Zen Camino Road


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.

10,000 Chattering Monkeys

broken snow tree

There were places to go in the hinterland. Temples in Moscow to see. All sorts of commotion. Out West, down a dirt driveway he’d parked in once, an old brown rusty thermal swimming pool to swim and relax in. All those monkeys. A shoebox, a complete worldwide zoo of chatter, full of noises and sounds and flies buzzing. There was of course Joyce, a noise-maker par excellence. Well, the Burmese position is a semi-stable one, and well-suited to a chap like him. And, hell, he’d been trained by training’s best, a good solid guy from Long Island who’d tripped a hundred times before taking his vows. Anything in this vacant world is possible now. Even as he’d had a shot with a ball last night and from an impossible distance watched it go downcourt and make an imperceptible swoosh which through the net he did not see. There was only the silence of the aftermath and him standing and all the other people around just being people around being people, and him just standing there. Picture living the lucid life of that when prodded by the sun’s little paws at dawn he wakes from his nightly sleep.

Tyger Tyger Burning Bright

I know Blake meant some other thing, made by some other special hand. But every morning, just past dawn when the stray coyotes have left the cool night alone, and the black bears are huddled somewhere far away enough, my little black cat and I go walking alone in the woods. And I will venture just ahead, and she will scratch a tree, a trunk just outside the perimeter of the yard to mark it as hers, and to sharpen a bit more her already deadly claws. Then, walking ahead, I will turn around like Orpheus to see . . . but my little predatory Eurydice doesn’t flee, doesn’t vanish into the Underworld of Forever. She follows ever slowly, ever at her own steady pace. And so I, in turn, do not have to, like that poor defeated poet, grieve. Whither shall we go, I watch her emerald eyes pointing the way, a subtle inclination, up the embankment, or along the flatland. And we do. Me first, then her. And when we are far within the lovely wood, where another poet had claimed ‘twas dark and deep, she will find a large heap of rock some old dead farmer a hundred fifty years ago had piled up with slabs of useless bluestone to clear his land for once-grazing sheep (long before these forests grew) and sit and gaze. And I may wait, resting on another nearby stone or a stump some twenty minutes or so, until my little guru sidles back over to me. It is from her that I have learned patience. And it is from her to quietly breathe. I have learned to sit before the dawn’s first rays of light and wakeful birds and all the forest sounds everyday abounding in the trees, to sense and be myself the quiet rising from years of fallen leaves. She can be a little show off, darting straight fifteen meters up the side of an uprooted tree suspended at a forty-five angle degree in mere seconds. In the end, no matter where we go, and as we return home, there are two things I also keep in my regard: that I am her dearest protector and she, my little soft panther, has, out of her grace placed a day’s trust in me.