May 2, 2013 § 37 Comments
The storms have come.
The waters rise in the wetlands surrounding my home here- dark pools amidst the tall pines. The drenching rain, cascading off the metal roof, creates waterfalls just outside the windows. You can feel in your bones the resonance of the rumbling thunder.
When that echoing thunder subsides, I go to the sea. Beneath the angry sky, the ocean is a roiling and foamy cauldron.
Some of these dark and stormy days I stand on the beach and scan the long arc of shoreline in each direction. Not another soul, for miles and miles.
I love the sun, the feel of it on my skin, the magic it creates shimmering across the water. But this gray and forbidding time, I love this as well.
Perhaps I sense that nature is showing me her turbulence and disorder, screaming her existence, and in that way, mirroring my own inner turmoil, offering her stormy kinship.
Or perhaps it is just the feel of that cold, sharp wind on my face and the freight train roar of the sea when it’s up and charging. I think, who could stand on this beach right now and not feel alive?
The sun will return, the sea will fall back into its rhythm. She will whisper again the message that helps me keep my footing. I will feel her strong but gentle pull, righting me to my center.
But when the storms come again, when her voice rises in that insistent roar, I will also feel nature’s message. Live, she demands. Live right here, right now. Live this one life you have been given.
Feel inside the scream of existence that I model for you.
When the storms come again.
January 26, 2013 § 41 Comments
I stood at the window for a long time. Watching the snowflakes dancing past.
Seeing the frozen jewels glide past my window, falling into the white blanket beneath, I felt- for a moment- sadness. Those exquisite creations, each swallowed up in the drifts below. One after the other. Here and then gone.
And then I thought what it would be like to tumble downward like the snowflake. Falling without resistance, surfing the winds in a trajectory that belonged only to it. Surrounded by so many other dazzling partners.
I thought of the crystalline and fragile beauty of each individual flake. A singular beauty arising from the interrupted symmetry of their creation. Never to be repeated.
And something else took the place of my sadness.
To understand that we each exist as a unique creation of the One.
To accept the winds of the world and make our way without resistance.
To dance down our arc of time as a singular- but not isolated- being.
To use ourselves up, holding nothing back from life’s descent.
And then to return to the place where we began.
Melting into the snowy bosom of all that is and all that will be.
I stood at the window watching the snowflakes and I wept.
Not sadness anymore. Tears of a nearly unbearable gratitude.
Gratitude for the blessing given to me- and to each of us- the chance to live out the finite and exquisite dance of life.
November 20, 2012 § 42 Comments
“To live in the realm of Buddha nature means to die as a small being, moment after moment.”
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
As the cancer consumed my father, he disappeared a bit at a time. First he lost the capacity to walk, then to read, to eat, to speak, and finally a coma-like existence. And then the shell that remained ended too.
This all happened many years ago. Yet in my memory, it is as fresh as yesterday.
In his final months a peace came upon my father. I do not know where it came from. He practiced no religion, held no faith in the transcendent. Most of his life he seemed at war with his very existence, deeply unhappy with himself and the life he felt trapped within.
But as he wasted away, my father changed. His resistance melted, acceptance emerged. Not just acceptance of his coming death- acceptance of the people around him and of life itself. He projected a warm and natural love. My father seemed ready to die, unafraid and open.
I cannot know the source of my father’s peace. But I now believe that somehow, some way, my father understood at the end what I know now.
We each die a little at a time, moment to moment.
I am not thinking here about the simple awareness of mortality. Something else.
The peace my father embodied comes to us only when we exist in the fullest sense. “No illusions in our mind, no resistances in our body,” as the Tao teaches. But this way of being cannot be separated from non-being. This communion with life itself is to embrace death itself. To understand finally that life and death are one.
Those final months my father gave me a great gift- a model of how life might be lived- and death embraced. A gift that took years for me to unwrap but which is mine now.