I was walking Roshi the other day, thinking about the news pieces I’d heard recently. Israel vs Palestine. Syrians vs Assad, Lybians vs Gadhafi. The man who killed 77 people in Norway. The racial violence that broke out at the Wisconsin State Fair (seemingly without reason), and of course, the overheated rhetoric going around now between Republicans and Democrats. So much us vs them. Everywhere.
But “us vs them” exists in me, too, unexamined, unchallenged. It shows up as I’m thinking (or talking) about someone who is obviously immature, unconscious, an asshole or just plain stupid. Someone else, of course. Someone not in the room. Someone not one of ‘us’. This kind of engagement just creates ever deeper ruts in my habitual tendencies.
So today, just for today, everyone is ‘us’. Everyone is in the room. Baby steps.
Last week, Elena and I went to Seattle to celebrate our wedding with our friends in the Pacific NW. It was a magical time, complete with hiking, kayaking, a Seattle Storm game, seeing dear friends, and a trip to Whidbey Island where I used to live. There is a beach there called Double Bluff, where the island unfurls itself to play in the water. We were told that teenagers spend the night on this beach at the end of the school year. The next day, their presence is felt in the structures that have sprung up overnight—driftwood sculptures, driftwood towers, driftwood caves. We found such a structure considered making it our summer home. The photo is of the view from within it, out onto the beach.
I’ve been realizing how much is being stripped away right now, in myself. Finances are tight, music is awol, I feel adrift. No rudder, no foothold, no…structure. Maybe that’s why this little driftwood house appealed so much to me. It was a structure, rough and handmade, but sturdy and airy and inviting. I took shelter in it, and felt held, tenderly, in the world’s smooth wooden hands. My nap in this little shelter was a moment of rare intimacy with the natural world. Warm wind whispering at my skin, the far off sound of dogs splashgalloping through inches of seawater, an eagle’s skidding cry, the shade on my body, striped with sun blaring in through the gaps above me.
I’m back home in Floral Park now, grateful for the opportunities we had last week to experience beauty. Trying to find the same gratitude for present opportunities. The ones right in front of me, as I deal with the host of irritations and frustrations that come with familiarity, with ordinary life. I am still in the world’s hands. It still holds me tenderly. A mockingbird performs an incredible aria, but is harder to hear in my scurryhead, full of worry about possible drastic outcomes, disastrous results. The stillness in our back yard is available to me, if I will just let it in. It’s pulsating with life, with presence, speaking the same language as on Double Bluff. But my ears are tuned elsewhere. I try to pray for, pray with, pray in the stillness. I fiddle with the dial. Tune my soul inward…inward…inward. And sometimes, when I quit trying, I realize…I am still in the world’s hands.