This morning I rose with trepidation and sorrow. I am moving house during a pandemic because the world of limitless causes (action/reaction, karma; call it what you like) is guiding me there. None-the-less, sorrow comes with change, as a part of the body’s system of attachment and letting go, keeping itself safe, and fear comes with that process. All these words are cerebral; my head talking to me, superficial, and nearly artificial. The feeling, though, is visceral, as real as I can understand with my five senses, and I must survive it.
In the realm of ‘new seeing’, that thing that comes on the precipice of change, was my moment of insight. I stepped out into a cool, clear morning, which promised to beget a hot summer’s day, and saw the tree. Just an ordinary pine which I see on a daily basis. With a sudden clarity, I saw the Earth as a giant rock moving in space and the tiny film of water and biota that coats it. The biota that grows and dies in a continual process, that is almost unnoticeable from space, but it is our whole world, the one that we are constantly in flux with.
The tree was a huge and imposing living being that thrust up into the heavens, reached down equally into the earth and would out-live me by three or four life spans.
Just like that, I let go. I stopped worrying about the fibs the realtor told, the drama of my friends left behind, the anxiety of my sweetheart and his spread sheets, the concern about possible disaster scenarios, the impending election, the discomfort of change. It may not stay, this feeling of understanding from a new perspective, but I feel re-set. I feel my life-death process as sweet and inevitable, as it is. I feel my recognition of the process being boiled down to simple acts of kindness melded with forgiveness. I feel grateful.
From my tiny spot embedded in the film of life on a rock in space, I love you all. Nothing more.
Perhaps this is closer to the electron vs. the tree product? I would not know. I am not sure at all what the blog is in terms of my real world. This is not due to diminished tech ability so much, but rather to a lack of curiosity.
I was given stern instructions to begin a blog, if I ever wanted to produce marketable writing and be able to sell it; to have an electronic presence. I made the effort, thinking that I would open a door to creativity and meet people of ‘like mind’.
I have a very different view today. Somedays I think I am shouting down a well, on others, I am walking along whispering to myself (which is cause for some worry).
Today, it seems I am talking to a very small group of ‘friends in the shadows’. It has a magical and unreal quality to it. I feel myself reaching out and taking a hand, or starting a conversation here and there. Sometimes I simply brush someones cheek with my knuckles and look deeply into their eyes with an attempt to understand who they are. I am looking deep into a mystery that eludes me. You.
It is this sense of presence in an electronic world that has ignited my curiosity again. What is this web we weave? How does it penetrate creativity? Is the glue still kindness, or does the ego rule?
For me to even voice these words, feels strange. Clearly, the precipice of my ignorance is high and airy. I lean out and see only hints along a skyline. I know nothing. Perhaps knowing nothing, much more is possible. Perhaps I can fly after all.
This grainy old-time view is how I hope to display a world that is passing: two cowboys, a rare cowgirl, a couple of cattle dogs and a herd of 30 head. The next generation won’t see this happen. There are too many folk, too little land, too large a drive for money and power. Thus, the world changes as it always has.
Do not, please, assume I am denying change or supporting the meat industry. I am simply playing observer and noting the inevitability. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wonder if we can play the part of guide in this process. Often the very idea of inserting myself into the maelstrom of change terrifies me. How dare I, how could I? Certainly there is very little that I know about the balance of man and nature, the balance of man and mankind. I wonder if it is simply the process of bringing authentic kindness to the process each time we move. This too terrifies me, as I am so inadequate to the task.
So I left the boys, girls, and dogs behind to travel another road, where my inadequacy will be forgiven, if it is ever noticed at all.
The land is dry here, the road is inches deep in the dust of a dry lake bed. The map is torn.
Other travelers have stopped here to discuss something, some story, some prayer. I stop and open up to what I see.
Sky, cloud, life.
This basalt block holds the key to a mind long past. These images, tapped patiently into the rock surface, are thought to be as old as 12,000 years. I am caught by the truth that I will never know what the meaning of all this felt like for them. It is so simple to take a bit of poetry, a bit of some novel, and place myself within the perceived meaning. I realize though, that whenever I write, or read, or gaze at art, that the meaning slips here and there, never the same for artist or art gazer.
Really, this is the point. I do not wish my creations to have some kind of solid, inflexible meaning that will be prattled on about in a classroom. I want the bubble that exploded from my heart and mind to engender a bubble of yours. It is a form of touch. I reach for you and you return the gesture. There is a deep mystery in this, a beauty.
