24 November 2000
I've put Tiger Balm on my left knee. It'd probably be okay without, but I like the smell and the warmth is comforting… ah, that feels good.
You should've seen the sky tonight. The temperature is in the teens and the stars are bright as diamonds on black velvet, but more colorful. The Pleiades was directly overhead as I came home from Ma's. I could see all seven sisters. And the stars in the constellations Taurus, Orion, the Dogs, and Gemini, and the planets were all easily distinguishable. Blue Sirius, red Rigel, rainbow Jupiter, yellow Saturn... beautiful to behold. But too cold to linger long looking!
I spent the day at Jon's. A cozy Thanksgiving gathering: Jon, Sue, the kids, and the immediate in-laws, and two odd aunts, one from each side (me and Auntie Ann). Nine of us. While we waited for dinner, and after Sarah helped with the rolls and I had sliced the pumpkin bread, Sarah let me tell her the story of The Magic of Spider Woman. She was kind enough to say she really liked it, so I enlisted her as my test audience for future stories.
After dinner, Sarah had me out playing soccer. Sarah and I practiced proper forms, did a lot of kicking. Then Lauren joined us and gave us a free-for-all workout. I must say the t'ai chi has done wonders for my footwork and my balance. Lauren didn't knock me over or trip me up, and she plays as rough as I do— though I think we were both aware and wary of incurring parental wrath.
Sarah is very good, too, and no cry baby, but she doesn't have to win at all costs. Lauren does. I did, once upon a time. But I think Sarah has Ma's secret way of not bothering about such things. She just plays and has a good time, biding until the right moment appears and then she takes her best shot. It's usually enough. She was high scorer in her league this season. They're both good kids.
After soccer, I asked Sarah if she wanted to go for a walk. She surprised me by saying yes. And she surprised me again by proving herself a kindred spirit. Only a short way down the street— they live in a neighborhood that has grown up in the woods over the last fifteen years, rather like Mowry Street— Sarah had adopted my practice of finding a stick to make walking "music" on the pavement.
I thought we were going to stick to the road, but when we got to the bend, Sarah stopped me and pointed out a pond that is just visible through the trees. She told me she had been noticing it for some time: she sees it every day from the school bus. And she noticed that the pond seemed to belong to the house around the bend because there was a bench and a shelter of some kind. But, she also wondered aloud if there was some way we could get to the pond from this side, so as not to disturb the owners.
The terrain looked pretty swampy and there didn't seem to be any obvious paths. It looked like pretty hard going without proper boots. So we decided to go back around the bend and see what things looked like from the other side.
Just past the house of the pond's owners Sarah pointed out a path she had also been curious about. With me along she was feeling brave, and she said out loud, "I've been wondering about where this path goes. I see it every day. You know what? I'm going to follow it." And off she went. And how could I not follow?
The path looked as if it were regularly ridden over by a four-wheeler. A good, broad path. It led up to the top of the hill, then down a steep slope in to a valley with a small, narrow stream flowing through it. Someone had built a wooden bridge over the stream, and there were marks churned in the mud where the four-wheeler had passed earlier in the day. As we approached the bridge the ground began to crunch under our feet. What had been all mud earlier in the day was now frozen or quickly freezing.
The ice crystals were very interesting. We picked some up to look at. They stood upright and their structure reminded me of strands of muscle fiber— like the strings of meat you pick off a roast and your mom yells at you. There was mud and dirt mixed in at the tops and bottoms of the "fibers" but in the middle the ice was crystal clear. Sarah remarked that it was too bad we couldn't take some home to show everyone. We crossed the stream.
The trail led upwards. There were pieces of apple scattered on the trail, and in a clearing at the top there was corn on the ground and an odd contraption suspended from a tree by pulleys. It was a metal canister hung about twelve feet off the ground. On the bottom there was a small wire cage that reminded me of a suet feeder, but it wasn't that... I don't know what the contraption was. But someone is looking out for the deer.
Surrounding that clearing were the skeletons of old cars. Cars from 50 or 60 years ago. There was very little left of them. I couldn't ID any makes or models. No other path led out of that clearing, so we retraced our steps and noticed a salt lick by the side of the trail. Sarah had never seen one before, and didn't quite believe me when I told her what it was, so we both had a taste. Yuck!
Following the path all the way up we found ourselves in the meadow that runs behind the houses at the top of the hill on the road that runs at right angles to the road we first took. Sarah knew who lived in each of the houses, but she'd never seen the backs of their houses. We retraced our steps to the stream.
Across the stream again, we discovered that there was another trail leading towards that intriguing pond. The trail looked to run near enough the back of the pond owner's property that we decided to chance being taken for trespassers. And the path led directly to the pond.
We discovered that the pond is man-made. It had to have been dug out years ago, much longer ago than the house was built, for the house is only a couple of years old. We found a sluice feeding the stream, and a small lower holding pond below. The pond was built for some use, but what that had been, we couldn't discern. Now it seemed to be used for meditation. There was, as Sarah had noted, a bench set overlooking the water by the sluice, and someone had built nesting boxes to attract ducks and birds. Off to one side there was another path leading to more back yards. And there was a lot of bittersweet growing there, too.
It was getting dark by then, so we decided to head back. We decided to follow the path up through the pond owner's back yard. They weren't home.
The streetlights came on as we walked back. We were heading home just in time. The rule is, come home when the streetlights come on. As we went Sarah told me about other places she wants to explore. She says there's supposed to be a pond up on top of the high hill across the way. I said we should go look— another day, of course. And we will. We're kindred spirits.
The heron's pond is frozen. There were kids playing on the ice. Of course, the pond is very shallow, and the kids were little ones of about half my weight, but it's frozen nonetheless. Perhaps tomorrow's expected "heat wave" will bring a thaw. I hope so. Brrrr!
I'm still in the process of cleaning things out. It's mostly aggravating (so much old junk!), but I have run across some interesting things that I had completely forgotten. Like yesterday morning, Thanksgiving Day, I was shifting stuff in the book room and I found an old list. It must be fifteen years old. It came out of one of my Zen books, I'm sure:
Shoyoku: Desire Little. People who always want something will always suffer. Limit your own desires and do not strive after illusions, or you will never be content.
Chisoku: It Is Enough. With what you have, with what you are given, try to be satisfied. Strive only to get the least you truly need, and when you are given something, let it be enough.
Gyo: Be Unattached. Everything changes, everything is impermanent. Do not attach yourself to people or to things or to ideas. Delight in each person or thing or idea by accepting each as it is at the moment, and when it changes, accept the change or let it go, but do not pine for what was.
Shojin: Continuing & Continuous Effort. Continue to practice every day. Do not hurry, do not force. Be like flowing water wearing away the rock.
Fumonen: Seek the Truth. Do not deceive yourself; do not allow others to deceive you. Even the greatest Masters are only human and capable of error.
Shu Zenjo: Find the Balance. Learn to control your self so that you can remain calm and balanced in the face of chaos and disorder, and so that you can always bring yourself back into balance with nature.
Jo Riki: Nurture Your Chi. By developing and nurturing your ch'i, your internal energy, you bring yourself into harmony with all nature.
Fukero: Let Go. Let go of all your ideas about what is and what is not, of what is right and what is wrong. Making labels and holding to beliefs will limit your thinking and blind you to the truth. Accept the fact that the cosmos is too large and too complex for human understanding. Let go of the need to define the universe in human terms. Life is impermanent. The world is impermanent. The cosmos is impermanent. No one can understand God.
___________: Embrace Your Humanness. Among people, there is no such thing as "less than human;" no such thing as "more than human." There is only a possibility of being the best human you can be. Learn your own heart. Accept yourself. Learn to understand the hearts of others. Accept them. And do not seek to be something other than completely human.
___________: Live. When you have done all these things and know what is right for you to do, do it with your whole heart and do not hold back. Choose your path, and follow it. And do not worry that you have made a mistake, or that there are other paths. All paths are correct paths, and all lead to the same place. Live fully, embracing life with with your whole body, heart, and spirit, and be joyful in the living.
Sounds like a Plan to me. Think I'll hang it on the 'fridge.
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