Zen Camino Road

crosses

The Master sat, having tucked his robes beneath his knees, and folded them, such that any space that had offered any opening to where his genitals lay, was covered by cloth. He then, having assumed his lotus posture, asked each apprentice the same question, “What is the Way?” And each, coming up before him, sitting now slightly below the Master’s line of vision, offered a glimpse of this. Carefully, the Master brushed away these understandings with care and aplomb. There were concerns with the deception of perhaps feeling something over actually knowing it. There were problems with being able to unfurl many fine words of the Tradition which did not necessarily betray their life as practice. There those that even questioned the Master himself, that he was too much himself a man of intellect and not of the heart. And to each apprentice, I observed how like the moment when I myself have walked alone and felt a falling acorn has hit the back of my hand, the Master was both personal and direct every time, an oak of wisdom. I also, as I sat, remembered reading long ago, sprayed upon a wall in blue paint: “Soy la palabra, soy el camino, soy la verdad.” I am the word, I am the road, I am the truth, when I was walking to my Spanish lesson to learn Spanish in Bogotá. This was back in 1990 when the way was dangerous and I went quite carefully there and back alone. This was when a garbage dump manager almost became elected President of Colombia because most of the other presidential candidates had been assassinated, and it narrowed the field down. He came close enough to the tune of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, whose baleful ominous choirsome music from hell and heaven oppressed and elevated us all. I had wanted, had I gone up to speak to the Master himself, to tell him not all of this, but some of it. I know, had I gone there, I would have faced him, my eyes slightly just below his, and said to him in Spanish, the words of the graffito that I had read and absorbed so long ago on my daily Spanish lesson, and nothing more. I chose to fidget a little since my nose was a bit runny due to the change of weather, from the host of warm summer days that were almost balmy, to the suddenly cool ones of Fall that took that warmth out of my bones.

Windswept Horizons

crosses

There are places I have known, and regardless of my affections and whatever leanings, this way or that, which I may also have, the somber reminder is there. Cattle die. Kinsmen die. All men are mortal. So said, I read once in a fearsome kids’ book I have never found again, the Viking. When this is seen, not as a marble monument in Washington, nor as some great waxen get-up lying in state in Moscow, but off upon the grassy roadside in the prairie fields of America, death by the wayside strikes another note which is neither religious nor symbolic.

There is instead the blanched grouping of seven well-arranged crosses, none of these lives crucified atop a Roman hill, but all them at once talking, swearing and laughing, teasing each other and probably gossiping about the evening, just enjoying the open speed of the open country in a car together at night, just all slipped away at once. All together. Just like that. Very quietly. These sad reminders are, in fact, everywhere out West in the U.S. They are not anomalies. They are not rare at all. They are there at just about any small bridge or cement-walled overpass you see while driving, clusters of white beautiful crosses, like bright white wildflowers planted by many different pairs of caring human hands grieving across the plains of America.