Here is a change of perspective. See the stone-yard biota above? This is the other side of the picture rock I just showed you. Moss and lecithin making its own lovely message heard above the roar of the universe. Here, below is hot spring biology with the same gambit.
In just such moments, it is the striving to understand that precipitates change within. There is no correct answer, there is only the quest.
Out beyond ideas of wrong doing
and right doing,
There is a field. I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in the grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase
does not make any sense.
A friend included her list of books, which she is reading, in a letter at my request. In response, I provided a list of what captures me. Here is that excerpt, in case anything might please you too:
The way I read is perhaps odd; I tend to have a book pile and draw from it over many months. Much of it is non-fiction, so small bites work best. I usually read my fiction in gulps though. Often I hold onto them to look up bits I liked.
One, that I read years ago, came to mind: Nekropolis, by Mauren F. McHugh. This is a science fiction set in a future Morroco where people bond themselves with bio/chem tech which causes them to love and obey. Very disturbing and interesting.
I just read The Broken Earth series by a wonderful black woman author. She is found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N._K._Jemisin. Well worth looking at; she is a well-educated woman who also writes engagingly. I love her, she includes geology in an interesting way!
On my bookshelf/pile/kindle:
NON-FICTIONThe Fruitful Dakness - Joan Halifax ;auto-bio, buddhist/ tribal/ travel. wise, mythic, insightful
Art and Fear - Bayles & Orland: Observations on the perils and rewards of artmaking.
The World Without Us - Alan Weisman: scientific imagery of the word recovering when man is gone.
The Dream of the Earth - Thomas Berry: some marvelous insights into man vs earth on all levels; a Sierra Club book.
Molded in the Image of ‘changing woman’; Navaho views on the human body and personhood - Maureen Trudelle Schwartz: an anthropologist that was adopted into a home and tribe, she provides exact quotes which challenge the reader to understand a culture so close, yet so different. Really good.
From the Glittering World; A Navajo Story; Irvin Morris. This is mythology told by a contemporary Dine writer.
The Hidden Life of Trees: what they feel, how they communicate - Peter Wohlleben, great stories about tree life. Fun.
Becoming - Michelle Obama; revelations about herself and family. Just lovely.
Educated - Tara Westover. escaping via education. worthy concept.
POETRY/POETICDream Work by Mary Oliver: great poet, love her
On the Loose by Jerry and Renny Russell: a fantastic journey in 1969, by these two young men. every Pacificas Crest hiker or wilderness lover should read it. Sierra Club.
Nature - Emerson
Walking - Thoreau
Leaves of Grass- Whitman
Letters to a Young Poet - Rilke
View with a grain of sand - Wislawa Szymborska; great poems, nobel prize winner
SPIRITThe Authentic Life - Bayda: Zen, 'Skillful Means’ with the saving grace of staying with the real issue: enlightenment.
Emptiness - Guy Armstrong
Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree; Voidness - Buddhadasa Bhikku
I AM - Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person - M.C. Richards
FICTIONThe Overstory : Richard Powers. Coalescing short stories with a tree. Very nice. You would like it.
Terry Prachett, Neil Gaiman: basically anything they write. I like the humor and the view.
Hillerman: Leaphorn and Chee series: detectives in Navajo Land. Fun.
Any Medieval ‘who dunit’ (you can google this!)
The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin: Science Fiction well done.
When the tree fell, I lost all belief, but not hope. Hope is another thing altogether and I am a relentless harborer of hope. I turned to Simone and brushed my knuckles along her shoulder. She was very still, which is not usually a good thing; her vibrance is part of her beauty. She is half a head shorter than I am and nearly as strong. I am one of the corn-fed, usually small in stature. No one in my home group was as tall as Simone, not even the adult males, and I had stood like the tallest stalk of corn over them since I was young. She is of the sea-fed and has the round solid musculature of the swimmer she is. She has never stood out in her community for anything other than the lovely qualities of grace and skill that are natural to her.
“Are you ok?” I asked her, meaning “Are we done here? Should we go?”
“Great.” She answered in a tone so deep and heavy, I thought it was not her voice I heard. Her meaning? “Will any of us ever be OK again?”
