When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. And when we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy…….Ajahn Chah
we cannot live without each other…..it is within these most difficult and precious relationships where we begin to know ourselves….to live in the sensuality between nature and time……
There is a backdoor where we can skip the names that keep things small. This door is worn and rusty. Its hinges screech only halfway — not heard or seen where the sun flirts with the land bright-eyed in his promise of comfortable becoming, but at night, and under, where the creatures are belly to the earth and amorphous. Where one’s senses become heightened necessarily by the thick presence of Mystery, and hairs stand on end with the Holy. This is where we’re going.
The door is so ancient that it has been swallowed by the landscape around it, and to see it, you must offer yourself first to the rhythmic swirl of life and death where you too will be reclaimed by the Mother, and become of the elementals that hold shape and structure and allow it to flux and change both.
Life happens in the intervals.
I’ll say it now, just in case you want more, on where this door lies in relationship to your urban organization and your manageable to-dos and your Sunday prayers.
Where it leads we cannot journey together. You will be unutterably alone, as I am. But I am here to tell you of my task, worthy of announcing, so I’ll give you a clue as to what is behind that door: impressions, dreams, images and shadows, dancing themselves into feeling.
I found the moose skull through that door, in a circle of dead cottonwood trees, bleached white from the sun — the skull and the trees both. In the eye socket, that space where a vision occurred, a tiny purple Pacific Aster grew, replacing the iris with rays of lavender and pupil yellow like the wolves here.
It had been watching me with its flower eyes, as I came upon the circle, so stark in death amidst life that it pulled off the impossible task of disappearing in plain sight, and I had to look twice to see.
It had been watching me as I danced for those great mountains, whose peaks, regal and dangerous, rose out of the lakes like a rough Aphrodite. Beckoning you close with mouths agape in the fiery light of sunset.
I place my hand on the skull. The dome of bone sloping up and over, ridge-like, to fit just-so in the divot of my palm. My fingers fan out from that high place alluvially, resting downward and outward like the rivered landscape.
I hear a noise behind me and my heart skips. At the edge of the river on the far bank appears an adult female moose, brethren to the calcified one under my hand. All legs and nose, she is breathtaking in her ironic delicacy and grace, combing the water’s edge for reeds and roots.
A riparian beast built like rickety geometries; all vertices and lines and angular slopes, but moving like water, as it has learned to do in its apprenticeship over the years.
Her apparition felt important. The purple flower in the eye socket wavered its consent, and from then forth, I carried that skull with me as I wandered the land picking up pieces of me where they lay.
It was on this land of wildflower and wolf song that I was bestowed this task I cannot name. And now, back inside these four walls, inside this concrete city where many of us call home, I need to return to the door more regularly to stay sane. To keep my toes in the dark current. To place my hand on that warm bone again.
There is a tension in the tasks we are moved to surrender to. And I’m not talking about the mundane. I hope I’ve made that clear.
I’m talking about the soul tasks, the real ones that, as Rilke said, come up from that “deep place from which your life flows”, that you cannot ignore, and will not survive reconciling, in any small sense of that word.
These are the tasks that ask you to lay down your small largeness and assume the form of the eternal, inky black and mysterious.
They are the ones calling out to you from hidden passageways and in signs and symbols placed just-so like flower eyes in bone sockets and watery moose movements.
These are the tasks that cannot really be explained or ever completed, but in whose courtship burgeons life and soul purpose unimaginable until tasted, radical on the palate, and alluringly dangerous like snow-shrouded mountains at dawn, or the rush of river over moss rock.
Real life happens in the tension of what is seen and offered, touchable and tangible on the outside for our people, and what is hidden and dangerous, wraith-like, slippery with ecstasy, on the inside.
I am tasked with holding this tension… for now.
And staying true to it. A woman at the crossroads. One arguably ruined by the knowing of naked life. And all I can do is be with the task and sit in silence, and smile a small smile when the crows start up outside my window in raucous choirs, and do my best not to feel unbearably alone.
It is the path of the wild heart. If I know one thing, I know this… and you will know it too when it is your time: some of us are not content to fall asleep while the world, in its wild way, dances on.
…she slipped to earth,
so quietly, without fanfare,
her satin foot
gliding to ground
like a whisper,
as if to say,
you too can land like this,
as I did, just now,
remade in your arrival
but quiet, unassuming,
able to take the familiar hurt,
of being here and being found,
can come to earth
as if grounding lightly
on the sand of a new world,
re-imagined and witnessed
as you were,
by that flight
you made against the sky.