Most of my colleagues had urged me on. They had had belief in me. Others who knew me intimately had sometimes said, upon parting, “You’re a great person, but I felt I was deceived.” That was a silly thing to have said, since I myself could not have known. The great Titanic sank. Machu Picchu is an empty ruin. The Twin Towers have fallen. Busily builders build, climbers climb, workers work, farmers farm. Canoe. Kayak. Row. A, B, C. Alpha, beta, gamma. Blessed by the great guru, I had become at peace with myself. For a minute if not for a day. My spirit I would cast across the lake as rose petals had blown in the wind. My sparkle is eternal, my shine radiant, my mother home.
There wasn’t enough cash left to get two cans of high temp paint to spray the woodstove black. It’d have to do to let it burn through the winter this time, grimy and rusty in spots. Next year will be better. And the switched out pair of snows had just enough tread hopefully to pass inspection if he did it one or two months earlier than the windshield sticker said to in February when by then making it up the hill would be impossible and down’d be deadly.
Fortunately, the cat wasn’t balking at dry food which per pound per meal was much less change to spend than can after can, even by the case, of wet. She’d gotten used to the dry crackle of kibbles in between her teeth, mushed in with a little wet around sundown when she’d come inside for the last time before nightfall. And the cat purred anyway so long as she was treated kindly stretched out on his chest, or balled up on the colored striped blanket folded on the corner of the bed.
He’d go about his business, felling standing timber, cutting it up, and buying a new chain now and then when the spare broke, as happens from time to time. And then the rest was split by hand which, as work, is a decent way of forgetting everything. Making firewood is a good way to live. It takes only calmness, focus, steady breaths, and enough strength to lift a maul above the head before the grace of Earth’s gravity lends her own hand to travel swiftly down between the seam unseen to the human eye.
Maybe one day his name would be posted in the middle pages of the local newspaper with all the others whose land and homes were in arrears. But that could be some time yet. That could be some time before the sheriff came. Things by then could change, maybe for the better, maybe not. Years back, when he was rich, he’d had a lawyer who’d gibed, “You can’t squeeze blood out of turnip.” So to turn turnip, so to turn rock. There never was shame in being poor.
For gifts, he’d give away a pretty enough feather he’d find (or had found) lying somewhere in the woods. A first edition of The Lives of Cells, by Lewis Thomas, would be nice from his bookshelves. A diamond unearthed from the great days swinging a sledge at Herkimer would please him immensely, too. There were enough rocks and minerals and handfuls of Apache tears to give away to others for years.
A man of infinite strength is not a man of infinite will. He knows when to cower when he’s afraid. He knows to quail when he’s ashamed. A man of infinite courage is not a man of infinite boldness. He knows when to retreat when he is overpowered. He knows to run when he is scared. A man of infinite power is not a man of infinite might. He knows to hold out his open hand when he is poor and destitute. He knows when to submit when one greater than he appears. A man of infinite right is not even a man of infinite justice. He knows when to give in to grace itself. He knows that even the Law itself is only partial and partially flawed. A man of infinite wisdom, even this man is not a man of infinite knowledge. He knows to listen more carefully to voices besides his own. He knows the habits of his mind, however well-trained, are little more than familiar ways already leading home. A man of infinite love, this man, even he, is still not complete. For a man so long as he is attached to the most glorious visions of life itself cannot be. Once dead, he will have known an empty world of silence, as though it was a land of timeless peace. As for the idea itself of the infinite man, such an infinite man walks so closely with God, or Allah, or Yahweh Himself that all the many multitudes might too live in divinity.
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What fill up rain barrel of water? Raindrops. Every person who alive is only raindrop. All person filling up rain barrel. This barrel of life. So long barrel good, life good. When barrel weak and tired, human life it in a great jeopardy. Anybody own this barrel? Cry it out! Anybody own this barrel! Without a raindrop in it, what use is a barrel? Without a barrel full raindrop in it, what purpose has rain barrel got? The barrel, people, need the rain and the raindrop we all need the barrel. We are all on planet. We on a rain barrel call planet Earth. It contain us all. What kind use it got without us people? It got some! For many many million year it got stuff growing on it! Mildew in your wet shower towel you throw in corner, mold in shower you no scrub for so many week in row, old kitchen sponge you too lazy and cheap change, flake of wet skin come off in between toe, there all kind of life everywhere you find. But human life, it a special kind of it. It know it mildew. It know it tiger. It know it slow slow grouse in wild laurel bush puffing out all feather.
