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Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
February 2004

 Theme: We Each Must Sound Through:
            “I can only tell you / it was there.”

What can we ever really give one another? Why fuss?

Creaking to the post office
on my rusty bike
I saw one purple iris
wild in the wet green
of the rice field.
I wanted to send it to you.
I can only tell you
it was there.

(-- Maura O'Halloran, in Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind, The Zen Journal and Letters of Maura "Soshin" O'Halloran)

 February is hard ground, brown brittle leaves,and strewn branches broken by sub-zero temperature and slashing wind – two desperados moving through town in January.

 Faucets were left open to drip; those that weren’t froze fast and burst -- there are several stories about this. Two foot firewood volunteered by dozens to be sawn; woodstoves counterbalancing delivery trucks with oil or gas.

 In Maine, people remembered the fact of Maine. Streets in town belong mostly to solitary walkers dead set on destination. Cars are left running in parking lots. Faces seen are noted the way men and women in circumstances take note of each other passing, sharing secret connection not to anyone not there. 

Light has turned these early February days, showing signs of return soon to be accompanied by warmth, Ten, fifteen degrees above zero is a remarkable change from 15 degrees below.

Many stay inside --inside houses, places of work – but also inside themselves. ‘Cabin fever’ will be spoken more this month. We stay inside because weather invites seeing what gives there, what grows there. For some darkness hides in corners. Those corners will have to be looked into. For others seeds of a different ground wait in alert stillness through shocking emptiness.

Sonnet: Daffodils

Wordsworth really loved daffod
ils. He said they were flashers.
Certainly they must be the most exhibitionistic flowers

                                                              there are.

trumpeting their presence in yellow—by far the most

                      visible colour.
I grant that after a long hard winter

it's warming to see snow-drops and crocuses in that iron earth

and the very first daffodils (what a cliché) seem a

something it even seems appropriate to make a fuss about.

They look so perfect, though a bit self-conscious.

After a week or two, however, when Spring is established,

and everywhere you look there are oceans of daffodils

as arrogant as pop
stars, they begin to seem ordinary.
You take them for granted. Like a love affair fading

they shrivel and go crinkly, papery and tired.

The Spring too (teenagers witness) has its own kind of

(Poem: "Sonnet: Daffodils," by Gavin Ewart, from Or Where a Young Penguin Lies Screaming, Gollancz).

There were suicides in the Midcoast area – two went that way. They leave the hills silent and sober. Several elderly die the way elderly die. Birthdays were celebrated. The harbor froze solid several times. News about peculiarities between perception, agenda, and truth begin to unravel in the political arena. Candidates declaring themselves interested in replacing the current administration are voted on and standing caucused by citizens worrying the future.

 Practice continues in hermitage. Not as disciplined or routinized mornings through startling cold and additional employment needed to keep afloat. Still, practice continues. Mindfulness and hospitality, deep listening and loving speech, prayer of presence and alertness to the loving fact of God -- in and throughout each and all.

 I’m surprised by irrelevance – mine. I’m surprised by the voice and message brought by each person willing to speak. Each wants to say what they’ve seen, where they’ve been. Some filter what they see and what they feel through masks of indignant hostility, superiority, or complaint. Some through cheerfulness, delight, humility, or affirmation. It doesn’t matter the mask. Masks are pragmatic. They allow a sounding through. We each must sound through.  

 The iris and the daffodil belong to themselves. The sight of them belongs to anyone willing to see. What we make of what we see does not change the original reality of iris and daffodil – as long as we let them be who, what, how, and where they are. They must sound through.

 This is practice. Allowing each to be their own reality, their own way of sounding through. And we, in our sight and in the sounds we make in the presence of one another, engage the reality and sound because it was there.

 At prison one day Mike said “Reality is the great myth.” If we actually exist, if we ‘are’ at all, we are sounding through what is there. That sound comes from every direction, not only from the direction we believe we occupy.

 Reality is the great telling. And we are the eyes and ears, sighting and sounding what was and what is there. This is why we practice. This is why we converse with each other. We are looking intently and listening deeply to what is passing by and sounding through.

 The reality of God, the reality of each one of us – this is what is appearing and taking place.

 When we listen and when we speak with attentive presence we help make a world safe for appearance. Each act of presence a seed. Any one seed, all seeds “seem a / resurrection, / something it even seems appropriate to make a fuss about.”

 Seeds are all we have to give one another.

 from Shadowing the Ground: 63 

I must train myself to no longer exist
but as a stone lifted and thrown
to wherever I land, a new place,
a new odor to it and new sound
and action surrounding me, all this
without the thought of loss, despair,
or hope, a preparation for loss.
Such a life would be god's, if one
existed. But it is life I can assume
is god's, and I can live it.
(Poem by David Ignatow, in “Ploughshares,” Winter 1990-1991))

 Practice presence. It is seed of not-knowing. It is middle way -- word and silence itself at center.

 Why fuss? Only to recognize surrounding, surrendering, and flowering.


, Sando , Cesco , Mu-ge
and all who grace Meetingbrook

6 February 2004

Email (mono@meetingbrook.org) or mail to
Meetingbrook, 50 Bayview St. Camden, Maine 04843.



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