We took a modest hike today
along a favorite mountain trail.
The sky was clear and washed by a cold breeze
that also washed away my cabin fever just a bit.
But now I’m back in the cabin itself
and I feel the symptoms returning.
Dullness, inertia, and the nagging questions:
“Why is there something rather than nothing?”
“Who am I?”
“What shall I do?”
Questions with no answers that satisfy
the mind that is doing the asking.
Only when the breeze blows in,
whistling through the dusty spaces with a hint
that spring cleaning might be needed,
do the answers form;
Why? The imperative of Light and Love.
What? The next thing.
Elucidation on these answers is a futile waste of time.
Only the breeze blowing through the cobwebs avails.
A body fever is the necessary work of the immune system.
Cabin fever may be necessary to burn away the assumptions,
projections, biases, and illusions crusting up the soul.
In any case, the clouds are moving swiftly across the sky.
I think I’ll step outside.
I don’t have many unchanging rituals.
One, though, is consistent.
I make coffee every morning, first thing.
When it’s brewed, I put the first splash in a cup,
walk outside, whatever the weather,
sing a morning song to the sky,
(the song varies)
and offer that bit of elixir to the Earth.
Seldom with profound thoughts or prayers.
Always with gratitude for another day.
Sometimes I linger, watching the stars shimmer
in the clear cold winter sky.
Sometimes I briefly sing, splash, and hurry in
out of the blowing snow.
In the summer I face east and notice
where the sun is rising, tracking it in its journey north.
In the winter no sun greets me, but sometimes Mother Moon
is setting in the west, full and bright.
Always the Eddy Mountains etched against the horizon,
or cloud-hidden, cloaked against my eyes.
Black Butte to the east, massive, permanent,
hides her big sister, Shasta, from my sight,
but I know she’s there!
My ideas, projections, wants, and wishes
fade a bit and silence ensues.
Is it silence? Or have I simply become dull
and ordinary, without profundity
in my elder years?
I hope so.
Winter this year has been a challenge.
Oh, I have a snow blower, a cord of firewood,
extra water and supplies for occasional power outages,
but the inner work has been harder than expected.
It is work I know quite well,
and I have faced it competently in the past.
Somehow, though, this winter it seems harder.
It may be that the FUBAR year of 2020
has left me off my guard, fatigued, as are we all,
by an Orwellian world gone mad.
We have, I think, a dose of cabin fever.
It’s difficult to look beyond our walls
and behind our screens,
to get a sense of where we’re going,
what we’re doing.
Like a pilot in a cloud bank,
disoriented with no sure sense of up and down,
I’ve had to remind myself on several occasions,
to straighten up and fly right;
to trust the instruments of my deeper knowing,
rather than my confused conditioned mind,
which quickly loses its bearings in the fog.
The future is no longer a familiar route
and old guidelines do not avail.
It would be easy to fly into a mountainside.
But when I trust the Way I cannot see,
yet know for sure is there,
I find the clouds thin out and drift apart,
and a light-filled spring seems certain.
Winter, someone says, is cold and harsh.
Who says? Who perceives it so?
A tiresome voice inside my head.
Everything in existence is simply vibration
until some instrument picks it up –
then it becomes perception.
Perception depends on the instrument used,
and human instruments are so very limited,
The sunlight outside is a vibrating wave.
Tune my instrument just a bit and I could hear it
as it fills the meadow and dances atop the snow.
The glistening ice diamonds that sparkle in my view
would become sharp notes cascading up and down a hidden scale.
There is much more, so very much more,
to life than my instruments would have me know.
That’s why I rest a drum against my chest
and beat a rhythm I can feel within my ribs.
I’m not content with the world
that I’ve been taught to see.
I want the Hidden World I know is waiting
beyond the doors of my perception.
I want to hear the sun as it rises
above the peak of Black Butte,
and see the colors of the rain
as it beats against my roof.
