Over and over again. (overnight 3/24/17)
There is value in going to the same place again and again, returning as the seasons change. I believe I’ve written four or five reports about my hermitage, though I’ve stayed dozens of nights now. Through drought and greener seasons. In oppressive heat when gnats incessantly hover around your face in clouds, in rainy seasons in which there was not wood I could get to burn. In windstorms that I feared would get me crushed under a falling tree, and two nights ago, in weather perfect and mild and clean. I’m beginning to understand this place, though there is still a lifetime of work to be done here.
I’ve been dragging my friends up this mountain for years, most of them dead, nonetheless sharing campfires and whiskey and words by candlelight. Ryokan, Wang Wei, Jeffers, Basho, Li Po, Issa, Han Shan, Snyder, Buson…all the cold mountain poets gathered and breathing ghost steam in the night air.
My hand holds a cane made of rabbit horn.
My body is wrapped in a robe of flowers in the sky.
My feet are clad in shoes made of tortoise hair.
My lips chant a poem of no sound.
-Ryokan, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi
You brought a smile to my face with that one friend!
I picked up my book to write but nothing came, instead sitting in a cross-legged bastard Zen stupor in front of the fire for hours. Taking in the night sounds, reading a page, putting it down, playing a note or two on the flute, feeding a log, taking a sip. But mostly it is just sitting.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Probably true enough, though doing it outside is far more rewarding.
There was a mountain lion scream in the hills somewhere around 2AM. I was still sitting, though it was my cue to go to bed.
But the mornings! Birdsong everywhere, bouncing off the canyon walls, mingling with the rush of the stream. Standing under a grove of oaks like a fool, head craned upwards, turning in circles, trying to figure out who’s who.
And then down, down the mountain, walking back to the city, the monkey-mind, the fidgeting, the scabs of concrete and idiots that care nothing for Cooper’s Hawks.
And finding safety at the bottom. My wife just awakening, enough coffee still left for me, sitting together in the yard under our oak. Cats come crawling out of bushes, the chicken begging for sunflower seeds, the dog at my feet, and our children still in bed.
There is nothing to run from here.