Planet do quite quite well without human being animal long long time before you up running around swimming pool on two legs getting chased by a mother who catch you, throw you in, and break open by accident your chin on blue cement side of it. Other animal never remember it so clearly, never tell it to be love story. Other animal only see a danger in it. Human being animal very complicated. It can see a love in a danger. It kind of animal who know what mean being sometime very very cruel to each other being very very kind to each other. Sometime too kind! We actually way too smart sometime for our own good. The planet Earth it contain us and we special animal people, we give it special purpose. We create on it love. We create on it picture on cave for other people animal to see tomorrow. We special because we think about tomorrow. We always do. We sad when people die because when they die we remember there really is tomorrow. So we have sorrow. So we have joy. We mix together two sorrow and joy and we make beauty. Can who else make this? Spider web very beautiful. You think spider done and think about how beautiful trap it make? Beaver house very beautiful. You think when done it swim to shore and go flap! flap! flap! with broad broad tail to say like whoopee! To self? You think bee go wiggle each other how pretty hive look when you think about it? You think bald eagle couple up high in tree with enormous nest built of branches ever go over how majestic a view they got or how they so majestic looking themselves up there in it? You think acre after acre after acre blue spruce with thin white poplar tree poking through in place ever know about how peaceful peace of self is? Why we think dolphin happy when jumping and jumping and jumping with ship on side? Or mother monkey take care of baby monkey picking out bug in hair? It because they more like us! Of course! You know that already! We see some of own happiness and care and love in other animal. More like us, more we see.
Without a human being animal, rain barrel Earth just interesting kind of shape with all kinds interesting thing growing on it all over place. It will still be interesting, but not so special. It why it so important to be taking good care of rain barrel. How sturdy the rings it got? Very sturdy. But all chemicals and heat human animal people put up in air, very bad for what hold it together. Ozone apart. Greenhouse effect. Thermal pollution. You think factory in China that make my shoe very good and cheap there good? No. They bad. They make rings of planet weak and rusty. You think all garbage put in ocean day and day and day, or bury in ground place where not many people live close, or burn and burn and burn is good? No. It also bad. It pretty obvious! We all know it! All this make wood of barrel rotting. Some slats they very bad already. So far, people, it ok. But once barrel go, it go! All water in barrel it flood all out. It ruin everything and go everywhere all over the cosmos.
It why now people we need pay attention, people, to care of planet earth and repair of it where we can to our mother barrel. It only one we got! It great big treasure chest. We already it jewel. But we digging out of treasure chest and into it same time. This really very crazy to do! What we looking for we don’t got? It in us. We the treasure. We the sparkle, we the shine; we would glow and shimmer. What give a moon it lustre and a sunshine it smile. That what we do! All that shine and glow already in us! Next time you see raindrop, make cup with hand. Catch that little raindrop, and remember as you close hand now that it all raindrops who fill earth with life. Without human animal raindrop already sparkle. With human being animal it also very very precious.
Truth is: World ok without you. World ok without me. World ok without people. Then it just world. I see sometime purple bumper sticker it say: SAVE OUR PLANET. I alway want peel off. It not about planet. It about people. When I grow up, planet great. We go McDonald™ and when everybody done, we put all garbage in big white McDonald™ bag all food come in. Then roll down side window and throw on highway. It normal. That what a highway shoulder suppose be used for. It like a white tumbleweed rolling. Big bunchy white McDonald™ bag, and I feel so lucky I one who get to throw it out. It best part McDonalds™. You think earth care about people garbage? Not really! You think ocean water care about chemical drum we dump there? Not really! You think state Arizona care about nuclear bomb explosion underground? Not really! Earth don’t care. Earth like big nanny. Earth no matter what it take care self. We mess up nursery, throw round toy and break all sort things, scream and yell. We take off diaper and throw round room. We swear at each other and use very very vulgar language. Planet Nanny Earth, she don’t really care! She take care self! She got a job no matter what! Long as she got a planet, she got job! Who on it, it don’t really matter her.
