Everywhere I look the fullness of early spring sprouts forth. The many Temple trees are now covered with green filigree as their future leaves materialize out of thin air.
Where were those leaves hiding throughout the cold winter? When the snows came and weighed down the branches how did these tender beings survive? Were they wintering in some other universe? I imagine little leaf people lying on warm beaches in other worlds – talking about how lovely it is to be away from the daily grind of hanging from a tree, but at the same time kind of missing it. They sip alcoholic drinks and get woozy – make sloppy love with each other in some esoteric leafy kind of way. And perhaps they eventually get bored and begin to long once again for the high breezy places.
Do they each get an assignment? Planet earth. Worcester, Mass. On the top branch of the katsura tree in the back of a Boundless Way Temple. Maybe there’s excitement—‘Have you ever been a katsura leaf before? It’s a great opportunity. Don’t forget to make that graceful heart-shape as you sprout out. And you can sprout right from the branch, no need to wait for a growing tip. And here’s how to make that lovely smell – a little like cinnamon or nutmeg – not too much – just enough to make the Zen people wonder as they walk below.’
That’s probably what happens.
Anyway, they are back now. Emerging and blossoming. Sprouting golden green and lacy from the dry brown solidity of wood—an impossible feat repeated endlessly as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
This astonishing miracle of life is hidden in plain sight – everywhere abounding – everywhere present. In the mustard weed that I pull incessantly with some annoyance to these magnificent trees that grace the Temple grounds. While we humans too often spend our days conjuring a landscape of worry—forgetting that, like the countless leaf beings, we too have sprouted forth from some utterly mysterious place—that we are indeed infinitely lucky to be hanging from whatever branch we find ourselves today.
I dream of walking through spring-damp gardens to greet the surprising rise of green shoots while I break ice in the parking lot to clear safe walkways to the Temple. What a pity!
Don’t you think you’d get tired too? If you were a holy person who had traveled from India to China and wandered in the mountains for years? Wouldn’t there be some days when the beauty of the peaks and valleys was not so beautiful? When the whole enterprise seemed like a silly dream and you might even wonder why you ever began? When the wild dream of your heart became a story without meaning? At this time, you might dream again of your childhood home—of your life before wandering. Warm summer evenings riding bikes with your brother—tracing easy circles on the street in front of your house until the dusk deepened and your mother called you both safely back inside. You might dream of those simpler circles and wonder how they got so large and how you came to this particular place. You might marvel at the immensity of this tumbling universe and consider the fragility of our brief orientation. And you might want to lie down if you came to just the right place—or if the winter had been especially long—or the most recent snowfall especially deep. And you wouldn’t even mind if someone came by and saw you sleeping and knew that you had put down even your most precious dreams and were just getting a few winks before spring comes again.
Flying over the foothills from Asheville to Charlotte, the roads below twist and turn like meandering rivers. Following the intimate logic of the terrain, they find no use for the unbending competence of straight lines. Their silly bends and playful switchbacks delight me with their seeming lack of purpose – as if there were all the time in the world to get from here to there – as if ‘there’ were not so much a better place than ‘here’, but rather just another kind of here – to be reached soon enough, if at all.
Nearer Charlotte, the landscape flattens and houses sprout with rectangular regularity. The straighter lines of muscular highways impose themselves over the landscape — organizing principles promising the false efficiency of arriving somewhere more important – faster. But in the meantime (and our whole life happens in the meantime), we miss the melody of the sweet unreasoning changes of texture and contour that are the thing itself.
We intimately travel the boundless landscape of our lives. Why hurry? It’s just one thing after the other. And besides, soon enough we will reach the surprising conclusion – that vaster mystery of death – so apparently beyond these fleeting breaths of form.
No straight lines for me please. Give me the sweep of the curve that tells the ancient geometry of the earth – the unexpected arc that follows the contours of some deeper urgency. Let this turn as the plane tilts and banks toward the unseen runway be enough of a destination for now. Let me enjoy the soft touching that happens on its own – my shoulder against the unknown stranger sitting right here in the seat next to me.