Saturday, February 21, 2009

It's odd. As though some news is coming. The near obsessive checking to find out. What did Volcker say? What did Soros say? And Krugman? Has the car driven off the cliff into economic ravine? Is there a spinning tire amid broken glass?

This poem is not addressed to you.
You may come into it briefly,
But no one will find you here, no one.
You will have changed before the poem will.

Even while you sit there, unmovable,
You have begun to vanish. And it does not matter.
The poem will go on without you.
It has the spurious glamor of certain voids.

It is not sad, really, only empty.
Once perhaps it was sad, no one knows why.
It prefers to remember nothing.
Nostalgias were peeled from it long ago.

Your type of beauty has no place here.
Night is the sky over this poem.
It is too black for stars.
And do not look for any illumination.

You neither can nor should understand what it means.
Listen, it comes with out guitar,
Neither in rags nor any purple fashion.
And there is nothing in it to comfort you.

Close your eyes, yawn. It will be over soon.
You will forge the poem, but not before
It has forgotten you. And it does not matter.
It has been most beautiful in its erasures.

O bleached mirrors! Oceans of the drowned!
Nor is one silence equal to another.
And it does not matter what you think.
This poem is not addressed to you.
(Poem by Donald Justice)
I don't think the end is near. Nor do I think that prayer has any place in economics. God is in the desolation of numbers to add up to anything. We'd forgotten. We believed the pastors and priests when they said, Be good and everything will work out!

Mary Oliver wrote "You do not have to be good." I'll go with the poet. It's all a silly charade -- this foppery and finagling -- pretending that it's the Democrat's fault, it's the Republican's fault. They're both bankrupt.
Who the Meek Are Not

Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent
under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep
in the rice paddy muck,
nor the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles
make the wheat fall in waves
they don't get to eat. My friend the Franciscan
nun says we misread
that word 'meek' in the Bible verse that blesses them.
To understand the meek
(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop
in a meadow, who —
at his master's voice — seizes up to a stunned
but instant halt.
So with the strain of holding that great power
in check, the muscles
along the arched neck keep eddying,
and only the velvet ears
prick forward, awaiting the next order.

(Poem by Mary Karr)
I love being sick. It suspends everything. You fall into God. You fall into the fallen crumbs of your life. You don't care that water seeps down the new wall in the kitchen the recently exited guy put up but left leaving up the exterior scaffolding causing catch of snow-melt and ice and shove it under new roof and into room.

Aspirin and Umcka -- that herbal balm -- combine to ease the death that comes with every breath.

The next order?

Steady, boy! Good boy! That's a fine lad!

Justice is right. It doesn't matter what I think.
Dog and cat go out through barn at 4:15am. Log comes in from barn. Wood stove shows orange through front windows.
Right Thinking:
"And what, monks, is Right Thought? The thought of renunciation, the thought of non-ill-will, the thought of harmlessness. This, monks is called Right Thought."

--Mahasatipatthana Sutta: The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, in Thus Have I Heard: The Long Discourses of the Buddha, trans. by Maurice Walshe
From time to time everything leaves. I look around; nothing there. I slowly come to see that whatever I want turns out to be bits of charcoal and ash. Is it possible not to want?
At the Fishhouses
by Elizabeth Bishop

Although it is a cold evening,
down by one of the fishhouses
an old man sits netting,
his net, in the gloaming almost invisible,
a dark purple-brown,
and his shuttle worn and polished.
The air smells so strong of codfish
it makes one's nose run and one's eyes water.
The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs
and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up
to storerooms in the gables
for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on.
All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea,
swelling slowly as if considering spilling over,
is opaque, but the silver of the benches,
the lobster pots, and masts, scattered
among the wild jagged rocks,
is of an apparent translucence
like the small old buildings with an emerald moss
growing on their shoreward walls.
The big fish tubs are completely lined
with layers of beautiful herring scales
and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered
with creamy iridescent coats of mail,
with small iridescent flies crawling on them.
Up on the little slope behind the houses,
set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass,
is an ancient wooden capstan,
cracked, with two long bleached handles
and some melancholy stains, like dried blood,
where the ironwork has rusted.
The old man accepts a Lucky Strike.
He was a friend of my grandfather.
We talk of the decline in the population
and of codfish and herring
while he waits for a herring boat to come in.
There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb.
He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty,
from unnumbered fish with that black old knife,
the blade of which is almost worn away.

Down at the water's edge, at the place
where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp
descending into the water, thin silver
tree trunks are laid horizontally
across the gray stones, down and down
at intervals of four or five feet.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
element bearable to no mortal,
to fish and to seals. . . One seal particularly
I have seen here evening after evening.
He was curious about me. He was interested in music;
like me a believer in total immersion,
so I used to sing him Baptist hymns.
I also sang "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."
He stood up in the water and regarded me
steadily, moving his head a little.
Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge
almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug
as if it were against his better judgment.
Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
the clear gray icy water . . . Back, behind us,
the dignified tall firs begin.
Bluish, associating with their shadows,
a million Christmas trees stand
waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended
above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.

