16

Notice the space in which what happens happens.

Space precedes both subject and object.

It joins them, too.

At night we go out and look at the stars

The ferns rustle as we pass.

The sunflowers stir in the wind.

Strands of cloud drift across the Milky Way.

Somewhere a piano plays, each plaintive note like its own drop of dew.

I walk slower and slower.

Between one foot rising and the next foot falling, eternity.

Or it feels that way.

She smiles when I least expect it.

She is indifferent when I most desire coddling.

She asks for coffee heavy on the sugar, lots of cream.

We talk about the bird feeders a lot – where they are place, what type of seed they contain, what birds visit, and what improvements, if any, might be helpful.

Sometimes I think: what are we talking about?

She says, doubt is not a bad thing because it reminds us to be attentive.

Humility is good, too.

And birds, she says.

Always birds.

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15

How strange to not be needed.

The old rules no longer work.

Her letters arrive the way birds arrive in one’s field of vision.

Her words are always familiar, almost like echoes.

The brain hunts for problems to solve.

It is hungry like the chickadees who gather at the feeder.

It is clever like the squirrel that works diligently in their midst.

And predatory as the neighborhood cats who pass through murderous.

Thought is good for discovering the limits of thought but no more.

One makes contact with the space in which what happens happens.

There is always ever only one thing happening.

It is simple but the brain has evolved to obscure it.

We have created opposition where none exists.

We have hidden what is sought in the seeker.

We are agonizingly clever.

One notices then the verbs that she uses.

Release, surrender, give in, flow.

One notices too the nature of resistance.

It is like a war, an internal conflict with impossible stakes.

It is a dream, she says, from which we awakened long ago.

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14

Yesterday a coyote crossed the road before me as I walked.

Forget-me-nots sparkled on the berm.

I wonder what to tell her in my next letter.

There is a loveliness in perception but it moves.

The coyote passes into the bracken, then deeper into forest.

In my mind he is frozen on the median, eyeballing me warily.

Crows pass.

Grackles move into flocks, undulating in open sky.

Winter is coming.

Before she left she told me I was almost ready, which was why she was here.

You will forget me, she said.

But I will not forget you.

In her last letter, she reminded me to simplify all relationship.

Pay attention to sleep, she wrote.

What is is aware even unto sleep.

Walking I pass the crab apple tree, and the graves of horses.

Resistance remains a factor.

I don’t always want to let go.

Nothing happens and everything is transformed, she promises.

I tell her about the coyote, passing so swiftly into forever.

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13

The sunflowers adjust their lean according to the solar prerogative but still don’t grow.

Calls are made but go unanswered.

One walks all morning only to learn the mail is not sorted and will not be until lunch.

Our lives unfold or flow – there is a sense of movement – and we remove ourselves from it in order to comment.

She urges me to write more.

“Silence is not your mode.”

Yet I long for the deep quiet and rise early to walk through it, always sad when it is time to begin speaking.

She insists that difficulties are always of our own making for what is God yearns only to be known and offers itself accordingly.

I know it and I know I know it but still.

The study of resistance will not end resistance but it may reveal the futility of study.

The kids come by asking for help with a camera.

I put the book down and we discover the problem and solve it together.

To thank me, they take pictures of the gourd plant, always the most beloved.

They know my teacher’s name and practice saying it, the awkward syllables tripping off their young tongues.

What would she say about this, they ask.

Their desire to learn is tangible.

It is not separate from the recognition of their capacity to love which goes before words.

One of her students – who handles her correspondence – sends me a photograph and tells me my letters are most welcome and very articulate.

I drink tea as the sun rises higher and higher, burning away what I cannot see and so remain burdened by.

Chickadees come by, then mourning doves, all staying just long enough to feed their hunger and then going on, to where I cannot say.

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12

She is gentle always.

It is not hard to walk with her.

Yet she merits honesty – unbridled and unconditioned.

Teaching is not possible otherwise.

Often I choose silence rather than the web of language I long ago rendered untrustworthy.

But she is clear: silence is not my mode.

Nor does she value opinion.

The level of opinion is always untrue because it is inherently both right and wrong.

On the last day of her visit she asked about my attachments.

It was hard to talk.

The list, I told her, was very long.

But she only waited.

I began with people: living and dead.

I moved on to food and songs and books.

It became that whatever image entered my mind, I was attached to that too.

And so I listed it, accordingly.

I don’t remember how it ended.

She did not speak herself nor address any of the specifics to which I had made reference.

When we had been quiet a long time, she said “none of those things are real.”

I began to say “I know” – how I long to impress her! – but her small smile stopped me, and I said instead, “that is not yet clear to me but I hope in time it will be.”

