the thief Grand Canyon
stole breath and words dropping them
into the river
the thief Grand Canyon
stole breath and words dropping them
into the river
When asked the cactus
had no opinion on Trump
neither did the bougainvillea
Redwoods talk to me
Say it plain
The human name
Doesn’t mean shit to a tree
Jefferson Airplane, Eskimo Blue Day
The World Is Too Much With Us
by William Wordsworth
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
We are the people of more or all.
We have never before been able to have so many different things and to tell so many different people about so many different things. We have never been able to want so many different things and to hear from so many people about so many different things. Things include not only material, but events, experiences and ideas.
We may try to have, want, say, hear it all, or as much as possible. We may believe that we are the fortunate beneficiaries of living in this unprecedented situation, and that even the occasional imbalance is outweighed by finally being the people of more or all. Anyway, we are just taking advantage of inevitable progress, are we not? Why shouldn’t just a hint about the next iPhone be a milestone in our lives, making it a major global news story?
Writing more than two hundred years ago, William Wordsworth was in a long line of those who have suggested—begged—that we get our priorities in order and look for relief from a condition we don’t even know we are suffering from. His prescription was Nature, which stands in more broadly for consciousness of the deep essence of existence. We can have more or all, already may have more or all, if we look in the right places.
Inscribed on the winding sidewalk of the park:
The true test of civilization is not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the crops, but the kind of man that the country turns out.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Society and Solitude, 1870
Safely Listening to the Eclipse
How does the sun sound
Obscured by the moon
Invisible imperceptible waves
Blind your mind
Note: Despite mind blindness, don’t be afraid to listen to the eclipse. Put on your earphones and listen to the only eclipse song that matters.
All that you touch
And all that you see
All that you taste
All you feel
And all that you love
And all that you hate
All you distrust
All you save
And all that you give
And all that you deal
And all that you buy
Beg, borrow or steal
And all you create
And all you destroy
And all that you do
And all that you say
And all that you eat
And everyone you meet
And all that you slight
And everyone you fight
And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that’s to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon
Eclipse, Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
I started the digital birds singing
Just as the real ones arrived out the window
Mine were louder
And under my control
The wild ones served no one
Least of all me
And would stop and go
At any time
Anyway I silenced mine
To be with
The real singers of spring
One dying without hope.
I care for the two
But the the third,
Leaves still green
What am I to do?
Note: As mentioned earlier, orchids have floated into my usually non-green world. I have begun learning how to reward the gift they give. They are, as experts say, and as is obvious, unusual plants. They rest for a while and, with proper care, will wake up more beautiful than ever.
But not always. And not forever.
These birds are confused
The cold winds are.
What’s time to a bird
The line “What’s time to a bird” is borrowed from a favorite joke with a surprisingly philosophical punch line. It goes something like this:
A guy is driving along a country road. He sees a farmer under an oak tree, holding up a pig so the pig can eat acorns. The guy stops. “You know,” the guy says, “it would be a lot easier and take a lot less time if you just shook the tree and let the acorns fall to the ground.” “Maybe,” says the farmer, “but what’s time to a pig?”
More about birds:
In the sky a bird was heard to cry.
Misty morning whisperings and gentle stirring sounds
Belied a deathly silence that lay all around.
Hear the lark and harken to the barking of the dog fox gone to ground.
See the splashing of the kingfisher flashing to the water.
Grantchester Meadow, Pink Floyd
“Well, then, just what does it mean that everybody has the Buddha Mind?…in the course of listening to my talk, if a dog barks outside the temple, you recognize it as the voice of a dog; if a crow caws, you know it’s a crow…you didn’t come with any preconceived idea that if, while I was talking, there were sounds of dogs and birds, children or grown-ups somewhere outside, you were deliberately going to try to hear them. Yet here in the meeting you recognize the noises of dogs and crows outside and the sounds of people talking… the fact that you recognize these things you didn’t expect to see or hear shows you’re seeing and hearing with the Unborn Buddha Mind.”
From Bankei Zen: Translations from the Record of Bankei
Still green trees
Still a fresh memory of summer.
Am I fooled by the colors
Thinking red leaves are flowers?
They are only
The trick is to be no more caught up in the autumn and winter of autumn and winter than in the spring and summer of spring and summer. Hard, hard.
The Dragon at the Wall
The dragon guards the wall
I sit before.
A fine pair we are.
I breathe in the oxygen
He breathes out.
He asks for water and light
I ask to learn to sit
As naturally as he does.
The Dragon Awakes
The dragon wakes up
When I open the blinds
Long green scales
In the morning light.
These poems are about a plant. A dracaena marginata, which means “Madagascar dragon.” Whether or not it is a real dragon is a question.
In his Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shobo Genzo), Dogen Zenji also writes about a dragon and a plant. Actually, a tree. Fascicle 65, Dragon Song, includes the question “Is there a dragon singing in a withered tree?” Is there?
Touzi, Great Master Ciji of Shu Region, was once asked by a monk, “Is there a dragon singing in a withered tree?”
Touzi replied, “I say there is a lion roaring in a skull.”
Discussions about a withered tree and dead ash [composure in stillness] are originally teachings outside the way. But the withered tree spoken of by those outside the way and that spoken of by buddha ancestors are far apart. Those outside the way talk about a withered tree, but they don’t authentically know it; how can they hear the dragon singing? They think that a withered tree is a dead tree which does not grow leaves in spring.
The withered tree spoken of by buddha ancestors is the understanding of the ocean drying up. The ocean drying up is the tree withering. The tree withering encounters spring. The immovability of the tree is its witheredness. The mountain trees, ocean trees, and sky trees right now are all withered trees. That which sprouts buds is a dragon singing in a withered tree. Those who embrace it one hundredfold, one thousand-fold, and one myriadfold are descendants of the withered tree.