“It shows I think that how much damage we do,” said fellow co-author Jim Smith, an environmental science professor at the University of Portsmouth. “It’s kind of obvious but our every day activities associated with being in a place are what damages the environment.”
“Not that radiation isn’t bad,” he added, “but what people do when they’re there is so much worse.”
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.
We were festooned with leis. We were draped in scarves of many colors. We were seated on blankets, on hand-sewn kanthas, on silver-stitched carpets, on birch bark peelings wide enough for lovers, on just plain green grass. We had had our peace pipes and panpipes ready to smoke, and ready to play. We had had our minds all set to hear sacred and holy things. We had all gathered in the open field together to hear the great man speak. And just beyond our lowered heads, a little ways just across the right outfield of the town’s baseball diamond, just over that, just beyond the rusted iron fence, the just smiling Dalai Lama stretched out his robed arm and pointed to the ancient graveyard. “The final destination!” His Holiness said, before he had said a word.
He could be kind. And that he was. He could be generous. And that he was. At times cruel. And that he had been. He could do all sorts of things. Sail a boat with one hand, and roll a cigarette with another. Change the oil in my car, and fix the pump in the basement. He was very good with my children, with wide open eyes of child-like wonder himself. But he himself was like that blissful martyr seeking some other deeper purpose. And in this he drew no boundaries, either for himself or anyone he knew. I think that had he felt called to sacrifice his own kin at the altar of G-d, in the end, so strong in him was this, I think he might have submitted. As though his own life and all in it became a careless trifle, and that human life itself were but a daily test for the sign of the divine. For the personal, he claimed, was second to the peerless contemplations of things that would by necessity continue to perplex us for millennia, and that he himself lived by some holy duty, long after any marriage was spent, or some lifetime gone. Yet for me, I could not abide; and drew my line in the sand. For I could not say that for me his way was enough, even if I had loved him, which I did. Not to give up so much of what mattered to me. I would not give up my life, or the effect of daily consequences upon the lives of the living—certainly not at the cost of my ending up feeling lesser about myself, even if for ages afterwards, I longed to be in his arms again.
Between him and her there weren’t the usual things that derailed people, uncoupled a couple. There weren’t infidelities or nasty, name-calling arguments. There were other issues. There was, foremost, her illness which, like an outbreak of poison ivy, or some skin disease, kept coming back. And no matter what, no matter what she did: yoga, eating well, some exercise, meditation, weekend spiritual retreats—her need for support from him, through recurring morning bouts of tears, or frightful attacks of utter panic, did not abate. And there was his own need for secrecy, privacy. His walled off world of emotions and ideas, why, these he had stopped sharing with her some time ago. Some time, ago, yes: for both of them. At one point, he recalled, later on, that one day he had brought home a blue-glazed Moroccan dish, a beautiful object just for her to hang upon the kitchen wall. As he unwrapped the newspaper around it and lay it at her place at the dinner table, she barely noticed, barely acknowledged it. That was a turning point.
Maybe two years later, he came home and she was lying in the backyard grass half-drunk listening to something, music or some spiritual recording, on her phone and earbuds. She hadn’t noticed him pulling in. They went out, as she had planned, and she told him about the time the block of cheese being grated was dropped onto her plate by the waiter when she had been to this restaurant before, some other time. Yes, it was an earnest but misguided effort on her part to appear perky and lively for him, though he witnessed that evening that she could well have been with anybody else. That was another turning point.
He did not, for his part, ever mention to her that prior the end, while they had gone on a weekend vacation together, that he had seen a woman—middle-aged and light on her feet—jogging on a dirt road near their hotel. She had, having finished her jog, reached into a weathered tin mailbox, smiled, and even said to him a simple, friendly ‘hello’. That unknown woman and her address from the mailbox he had kept in his mind for two years now and had wanted to write her a letter declaring how lovely and alive and fresh and especially kind she had appeared. But nobody really ever does such things. Only mad people. Wrong people. Disturbed people who do inappropriate things. So, he didn’t.