The Immortal

I work in the garden by the pond,

a sensitive, insecure gardener.

An artist or poet perhaps. Slow,

pretty, but not altogether productive.

Barely a breeze.

 

Agnes moves like an ode to creation,

an immortal with the knowledge

of what has to be done. What can and cannot be.

Her heart, rooted and perennial.

She feels what I can only see.

 

 

Faith

Sitting on the deck this morning the unexpected sunshine was irrelevant to the weight I woke up with. Took to bed last night. Walked around with all week.

It’s true we lost our water for several days, that’s just part of it though. It’s back but running brown through the faucet so we’re still bringing in buckets of rainwater and driving to a spring for drinking water. That will change again soon enough. Our front yard and garden was dug up for the second time in a year. Hours before the tap went dry we were reminiscing about living in the woods with our babies without water or electricity. How long ago was that? Cloth diapers, 101 recipes with rhubarb, the truth about poverty and the kindness of a Credit Union banker who would lend us money for groceries and life. Everything changes.

Yesterday the neighbourhood ospreys returned to find a pair of eagles had moved into and renovated the nest they’ve kept for years. An aerial battle ensued between the easy, larger-than-thou, lord of the sky and the swift, determined, sudden and unexpectedly homeless one. This morning the massive tangle of twigs and branches atop the tall leaning pole was empty. For now.

There is a mystery in Mira’s hip that makes it difficult for her to get up. Something invisible bearing down on her. Otherwise she seems fine, perhaps a bit less of a pup. She went for x-rays this morning and is asleep beside me now. I’m supposed to be writing and designing a website for a client, but doing this instead. Dealing with the weight.

Sometimes you wake up and the unexpected sunshine doesn’t really matter. That’s okay though. It will again tomorrow or maybe the next day.

 

 

Om mani padme hum

 

“Everything at rest, dusk: a bird calls, 

returning to its forest home. Chanting,

I settle into my breath. Somehow, on this 

east veranda, I’ve found my life again.”

 

T’ao Ch’ien,

(from Mountain Home, The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, translated by David Hinton)

 

This is probably my favourite book of poetry and though I’ve read the quoted lines many times, they never resonated as deeply as recently. It’s very true that I have found my life again, but what draws me especially is, “Chanting, I settle into my breath.” Not just the idea of the chant but how comfortable and casually it fits into T’ao Ch’ien’s life and moment.

About 25 years ago I took a book of mantras out of the Thunder Bay Library, thinking it might provide some tools for meditation. As it turned out, mantras were never going to play much of role in my practice. However, “Om mani padme hum” found its way into my life, coming and going over the years. It was one of three notes taped to various workstation walls. “Work hard and relax” and “Be still and know that I am God” being the other two.

After several years, when I’d forgotten about Om mani padme hum, I found a treasure in a used bookstore “Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism”. The entire book turned out to be a study of this mantra! So it arrived for another, longer visit. But to be forgotten again for sure… until now.

While the mantra sounds quite lovely, as a poet, storyteller and spiritual guy, the magic is in the meaning. Don’t quote me, but what I remember these 6 syllables to represent is the journey of the lotus. Born in the black mud of the swamp, the lotus makes it’s way through silence and darkness to ever increasing light, ultimately to rise above the surface and blossom into a vision of splendor. No wonder the lotus is such an important Buddhist symbol.

So anyway, yesterday driving to a business meeting in Halifax, for awhile I stopped the churning of thought and chanted instead. Easy words. This morning, “Om mani padme hum” was on my breath, mingling with the wind as we crossed the dam.

 

 

The List

Rarely do I bring binoculars with me in the morning. The contemplative, reach and feel of the walk is too easily overshadowed by the subtly insistent desire to identify. There is a bird I hear regularly and can see in the treetops, but its identity eludes me. Not satisfied with knowing it as a song, I brought the binoculars this morning and of course the bird was nowhere to be seen or heard. Somehow this suited me just fine.

 

Because I spent the walk identifying, I might as well share “the list”:

A pair of junco’s and the song of a white throated sparrow met us as we arrived.

In the pond two black ducks took off and a wood duck hid along the bank. Last year the wood duck, not as easily spooked as the others, nested here.

Robins, grackles, red winged blackbirds, peepers and other frogs were around.

At the fishway, a mature and not-so-mature eagle, the beaver who has become a regular, rock doves and song sparrow.

In the bay I can hear and see a blurry variety of ducks. White suggests mergansers and the quacking, black ducks.

Cormorants, gulls and a couple of crows along the dam, on the shore a tall long-legged, long-billed wader that I can’t quite identify.

On the way back, chickadees, a blue jay and what may have been the first osprey of the season. Here’s the thing about binoculars; by the time I fumbled and got them to my eyes it was more-or-less out of clear view. Had I simply kept my eye on her, the bend of the ospreys elbow is so distinct it’s virtually impossible to miss.

Last but not least, a squirrel, barking dog and an old fellow sitting by his shed reading the newspaper.

 

I just realized that of the creatures I  saw and heard, aside from the wood duck, the only ones the binoculars helped with, were the-not-quite-identified wader and osprey. Clearly they are best left at home (where by the way, I have identified over 70 bird species while sitting on the back deck with a beer. For this the binoculars are perfect!)

 

 

There is nothing on this path to hold onto

 

There is nothing on this path to hold onto.

Nothing to commit to heart or memory.

Nothing to make me lighter, wiser more real.

 

Sometimes I’d like to become birdsong,

the branch to branch wing and hop of a chickadee

or brush of wind and light on water.

 

One hand on the smooth bark of a young poplar

stretching skyward, roots reaching down

drawing from darkness and light.

 

Fallen ancient one at my feet, moss covered

hollow and full of moist promise.

Nothing dies here.

 

I stop and watch and this is what I see.

There is nothing on this path to hold onto.

 

 

Not walking the dog

 

Sun shines spring and conjures summer

though the morning air is winter still.

 

Song sparrows sing on budding willows

and the first brave canoeists wave across chilly water.

 

But all is lost to sad Mira, home with a sore leg.

I snuck out the backdoor, stole away like a petty thief.

 

 

All these poems are the same

 

We drive for five minutes to the trailhead

pass dirt brown deer in snow-flattened fields,

a pheasant on the side of the road

and two ducks in the ditch.

 

A single crow sits on the closed gate.

 

Near the fishway I enter

a young eagle’s comfort zone

and pretend not to see her

watching me come and go.

 

All these poems are the same.

 

A sort of old guy

walking his dog before work.

Stopping and looking around.

Crossing the dam.

 

And now it’s spring,

and the kids are coming home from Newfoundland.

Pink surveyor’s tape tied to a branch,

prayer flag in a breath of wind.