Tuesday, February 12, 2008

37: Family

Yesterday afternoon, Jack and I walked up Easter Ridge, a thousand meter long finger of higher ground covered in young oak and hickory, slowing to kick down some of the branches that had fallen across the mossy path along the way. We looked for a log to sit on, but it seemed like they were all either too rotten, too close to the ground, or angled away from the sun. Instead, we settled in a patch of sun on some dry leaves with a young white oak to lean upon. Light plays on the wispy webs stretched a few inches off the ground between saplings. Off to the west, a pair of Barred Owls were hooting. This is the first time I have heard them this year.

A dozen vultures circle effortlessly high in the sky to the south. A hawk passes below them.

Nala appears over the rise with nose to the ground. She has followed our trail from the house. Jack hears her coming and jumps up running to greet her but Nala does not recognize him. She stops, startled at Jack's approach and prepares to turn and run before she recognizes the little dog she sleeps with every night. Much jumping and tail chasing before they settle down.

I walk to get out of the house and enjoy what this part of the universe offers up for free everyday. People spend so much time doing things they don't want to do so that they might be able to do some of those things they would like to do. And far from a just reward, they are often underpaid, taxed unfairly, exhausted and dehumanized by jobs
that may be outsourced, ultimately looting the middle class and further enriching those who are already criminally wealthy. The other day, I saw a chart indicating my family's income level is among the lowest 10% of the national average. Still, we live comfortably, eat well and want for nothing. And like so many other people across the earth, we have no stocks or insurance. Oh the great reckoning will surely come! In the meanwhile, you could kill yourself trying to get adequately insured.

Developing a taste for simplicity and meditation generates great personal wealth. In particular, the magic quality that transforms the mundane into its deeper, luminous context is appreciation.1 Exhausted by news of a world descending into madness, I head out to spend more time in the little wilderness that remains. The other day, I was saying to a loved one that I have always been of the opinion that a litltle ganja, a holy book, a patch of woods to get lost in and friends to share it with are the essence of a good time. What else do you need? Culturally, we seem to have lost any meaningful context to understand ourselves. Considering what we are up against in these latter days, it sometimes feels like man is a very small, impermanent thing. I don't always feel that way. Letting go of such concerns for the moment, I take refuge in the three kayas and light the bowl, look around and listen to the distant wind. A waxing crescent moon floats in the empty blue above the sun. Both are visible in one field of vision.

Climbed the ridge onto Turtle Hill. Late afternoon shadows stretch across the crown, the lone cedar appears black. Rows of prayer flags flutter in the wind. The paths and central clearing are covered in leaves. All the altars are intact, the Buddha is snug in his dark blue robe. The long flag on the central cedar pole has been ripped to shreds in the recent storms, the bench in the southern quarter was poured with bad cement and needs to be replaced. Nobody has blown a conch or performed a fire puja up here in months. It feels like an old abandoned ship. The hill has been through periods of neglect like this before. Will she ever sail again? In the trees overhead, a pileated woodpecker flies determinedly toward his nest. He has lived upon on the edge of Skymetal field for years.

I follow the path clockwise toward the red altar and set my shoulder bag between myself and the cold bench. I spent some time with the yidam as the last crimson rays of the primordial blaze bled through the winter tangle of trunks and branches on the western horizon. I have always been enthralled by this particular experience but it was not until today that i could put any words on it. As a clear phenomenal display of the symbolism of elements outlined in the hexagrams of the I-Ching, this is the natural sign of unqualified awareness radiating through the jungle of sentient channel and wind systems.

om ami dewa hri
1. from Latin, appretiat, appretiare, 'set at a price', 'appraise'. Also, Latin 'pretiosus', of great value. Tibetan, 'rinpoche', great precious one.

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