beauty of such messages.
I speak of the multitude of layers that this life has to offer, peeling them back like the skin on an onion, open it sheaf upon sheaf. The great stinking onion, which is a vegetable I am convinced if eaten regularly will prolong your life. The lotus, tattooed upon my back, a more beautiful thousand petaled extravagance of life, a life of the sound of buzzing dragonflies, the tintinnabulation of water’s aural caress, and inside this flower a pearl. Another thing to be peeled back layer upon layer of nascent light. All woven into this blanket of teeming life.
I rise from the warmth of my lonely bed, the dog annoyed by my early waking, the cat clearly annoyed by my chastisement early on in my quest for sleep, no where to be found. I feel the ache of joints left to stiffen, and I shiver in the cold morning, the automated setting kicking back in at a pleasurable 57 degrees F. I am barefoot on the hardwood floors, my toes cold, I ache for human touch. My neck cries out for lips, and teeth and a tongue. My back wants for a firm hand to pull my body close. My legs ache to be wrapped around another body. I wish for the bliss of sleep again, but I know the only satisfaction for the savage beast that twines itself around my thudding heart is making art. Is writing it all down. Is trying to find meaning someplace else in hopes that someone will see my joy, and my sorrows, and my hopes, and my passion as a gift. Will see that I don’t just have this to give to myself day upon day, but that it is freely given like the scent of the flower, like tears that fall from the chemical breeze of the onion, and of the light that is cast by the jewel that shines within.
I express gratitude this day. For all of this. The good, the bad, the ugly, smelly, itchy, aching, truth that is life.
I have praised the glories of my favorite park so many times I may as well have labeled this blog musings on the meaning of life and visits to Clark. Big grin. It is such a solace. Someone recently asked me when I started going there. I can answer quite truthfully about one year from the day I learned my husband was leaving me. I used to go to another park Green Lakes State Park but when my dog contracted Lyme Disease I stopped going there and decided once and for all to get to know this park that is so close to me.
Last year I went to a rally to save the Clark from NY State budget cuts which I learned about from a Facebook page.
I recently hiked an unauthorized trail and mentioned it on the Facebook page operated by one of the big supporters of the park. So I was invited by the now President of Counil of Park Friends, (I would include the website but apparently it is a dead link) to attend today’s meeting, I had the opportunity to show the route to them both and to learn a little bit about the Hart’s Tongue Fern an endangered species of plant 92% of which are located in these two parks that I have just mentioned.
I feel so very fortunate because I also met another man who is employed part time as a naturalist at the park, he asked about my interests, and it turns out there are opportunities for leading people on nature walks through the park which may include identification of both edible wild plants, wild flowers, and invasive species. Which is so totally right up my alley. I know alot of times these things don’t come to pass so I am in reserve of my judgment and excitement. But maybe just maybe I will have the opportunity to serve on the board. Woot. 🙂 And maybe even lead some nature hikes. Double woot.
“The train of his abstractions became so long and so involved he had to have the surroundings of silence and space here to hold it straight. It was as though hours of constructions would have been shattered by the least distraction of other thought or other duty….It was at a level at which everything shifts and changes, at which institutional values and verities are gone and there is nothing but one’s own spirit to keep one going.” from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
In this passage he is referring of course to the insanity of Phaedrus. He is speaking of how he needed the open space of some area in the mid-west to find solace, and peace for his overwhelming thoughts. But as I read this passage I realized that we all suffer from this insanity, that this is precisely why people seek the serenity of the outdoors, precisely why people meditate and do yoga and even why people do drugs and abuse alcohol. Thoughts can be so overwhelming. I know I faced this very much so, although now thankfully the obsessive thoughts that literally had me crying from not being able to shut them out are now gone. It was only with hard work that they started to fade, hard internal work.
I am reading this other book called The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson “I envy all suffering, because suffering is necessary to become spiritually beautiful….Those who suffer are the elect of God.” This of course spoken by a woman who is at this point in the novel, described as a mental patient.
Since I find it impossible to actually be only reading one thing at a time (my bedfellows are not just the dog and the cat but two magazines, my nook and two books) I have these two stories in my mind. It is in his mental suffering that Phaedrus who is now Robert Pirsig comes to write this amazing, albeit difficult to read treatise on thought. He is now in that place where his overwhelming thoughts have found a mode of expression that is somehow socially acceptable. Would he have ever gotten there without the mental space he created through entering true physical space?
Can we find spiritual enlightenment without the confinement of pain and suffering? Once that space opens up again, and the hurt is eased do you retreat again to the your previous home under a rock, head in the sand? I suppose that some do. Others like me find themselves struggling with thought with truth and understanding.
The world too is overwhelming this way isn’t it? All the horrible things, all the unjust things, all the things that make you shake your head and feel abysmal at the idiocy of mankind. Do you find yourself just seeking the solace of an open space where the news is not audible? And find yourself wanting to bury your head under the covers, park yourself under a rock like a slick black and yellow spotted salamander? Will all this suffering lead us closer to God? Here is a question. Is there an answer? I find myself thinking this is “God” . All of it.
