As I have navigated the turbulent currents of this week’s corono-virus events, I was reminded of something I wrote in my journal last summer; re-reading it this morning helped to steady me. I send it along to you with hopes it will do the same for you. Here it is:
Seated on the cool, moss-covered earth that dips right down into the edge of the Dolores River here in Southern Colorado, I am held close on either side by the large exposed roots of two tall spruce trees. These protruding roots, smooth and coiled and twisted, are footstool and also arm rest, and I shelter here, held, quite literally, by Mother Earth. I sip my warm black sweet tea. The sparkling river races by, inches from my sandaled feet. Everywhere I look, upriver or down, the morning sunlight, slanting across the water, glints and shines and, as the water splashes over the submerged rocks and pebbles and boulders, the flickering light dances so intensely that it makes me dizzy. Who can bear such swiftly moving change, however inviting and elusive it may be? I am therefore grateful for the sturdy, steadying solidity and uprightness of the tree against my back, its rough bark a reality that is still and comforting, not moving, moving, as is the river.
I love the river, of course. I once named my book of poetry Life is a River. So it is, all life, a river, moving, dynamic, always shifting, as is my life, inner and outer. Everything is swiftly moving, elusive, now you see it, now you don’t. And like this river before me, life is sometimes transparent to whatever is submerged, the riverbed beneath it, or it is sometimes translucent or more often opaque, when I don’t know what is underneath the rapidly moving stream of time and circumstance that is my life as it races along, like this river.
When the awareness of this “dance of Shiva,” this constant dance of change that brings things into being and dances them out again, when the pace of all that shifting play of Yin and Yang, of particle and wave of energy, when it all gets dizzying, I posit something for myself that is like these upright, solid trees, with their cradling roots; these I can hold onto and these can anchor me in the landed earthiness of such soulful things that I can slow down comfortably, understanding my desire for the beauty and wonder and joy to last, last, to be fixed and permanent, or at least to be somewhat stable for enough time for me to savor them.
Yet, even as I continue to honor the precious material reality of the “matter” of things, the cool, smooth touch of this one beloved tree’s roots against my skin, the steadiness of the tree itself against which I lean, even so, my always effervescent spirit cascades on downriver, ever ready to go with the river, to tumble on, restlessly, curiously, drawn, perhaps, by some larger vision or allurement, over other rocky shoals, sometimes dancing in the light, sometimes bruised on a particularly rocky patch, sometimes languishing in an eddy where I simply circle and circle in the shallows, unable to move on from something that has pulled me from the mainstream, from the current of my true destiny.
I love rivers, especially clear ones like this one, that, even as it flows and flows, ever onward, it’s surface sparking and splashing, yet its clearness somehow enables me to see through to the riverbed, to the eternally there, that which is beneath the surface flow, to see through to that which, however much it too is changing, at least it is changing more slowly, so that I could walk upright right out into it, without tilting in my dizziness or turning an ankle, as I might do if I follow my impulse this morning and wade into these churning waters, stepping onto and over the slippery sparkling rocks.
Ah!! Great Love Affair, river and tree and me. Morning zendo of spruce and stone beside the river. I am grateful for tea and thought and time to be here.