Survival is, in part, appropriate communication. Simone and I excelled at this. The tree fellers glanced at us, but made no move to drive us away. We posed no threat. They had even exchanged friendly banter with us when they arrived, not far from the place where Simone and I had made a home. They were from beyond the Wall, or beyond the Pale as my mother was wont to call it. Though my people’s hair matched the silk of the cob, our eyes were dark and our skin many shades of brown, as are the Sea-fed. The Wall folk are, however, so colorless that it made one itch. Light eyes, light hair, and skin that turned red in even the slight sunshine of winter. Even though they performed tasks that proclaimed them as strong and robust, they gave the illusion of sickness and fear. They were tender to any prick, bleeding easily, and flinched at the slightest wind ruffling the grass. I was grateful to have been ‘born to the corn’ as we call it.
I shifted my hand to take Simone’s, more to reassure myself that she would not simply attack them without warning. For this I received a wry look from a side-slited eye, but she squeezed my hand back and leaned into me, which meant “Mourning now, vengeance later. Do you think I am an idiot?” I am not an idiot, so I made not the faintest reply to this as we waited for the over-full wagon of murdered tree to depart. I know my sweet-heart well, you see, and at this moment she was as close as I had ever seen her to making a rash move.
For a thousand years, no tree had been cut. Walled or unwalled folk had honored this. If we made tools or built from wood, it was from dead wood. Even here there was a process of asking and receiving permission from the other nearby peoples, including the Wall folk. There was also a ritual for asking the tree if its fallen trunk or branch was ready for harvest. No answer was often the answer and considered affirmative, as the tree had moved on. The tree before us was still green leaved and its branches cast, cut and broken, before us on the ground. I had stood back as they worked on, so they would not see the ocean of grief as it began to fall from my eyes. Never give warning, my teacher told me; there is always time for discussion when danger is past. Any fool, even these, would know me then. We are a taciturn people.
The end had arrived for this arbor moratorium, but surely not the deeper reason. As yet mature trees were still few and far apart and the young ones were still struggling, but the struggle proved long. I never imagined that the end of this agreement would be taken up by murderers, greed mongers, and betrayers. What else could these be? Anyone could see that the results of a millennium were not yet what they should be. With an effort, I turned my back, guiding Simone with me, letting the grind of wagon wheels move away unobserved, so a backward glance would raise no suspicion.
Together, we made our way to my mother’s home: a building without a single beam. She and my father, now long passed, had built it from the humbler and stronger form; stone. Well broken and fit, it had taken them three full seasons to build. People teased them, calling it “Three-Year House”. It was round, and held a roof of weave and thatch that rested upon the craftily formed lip of a central stone chimney. The center hearth was not used in our area, but my father came from some distance away, where it was. My mother and I were shamefully willing to extol its virtues, even now. Each pie of a room entered the warm family setting directly. I hope someday to build one like it for Simone and myself.
“Korn! Simone!” my mother welcomed us with her usual joy. She named me not for the plant, but for it’s spirit, the one who saved us all.
“Hello Mother”, Simone addressed her. They love each other well and so I am twice blessed with a peaceful family.
“What has hurt you?” My mother’s sensitive wisdom is what makes her such a skilled doctor and herbalist. She is a wise woman indeed and I am proud to be her kin.
“The Wall folk have cut the linden tree.” Simone has always been able to speak with complete candor; she balances my still silence. I let them do this work now, I could not.
“No! To what end?”
“They claim the call of commerce, and the right of law.”
“They bring evil on their hearth. They will bring the results down on us all!” These two women of my life leaned in together and holding each other, wept. I had already wept my fill and felt strangely cold. I stood back.
When they stood separate again, I took their leave. “I need to walk,”I told them shortly. They both nodded and I, holding some emotion now, that I could not name, walked back to the place where an old friend had once stood. When I arrived, I could see her sap still flowed and my heart constricted. I did not feel the same uncertainty though. I had changed. The words “commerce” and “law”, spoken by my Simone, had struck it from me. These ordinary words, which should indicate healthy interaction and agreement in a community, had been twisted to hide “greed” and “aggression”. As I have told you, Simone and I excel at translation, and whatever the means to set this right, whatever the interpretations, and actions required, I had not lost courage or hope.
If you would like to stop listening to politicians without science backgrounds, and read the science, if you want to understand and make decisions on facts, try this, with interesting charts and real numbers: