Sunday, March 08, 2009

Lying in the Meadow

It used to be that I kept a backpack by the door, filled with some almonds, raisins, maybe cheese, and water. I could grab it as I went outside, not knowing where I would go, just going out into the green world I lived in. In later years, and as a sign of maturity, I also included some pitch wood, matches and ibuprofen in case of injury. I might be gone an hour, or all day, I never knew because it was a walkabout and there was no agenda. I went where my energy took me without concern. Not to say it all was pleasant because I could get stuck in brush, having to crawl through manzanita, or get into steep shale, slipping and sliding down as I tried to go up. When I came back to the cabin, though I might be dusty and sweaty, scratched or bruised, soaking wet and cold, exhausted, I was, above all, throbbing with life. In the bath, or in bed, with closed eyes, images of lime green moss, grooved bark, golden fallen leaves, or newly green sprouted ones, a rushing creek, or trickling spring would flicker like a slide show. Maybe I would have found one of those places nature makes that humans for millennium have recognized as magic and there have sat and stared or prayed which is the same thing really and been open to what is.

Now doctors speak to me of new knees, of eight week recovery period, of the possibility of uncertain results and the walkabout seems past and gone. I walk on the road now, where there is no torque on the knees and yesterday walked out into the Big Open meadow and lay down on the new green stalks of grass. I was surrounded by burnt trees and felt so heavy with loss. It was not about money; it was about the slowly accelerating break down of the body, and the restriction of possibilities.

When I was on retreat, I talked to the teacher about this. I joked that I had dodged a few bullets, but that one was coming eventually that would take me out and that I was feeling the reality of this. We laughed. He had no advice. Being a real Buddhist, he did not make comforting noises to support my tendency toward denial. It is what it is, this life, so precious, so finite. He said he had had a life long dream of circumnambulating the mountain in Tibet that is known in that region as the center of the world, Mt Kailash. He was sobbing as he climbed some of the time, the leader of the group, but overcome with emotion. About halfway around, he got altitude sickness and could not complete the pilgrimage and his son lead a small group on. He understood.

It is death that makes life precious, after all. So, the haiku I posted yesterday came to me, like a good poem should, as I sobbed in the meadow. It was born out of what is.

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