(--Poem: "At the Fishhouses," by Elizabeth Bishop from Complete Poems, Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
There's something quietly comforting about the myth of history. It is a pattern of thought outlining a beginning, a middle, and an end. We say, "I've only just begun." Or, "We're right in the middle of it." Then, "I'm coming to the end." It situates us on rulers. Carpenters and politicians fight for the same inch.

Even Buddhists turn our thoughts to impermanence. If things don't last, they must have begun and soon come to an end, right?

"Non-ill-will" sounds like a good name for an inn. Respite care. Final days of tired life.

Head-shaking disgust at fatuous comments by professional ill-willers.

Rather the narrow window of early pre-dawn silence. Men mending their nets. Wharves where going out and coming in is a ritual of tide -- a different way of wandering through history without measuring progress nor suggesting eternal recurrence. A walking stick named 'just this step, just this step.' We have never been here before. We only arrive now.

On frozen pond last night truck plows snow going from edge of land over ice to fish-house, lights fire inside, goes off to town. Fish in February come to hole in his absence to warm themselves.

When things feel like there's nothing here but holes in ice and open spaces side by side in repaired nets, then there's only what some call 'looking' -- just the gaze at end of silence.

Seeing what is. What is there. What is not.

Seal watching.

Thoughts of renunciation. Of harmlessness.

World without end.


Friday, February 20, 2009

One thing about illness -- everything takes second fiddle to it.

Tossing and Turning

by John Updike

The spirit has infinite facets, but the body

confiningly few sides.

   There is the left,

the right, the back, the belly, and tempting

in-betweens, northeasts and northwests,

that tip the heart and soon pinch circulation

in one or another arm.

   Yet we turn each time

with fresh hope, believing that sleep

will visit us here, descending like an angel

down the angle our flesh's sextant sets,

tilted toward that unreachable star

hung in the night between our eyebrows, whence

dreams and good luck flow.


your ankles. Unclench your philosophy.

This bed was invented by others; know we go

to sleep less to rest than to participate

in the twists of another world.

This churning is our journey.

   It ends,

can only end, around a corner

we do not know

we are turning.

(Poem "Tossing and Turning" by John Updike, from Collected Poems 1953-1993.  Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.)

Walking snowy ice pond in stiff wind.

Turning back to coldest gust.

I don't even play fiddle.

Note: Rounding out the week, the bookshop/bakery will be closed Friday. We hope to be back Saturday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Snow plow plows construction container.
Turning the wheel of the Dharma
is the beginning and end
of the whole training.
With this aspiration one starts
giving one's whole heart to the training;
with one's heart in it, one does it.
Depending on it, one looks
for the wonder arousing,
mysterious state behind appearances.
That attained, the transformation
of one's life has been completed.

- Torei (1721-1792)
Pizza. Tow truck. Nice visit.
Note: The Bookshop/Bakery is closed today due to (being under) the weather.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Below zero frozen air sparkling on snow, trees, and roadside brush as we drove Fort Kent to Caribou with early sun gloriously arraying everything with cold loveliness.
Based on Shakyamuni Buddha’s experience and the experience of the buddhas of the past, the main point of Dogen Zenji’s teaching is that zazen is just to become present in the process of zazen itself; this is shikantaza. It is not something you acquire after you have done zazen. It is not a concept of the process; it is to focus on the process itself. It is very difficult to understand this because even though we are always in the process, we don’t focus on it. There are even many schools in Buddhism that still handle Buddhism as a concept. But real Buddhism is to focus completely on the process itself. The process is you.
(--from, To Live is just to Live, by Dainin Katagiri)
Shikantaza is just sitting. Just sitting is being with everything.

Being with is our true nature.

There is no getting away from what we are with.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Note: Away doing other work along the roof of Maine, the bookshop and bakery will be closed Tue and Wed. Will reopen Thursday.

Somewhere in mind.
The presence of fear is a sure sign that you are trusting in your own strength The awareness that there is nothing to fear shows that somewhere in your mind, though not necessarily in a place you recognize as yet, you have remembered God, and let His strength take the place of your weakness. The instant you are willing to do this there is indeed nothing to fear.
(from Lesson 48, A COURSE IN MIRACLES)
We remember.

Where we are.

Where are we?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Practice and simplicity.

Gifts of Dogen and Francis.

We reconsider return.

Hermits to hermitage.

We walk bridge from Fort Kent to Clair over St John River.

And back.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ninety six nautical miles from Bar Harbor USA to Yarmouth NS.

Who wants to retreat to a house by the sea with a wharf near a fisheries plant rife with fishing boats?
Rain clears from the distant peaks
Dew glistens frostily.
Moonlight glazes the front of
My ivied hut among the pines.
How can I tell you how I am,
Right now?
A swollen brook gushes in the valley
Darkened by clouds.

- Daito (1282-1334
Truth often tells what we're not, what is false.

Everything collapses into itself sooner or later.

Something to look forward to.