Friday, June 22, 2012

Rock Garden Tao

you know that i speak, at times, of my rock garden nestled below the arching bamboo culms in the back.  

i am there most days for an hour or more.  

often digging out hidden boulders, looking for new ones under the fragrant earth, exploring them, rubbing them, cleaning them, revealing their shapes. 

handful by handful moving soil, revealing a dense hardness to the earth that was hidden from view.

breaking my nails and covering myself in mud while cleansing my inner self in the process.

then, doing man's deeds: planting succulents, ferns and grasses of life.  

forming beauty from our own darkened imagination.

you know those ancient taoists (that lao tzu certainly held his asian ear to the earth!) believed these bulging stones were the spine of the world.  its backbone.  its strength and stability.  its firmness.  

its philosophical anchor.

but those wu-wei souls lived a long time ago --  in a world more attuned to nature's unspoken voice, a distant calm and the presence of immortals in the backyard.

yet living here, below shivapuri danda, with these mottled weighty stones bunched in unmovable clusters, it's easy to believe that there is an eternal life within these boulders.  

eternity, thy name is stone!  magma.  sediment.  igneous.  lava.  pumice. minerals.

hard and unyielding. blind to our passions and yearnings.  noble and forthright.  still and constant.  

unspeaking, yet they whisper softly in the crepuscular light.  they hum, actually, echoing the cricket's song and the cry of the split-tailed drongos as they dance in the purple light above the walnut tree.

they have seen much, even as they were buried by soil for generations.  

as my hands spill more soil in soft piles, i'm sure, below the boulders, i'll find a 1,000 year old lichhivi temple.  its brick shikar tower once trapped by a himalayan landslide waiting patiently for a jewish explorer to unearth her noble form. 

such is my current vocation: dirt digging.  a thoroughly modern musahar of the valley.

around me, as my neighbors concrete homes go up, i'm digging down.  

i've done the up thing in life.  it's ok.  actually quite good for many aspects of the world -- but not the soul.

classic sacred western theology has gotten it wrong for long -- as souls don't go up or down. 

that's another human frame.   heaven above.  hell below.  the law of moses and manu.  g-d above.  brahmins from the head.  dalits from the feet.  sacred mountains.  top of the hill.  bottom of the pile.  flying high.  sinking low.  

all that...

but my experience tells me the soul needs earth, privacy, silence, moisture.  

not those arid realms of power, damask, dignity, gold leaf and hierarchy.  

these nameless boulders don't rise and fall.  they simply lie where they land.  maybe tumble a bit.  roll around.  

they're not afraid to merely flop.  

they are big for awhile, then things begin to fall apart.  they break, crease, splinter and separate.  

again, the nature of things...  so common to all living things.  

"anicca.  anicca.  anicca.", goenka said, i recall. 

but for these wizened boulders without any bitterness, worry or anxiety.  

it is, simply.  or was.  

new forms evolve.  new shapes.  a fresh crack or crevice or the like.  somewhere for a young root to take refuge.  and grow.  soil seeps in.  water, too.  earth happens.  

but, the boulder sublimely meditates on it all.  


unperturbed or disturbed.  quiet unto itself.  

not as striving as we who observe, much less the nearby trees.  not striving at all, actually.  not in the growth realms of the living.  

no ages.  no birthdays.  no degrees.  no anniversaries.  no rings.  no new leaves.  nada. 


more in the meditative, monastic pattern of letting life be.  or not be.   as the case may be...

that mystical, mercurial taoist 'doing-not-doing', again.  

being.  (or not being...)

clever material things!  (or not so clever material things!)

no problem, actually.  simplicity magnified.  or reduced.  or under-elevated, i guess.  in its own dull, grey rockish way.   beaten by the elements, wind, water, erosion.  

let it come!  

takes it all on and never, not once, complains.  

open to new patterns, new styles, new events.  changelessly changing.  imperturbable.  accepting.

takes it all in.   

there's much to learn from these hard to understand beasts of the earth.  they observe all.  they support all.  they are meek signals of a distant explosive past beyond our remotest perception.  

a reminder, i suppose, of the fearless truths of our dusty, silent, deepest universe.  

the actuality of existence.  no poetry no prose.  no swaddling clothes or marriage gowns.  not even the mortal shroud before the tomb.  

just the stone-in-itself, as kant may have noted in his high idealistic bambuddhist deutsch.  

no sentiments. no tears. just the fine colors and patterns of existence.  

a line of quartz or igneous stratification.  a rough edge or sharp line.  

though as often the soft rounded, maternal curve that excites us so.  smoothed by the centuries or mere millennium.  

geological time.  

not our fleeting days and decades that so dazzle and stimulate our eager modern minds.  

these are the still, wise souls of nature 

within whom, 

when i reflect, 

i can find my real home.

amid the dirt 




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