The open vulnerability of two oars in groaning oarlocks celebrating early solitude on Christmas morning.
From the distant shore as I rowed the Cape Dory 10 pulling boat into the outer route toward Curtis Island at sunrise yesterday, the sounding voice of someone invisible called, "Merry Christmas!" I placed right oar under left hand and raised arm twice arcing orange and yellow reflecting glove toward direction of unseen land-voice, then continued long strokes in rowboat. My smile at this greeting was deep joy. Swells tightened as the open bay caught growing breeze swirling from southwest.
Alone. But for that calling human voice, loons calling, ducks quacking, pipers chanting, other black and whites whistling, and crashing waves on rocky island coast -- it is an aloneness replete with enchanting company. A few minutes earlier, rowing empty channel past bookshop neighbors, the couple from San Diego in 3rd condo along harbor waved from bay window, her arm appearing from red bathrobe, from his a lifted coffee cup. Greeting the waterborne is a sacred act!
Midwinter, the eleventh month.
Wet snow falls unceasingly,
All the mountains have
Become the same color;
On the myriad paths
Human tracks are few.
My past journeys now
All seem like dreams,
The door to my grass hut
Is deeply covered.
All night long I burn small
Chunks of wood and
Silently read poems
By masters of the past.
- Ryokan (1758-1851)
Everything is subsequent to quietness and vulnerability of contemplation.
Certainly the solitude of a small rowboat in Camden harbor fitted well between dawn zazen in winter zendo at Ragged Mountain hermitage and mid-morning mass up to Belfast.
The day belongs to itself!
At dusk, walking up to grave sites alongside brook, lighting candle put inside hanging lantern on Cesco's grave, bowing to all beloved neighboring snow covered silences -- Sando, Koto, Tai, Mini. Back in meditation cabin, lighting candles for all the day's presences -- living and dead -- sitting a spell with their names and memories, bowing, tolling bell on porch before returning under view of mountain to house.
Bookending zazen in front room -- the quiet presence of everything!
Why are the nations in a ferment? Why do the people make their vain plans?
Peace is not the absence of war. Wars are the steady diet of insufficiency. Rather, peace is a more modest view.
To "view" is "to look at attentively." I view peace as the act of attentiveness. A saying we placed on the wall of the bookshop reads, "Our monastery is the attention we give to all of itself."
As monastics of no-other we long to practice viewing peace as the presence of itself in each and all of us, each moment, every thing, and the whole scope of appreciation of what is, for what is real and true in our midst.
Christmas now enters its own season. There's more to it than we've settled to believe. In the church calendar there are murdered men, murdered innocent children, writers, men and women who loved and lived, and the searching inquiry of foreigns looking to see for themselves the prospect, perspective, and palpable embodiment of peace. Yet, still, then and now:
The murderers are at work.
They are stoning Stephen,
They are casting him forth from every city in the world.
Under the Welcome sign,
Under the Rotary emblem,
On the highway in the suburbs,
His body lies under the hurling stones.
He was full of faith and power.
He did great wonders among the people.
They could not stand against his wisdom.
They could not bear that spirit with which he spoke.
He cried out in the name
Of the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness.
They were cut to the heart.
They gnashed against him with their teeth.
They cried out with a loud voice.
They stopped their ears.
They ran on him with one accord.
They cast him out of the city and stoned him,
The witnesses laid down their clothes
At the feet of the man whose name was your name-
(--from poem THOU SHALT NOT KILL, (A Memorial For Dylan Thomas), by Kenneth Rexroth)
We are now ready for peace. This is both an intention and a daily practice. No more throwing at each other. Put down the stones. Build a cairn. It is a trail we set foot on. Build a day marker at the edge of sea. Be that which we look to and through as we learn the viewing of peace. There is much sadness and suffering in the season. Do not be afraid to see it through.
View yourself as the other person -- thus and then, there is no other.
Peace is viewing the whole in and through each and every being before you.
It is Stephen's Day.
It is your day
Take the trail.
Peace is an open vulnerability.
Row well through it!