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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Morning Zazen

Sitting has become easier. My crossed legs don't go to sleep as often.

Ah, but keeping my mind clear, that is very hard! Zazen is not easy.

Now I have a headache, from eating too many pancakes.


Yesterday I labored on the car. It felt odd doing city-dweller tasks in a place such as this. The tools are here, time is here, so I repaired a dent in my rear tail light. A Boston mishap, a quick turnaround became a minor collision after veering down a one-way street. A close one. Always learning.

Every so often I paused and watch the changing colors of the lake and trees. The few leaves seem to know everything that would ever happen to this world.

My work finished, I walked down to the Symonds porch and stood there, listening to the water lap on the rocky beach. I watched the day close, the way one watches a drama on stage. I saw the lavender twigs on the mountains pick up the orange and magenta glow of the setting sun. I drew in all the cool and scrubbed air that my lungs could gather. After so many breaths I caught a hint of woodsmoke. It must be my wood stove, which I could see curling pale grey exhalations from the top of the kitchen chimney.

I paused as I often do, by the set of wooden steps that I built fourteen years ago, leading from the Symonds lawn down to the water. They are nearly rotten, but have held together all these years.

I brought the picnic table which I built for them that summer out of the exposed air by the open fireplace, and stored it upside down at the back of the lean-too. I remembered well the moments spent concentrating as I built these things of wood.

One Symonds guest, L__, used to try to break that concentration by walking up and down the porch in her yellow bikini. I remember her sitting at the back of the lean-too while I explained to her what I thought should be done with the fireplace in front. She sat with legs spread wide apart. Every so often during our conversation, I saw what she wanted me to see. There wasn't much hair on it. It was very bare, and clean and firm. She taunted me with it, tried to distract me. I never broke down, though my voice faltered. I always kept it on the level of that conversation that we were having. Perhaps that's why she continued playing these little games with me.

One rainy night we drove out together to the gate at the end of the road to leave a key for some friends who were driving in. L__ didn't want to drive back right away. "Let's just sit in the car a bit," she said. I think we talked for fifteen minutes or so, then she had to pee. She opened the door of the truck, then said, "Come around and hold my hand. I don't want to fall over in the wet bushes."

So I got out and went round and held her hand as she peed.

She was twice my age. She even had children. I knew she wanted me to make a pass at her. Finally she relented and let me drive the truck back to camp.

All these memories, of people who were younger than I am now. Perhaps this is just what memory is, a repository of time, an imaginary flesh and blood album of photos, diary pages, old stories recounted. In the city, experience seems to move more quickly than one's own life. So it is difficult as an urbanite to note the passing of time. I always used to notice transitions to the countryside. Time slowed.

But with trees and leaves and snow as a witness, eternity becomes all too meaningful. It acquires an almost unbearable presence. Time whacks you on the head, as you move through it. Every moment becomes a universal birth.

I walked back to camp, heated up some stew and ate it slowly. At seven I walked over to the Brandreths and joined all the hunters that were there for a drink of cognac after dinner.


I see the sickly needles on the tamaracks and remember Monty Python's musings on 'The Larch'. Their leaves have turned a milky pumpkin color. At first I thought they were ill, perhaps they are also affected by the spruce blight. Now I realize this is the first time I've noticed a tamarack during late fall. They turn color and shed needles like a hardwood.

I'm very surprised to see that with all this snow, there are still some robins about. One of them found a bare patch beneath the big pine in front of the kitchen. If must be over the warmth of the septic tank, soil still soft, worms active. He stands there all day long listening for and pulling up worms. He must have a voracious appetite to be able to eat this much! I watched him for a solid hour, and he has eaten something at the rate of every minute or so, sometimes a large worm, other times just a little grub or beetle.

On my way to the boathouse for water he surprised me. He took a little break from his eating and was hiding to stay warm under the porch steps. As I descended, he flew out and seemed very startled. Sorry Mr. Robin. I must admit I was startled too.

Without the shouts of children and colored sails on the lake what is the the reason for all these buildings? The patient deer heads in the kitchen, with their red kerchiefs that Dad put around their necks watch over the long breakfast table, the lanterns, their wicks turned low. They'll watch another winter fly by.

Is it cruel of us not to take pity on ourselves for missing these moments? Somehow we create, but duck out on what we've created. We infuse these tokens with our own spirits, become responsible for them, but go missing precisely when they mature. What we're responsible for is not physical, it's some other quantity, that if neglected, perishes.

Could we be waiting be for something enduring, memories that last? If spirit is there is it only in the adorning aspect, the image, the friendly look, which we admire? The physical self seems as patient, as accepting, yet as dumb, as my car.

I put on some big ill fitting boots and trudged out in the snow to North Pond. The sticky snow was melting and sliding in white lumps off the branches. Every time a tree let go of a patch of snow the branches sprang up, as if glad to be rid of their load. Everywhere I heard snow falling, thump, thump, invisible ghosts converging on me through the trees.

The yellow sun poked out behind some clouds. The air between the trees drew a steady drizzle from the branch-tops. Bits of snow fell into the water of the pond, it made me think trout were jumping, and that fish are swarming near the surface.

How noisy the woods are today.

Clarence stopped by with some mail. We talked about winter fishing. Most of it was catch-up talk. He said the deer were in the height of their rut, all the bucks were running through the woods not paying attention to safety.

"If you see a doe go by, keep quiet and wait a half hour, chances are a buck will be right after her."

Early morning again, I'm stiff from zazen. Cold wet snow on the ground, cold wet snow falling out of the sky. Trees on Baldy Mountain, white with snow.

Hot coffee beside me, a fire burning in the stove. What were my dreams last night? I can't remember them now. No matter. There is so much foolishness in my life. I'd like to write about all of it but at this time I really don't know if I can accurately see what is foolish and what is not.

Wind blows snow from the roof, a white cloud swirls by the window.

Water to wash dishes and bathe with, is boiling.

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