I suppose I am not a particularly good Buddhist all this talk of God. And as I say this I realize this God concept is the same as the Vastness of Being concept. And now in the cold snowy Sunday morning, I plan to find my space, my solace and serenity in the open air.
How does one measure the distance? By the number of steps taken or the moments of pleasure that spark the light of the soul? They say that it is not the destination but the journey that matters. I am sure this is right, what is the destination? It is like asking what is the answer to a question that cannot be asked. I keep thinking there is a story in the journey, a thousand stories, a million, so many stories that the line is infinite. As I imagine this I imagine the universe telling those stories, one by one through the lives of every living thing. This is it, I realize, why it is that we are all ultimately perfect. This notion that each of us is a thread in the woven rug of the universe.
How beautiful is this life?
So perfect in its imagining.
A browning leaf on the packed snow.
We wander this path.
what is it all for?
There are no answers,
in this quest.
Just one step after another.
Return to one
and return again
but you are already there.
How beautiful is this life?
I built this house with my own two hands, my own two hands.
I built this hearth with my own two hands, my own two hands.
I wired this house with my own two hands, my own two hands.
I carry this water with my own two hands, my own two hands.
I pick these berries with my own two hands, my own two hands.
I spun this wool with my own two hands, my own two hands.
I wove this rug with my own two hands, my own two hands.
I sewed this cover with my own two hands, my own two hands.
I rekindled that hearth with an ember from my own two hands, my own two hands.
I housed the library with my own two hands, my own two hands.
I tend these flowers with my own two hands, my own two hands.
I cut this window with my own two hands, my own two hands.
You shine your light on my own two hands, my own two hands.
I built this house with these two hands.
– February 17, 2010
I am alone.
I am not alone.
I tear a piece of nan and dip it into curry.
I am eating.
I am breathing.
I am uncertain.
I am reserved.
(oh but not a reserved person).
I am clear.
As a bell.
I wonder if other people think as much as I do about stuff. I mean I think hard about things. Things that are difficult, and I don’t want anyone to think I am troubled or unhappy. To be honest I find myself giggling alot these days at the silliest things. I find myself absolutely touched by things, every single day. I find things that inspire me, I find people that intrigue and interest me, but somehow it is the things that trouble me that I find myself writing about. I don’t know exactly why this is. It just – is.
Perhaps my giggling is a sign of my insanity. I giggle when Dave at the Zen Center puts his arms out for a hug and I squeeze him tightly giggling against his skinny chest. I giggle when Caroline at the Zen Center smiles at me she is giggling too, and I tell her I want to pinch her cheeks. A student overhears me fake whining about how I am a terrible teacher ( I am just struggling this week with kids with cabin fever and this weird dynamic that is happening with my boss and the new coordinator for the arts. (dude he has observed me three times but refuses to talk to me about whatever it is that I am doing wrong) the student says to me, Ms. if you were such a terrible teacher would I have given you a Valentine? No I say I guess not. I laugh. I giggle all afternoon about this one thing. I giggle because another student says to me as he walks by, Ms. G. do you have a Valentine, nope I say I don’t okay then he says I will be your Valentine. I giggle when the men come in to put in my kiln FINALLY can you say over a decade without one? And one of them is openly flirting with me and I am flirting back. My friend teases me and asks if I sealed the deal with a number. No I say I cannot be that girl. I just can’t meanwhile I am laughing. And then I am making other people laugh too. Annoying crush guy (so not annoying!) calls me out of the blue. Dude what are you doing to me? Really? Ugh. I walk out after hearing the message, like a kindergartener stomp stomp, grumpy face arms crossed. I walk by some other women at work, they ask me what is going on. Nothing I say like a little kid, NO-THING! They laugh at me. I encourage it.
Yes I think I might be half crazy. I think I need to get out of my damn head and try to do something else.
I ask a fourth grader to read the Elements of Art off a poster on the wall behind me. He struggles with the word line. I look him in his eyes and say, listen if you cannot read you need to put every bit of your energy into learning it NOW. He looks into my eyes. I know he and I are connected. Someone from across the room says something, I turn and say hush, I am talking and this is important. (It is an inclusion class and they are the kindest kids, one of them is autistic in this group and I see the children helping him with such a warmth and loving kindness, that I do not feel it is embarrassing for this other kid. I am watching his face and he is not turning red or looking stressed by me addressing it in front of the class, how can he deny it when I told him to read the word line and he couldn’t. They know. What was said was something along the lines of: I will read it for him) I turn back to the kid. Listen I say, I get it, my Dad could barely read or write, he told me that I had to do better than him, that I had to work hard to get ahead. I get how hard it is. But you need to know this is possibly the most important thing you can do for yourself. I will help you if you need it so ask me. But you have a job to do, right now, and you should do absolutely nothing else until you GET IT. Learn to read. Learn to read. Learn to read! He is still eye to eye with me. I know there is mental connection. I tell him listen use that Native American strength of spirit, put that strong heart right into it. Work at it. Do it. Okay he says. Two minutes later, arts coordinator walks in to observe me. Figures. He missed the important part. All this art is inconsequential to what just happened. And he will never know.
It is a struggle though, that people only seem to see the trouble, not the good stuff, not the strong stuff that is the meat of this life. I keep trying. What else can I do?