I want the cold to be a melody
and the snow to be a winter symphony
When my mind gets caught in crazy loops
of unknown futures, hopes, and expectations –
I think of Pascal’s famous wager:
He framed it in Christian terms:
Either there is a God, or there isn’t.
If there is, building one’s life around God’s will
is the only rational thing to do
and will reap great benefit.
If there isn’t, building one’s life around the possibility
of God’s existence is still a rational act.
Assuming God’s existence brings everything to gain,
and nothing to lose.
Orthodox religion no longer satisfies me,
But Pascal’s wager still intrigues me.
Either the Great Tao, the Mystery, exists –
or the whole thing is random nonsense.
Basing my life on the existence of a coherent Mystery
is a wager I’m quite willing to make.
And if that Mystery exists,
it follows that it permeates the Cosmos
to the smallest quantum particle.
And the minuscule moments of my life
are part of an eternal, coherent flow
that I can trust.
Each moment brings exactly what is needed.
What seems gain, or loss, is simply flow
of which I am a part,
and from which I cannot be separated.
Hard to do,
no other choice makes sense,
and I get to savor every moment of my life!
I’ve lived within duality most of my life.
If there is a this, there must be a that.
Yin and Yang make up the Cosmos,
down to the smallest parts of quantum structure.
There was a point when Yin and Yang began.
They started their dance upon the ballroom of time
and brought into being the ten thousand forms –
the things I learned to call reality.
But it is the ballroom that contains the dance,
and it is there that I want to live my later years.
Lao-Tzu knew the Great Tao
from which came the forms,
and to which these forms return.
So why all the ado about forms?
Why give Yin and Yang so much power?
Important to the dance they are, of course,
but they are not the deepest truth.
This division of life into parts has served a purpose,
but it has been carried way too far.
In my mountain retreat I don’t read
or listen much to media.
It’s all about dividing things into separate, ever smaller, pieces
and I’m through with all of that. .
It is a Whole; just One Thing is happening, and it is all connected.
It is time to put the pieces of my soul together once again.
I spend the first few minutes of the day watching the fire,
trying to arrange the wood just right,
so the flames can find their way
around and through the pieces.
I leave the electric heater off these cold mornings
and practice patience, letting the wood give itself
to the gradual warming of the cabin.
The crackle of the flames is soothing
and the heat goes deeper into my bones.
Am I melancholic?
Of course, but happily so.
A paradox, to be sure.
Melancholy is one of the subtle spices
that brings a full rich flavor to my life.
It has companions in the stew, of course:
Joy in myriad sights and sounds;
Love abounding in unexpected places;
Taste of butter rice, green olives, and mandarin oranges;
Nancy’s eyes and voice.
Still, if the transience of forms doesn’t bring some melancholy,
we’re just not paying attention.
Thing is, melancholy itself is one of these transient forms
that does its dance at appointed times.
Beneath it all is Light without a hint of shadow
and Love without a trace of fear.
Once again the fireplace has warmed the cabin
gently and surely, even on a cold morning
with snow covering the ground.
The seasons feel long and tiresome.
I go through the motions, but feel no lasting satisfaction.
Is this the fate of all who grow old?
In luxury or poverty, we fade away.
Yet my food is delicious
and a waning moon lights the southern morning sky.
I wash my breakfast dishes and brush my teeth
and take a step into another day.
I have nothing of worth to say so why
do I write these words,
and why do I bother publishing them?
I suppose for the same reason that I breathe in,
I’ve been processing my life with words
for more than seventy years;
ephemeral symbols inside my head
to which I have looked for answers.
If answers had been contained within these words,
I would have found them by now.
The Tao that can be thought about
is not the Tao I’m looking for.
I’m looking these days in some places
I’ve never looked before.
The vibration of a hand-made drum against my chest;
the sound of a chant echoing cyclically in my ears
and resonating in my bones;
the sight of a waxing new moon over Mt. Eddy in the west
with never a thought of, “what a pretty moon!”
I can’t teach anyone anything any more.
The words are gone.
I’m too busy looking, listening, touching and tasting.