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11

One wakes before dawn.

Robins and grackles are silent in their bowers and shadow.

Clouds pass the moon, obscuring its light, as the  maple leaves do when one stands beneath them and looks straight up.

Thought is external.

When we first begin to sense this the tendency – understandably – is to pull back.

The conflation of light and dark is briefly martial in those moments.

The dog goes out and comes back, tongue lolling.

One can almost imagine the sound of rabbits chewing clover behind the woodpile.

Due East, a few strands of oily light appear.

Clouds bunch and float slower.

She writes that it is not a mistake to assume there are no mistakes.

And the form we assume is the form best-suited to the awakening of all life for all time.

Attention is required.

Sustained attention.

It is an act of love.

The wish to understand is not understanding!

At last I go walking towards the sun.

Birds begin to sing in still-dark bushes.

That which is Love is aware even within the deepest of sleeps.

Even unto death and after.

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10

Last of the chicory where the trail begins.

This year’s thistle grew taller than me.

We enter now a written correspondence.

I walk each day to the post office, six miles round trip, to look for her letters.

One half anticipation, one half either joy or sadness.

We are always learning.

We are never not the material we need to gain insight.

The birch trees bend towards the earth.

In glades off the path, deer lift their heads to listen.

I stop beneath a crab apple tree.

Spiders are working in its lower limbs.

Her handwriting has open loops and slants upward across the page.

One longs to study the cursive in order to perceive a deeper intent.

Yet she discourages enterprise.

That which is not revealed will not be discovered, she says.

Pay attention, cultivate gratitude & be helpful, she writes.

Rid yourself of the addiction to results.

The spiders work and the earth turns and the sun burns brighter through its tremulous veils.

Reading her, I hear her voice and smile.

Thus buttressed I continue, back to the chicory, so perfectly blue & still, and beyond.

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9

The rhubarb plants fall back into the earth.

Bluets and daisies fall back too.

The moon rises in the east and sets in the west.

And one or two leaves on the maple tree brighten like a livid fire.

So the days pass.

So the seasons pass.

Our bodies grow old and die.

There is no grief in what happens naturally, she says.

There is no sadness because there is no ending.

At the deepest levels – in the subtlest of understandings – nothing ends, nothing begins.

Chickens scratch through yesterday’s compost.

Robins fly over singing.

Only complete independence from circumstance assures happiness.

It is both easier and harder than it seems.

She urges me to greater honesty, asking: what do you want?

Answer quickly or else it’s a lie!

When I adopt the stance of a monk, she laughs.

When I refuse to speak, she chucks me gently on the shoulder.

The river is your teacher, she says.

For it simply goes as it must, singing.

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8

Rain obscures the moon.

All night it falls, softer and softer, like kisses after.

At dawn, still awake, I stand beneath the Dogwood tree.

Its late blossoms are already turning to soil beneath my feet.

So long as you believe in beginnings and endings, you are in the range of neither.

Yesterday we walked in the forest in the middle of the day.

Where the trail turns away from the river, she stopped.

The dog and I stopped as well.

We waited like that, still and silent, for a quarter hour at least.

Just when I was beginning to question it, they came.

A doe and two fawns just ahead.

They stepped delicately from the woods onto the trail.

The babies wanted to play but imitated their momma, who studied us and, learning we posed no danger, continued gracefully on her way.

The world is full of gifts that seen rightly end time and lead one away from dependency on thought.

Did this happen yesterday?

Or was it a hundred years ago?

What does not bring us swiftly to gratitude must be set gently aside.

This is the time of thankfulness and simplicity.

Only then are we able to start the necessary journey to the interior.

She takes my hand and together we continue.

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7

We settle ourselves in order to begin.

It is a matter of thought, she says at last.

We sit out back as the sun rises, clouds trailing across the hills.

Birds come to the feeder: cardinals, chickadees, grackles, finches.

Her joy at seeing them is infectious.

It is my joy, too.

Thought can solve problems in the way a hand can lift a hammer, she says.

But it cannot end itself.

It is like your breath, which moves naturally, without apparent effort on your part.

Thought, like breath, will not of itself lead you to God.

I bring her coffee heavily sweetened.

We spend hours studying attention.

The sun rises and the day grows hotter.

Bees drowse in the clover, heavy with nectar.

We differentiate between awareness and attention.

She encourages me to be less surreptitious with my love of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Who questions the gift is ungrateful, she says.

And who is ungrateful merely chooses to remain outside the benevolent nest of the Divine, to the dismay of all.

We walk to the corner of the yard where the hawkweed grows.

Before it we are still a long time, not talking.

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