When I lay down to sleep at night, the bed pillows are stacked at the base of a window in the north wall. I don a nightcap rather than draw the curtains. On clear nights, the last light I see before closing my eyes has traveled oh so far (124 and 79 light-years respectively*) through near empty space. Dubhe and Merak are the two stars in the Big Dipper known as 'the pointers' because an imaginary line extended through them leads directly to Polaris, the only star in the sky that doesn't seem to move. 150 years ago, runaway slaves knew these asterisms by another name and would follow the Drinking Gourd north to freedom. In the same way that all 'appearances became text' for Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa, the pointers are an astrophysical sign indicating the world's axis, the space beyond conception, the still point where awareness comes to rest each night, as well as for a moment during the interval after death and prior to the next rebirth.
The winter morning routine begins before dawn at the kitchen table where I share coffee with the ladies before they drive north, not to freedom but to man the trenches on the frontlines of samsara. Here they work as tax preparers and secretaries, serving a public that is too often rude, impatient, uneducated and under the illusion that they are dealing with government employees. Growing evidence of our failing economy appears in the form of customers crowding the office seeking advances on their returns in spite of the 35% interest the banks are charging. Beyond the stress of dealing with the public, down servers and poorly designed software, misunderstandings and disagreements with friends and co-workers can make this time of year a real test of patience and joyful effort for all of us. More evidence of the big squeeze came a few days ago when a twelve mile section of divided highway which had been posted at 65 mph for years was suddenly changed to 55. Thousands of people, many with marginal factory and service industry incomes drive this stretch everyday and have become habituated to the speed as the road was originally constructed as a way to bypass the town. The cops are having a field day preying on the overworked and underpaid.
This situation finds me in the kitchen once again around sundown to jam with the kids at putting together something that will pass for dinner. Our culinary skills are humble but gradually evolving. My last stint as a cook took place over twenty years ago when we lived in Jamaica and Tenkar was pregnant with Isa, our fourth child. Truth be told, I haven't had much practice since then but so far, so good. Isa, Kyema and I have a great time putting our limited talents and knowledge together to prepare something we can all appreciate. Our 'beginner's mind' usually manages to provide a measure of creative variety in spite of the simplicity of the fare. Our specialties are rice and vegies with 'secret' miso sauce, tortillas with fixings, bean soups and pasta.
Long after dark headlights wind their way up the drive,and dakinis emerge out of the darkness greeted by the barking of dogs. Depending on scheduling, they might arrive home together or alone but in any case we immediately head for the comfort of the woodstove to share stories of the days trials and trivia before sitting down with plates of hot food, often followed by a cup of tea and only a few precious hours to share before retiring. This is not the time for anything very demanding. Herb, foot-rubs, some talk of current events; they often do not have the energy to stay awake through an entire movie. This is how it goes during the peak period of tax season.
For whereas the mind works in possibilities, the intuitions work in actualities, and what you intuitively desire, that is possible to you. Whereas what you mentally or "consciously" desire is nine times out of ten impossible; hitch your wagon to a star, or you will just stay where you are.
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
The years in which the light presently perceived was generated by these two distant suns happen to frame the birth [Dubhe] and death [Merak] years of Mr. Lawrence's brief time on earth.