Archive for December, 2009

Nature and Man

At daybreak I sat in a field, holding converse with Nature, while Man rested peacefully under coverlets of slumber.  I lay in the green grass and meditated upon these questions:  Is Truth Beauty?  Is Beauty Truth?

And in my thoughts I found myself carried far from mankind, and my imagination lifted the veil of matter that hid my inner self.  My soul expanded and I was grought closer to Nature and her secrets, and my ears were opened to the language of her wonders.

As I sat thus deep in thought, I felt a breeze passing through the branches of the trees, and I heard a sighing like that of a strayed orphan.

“Why do you sigh, gentle breeze?” I asked.

And the breeze replied, “Because I have come from the city that is aglow with the heat of the sun, and the seeds of plagues and contaminations cling to my pure garments.  Can you blame me for grieving?”

Then I looked at the tear-stained faces of the flowers, and heard their soft lament.  And I asked, “Why do you weep, my lovely flowers?”

One of the flowers raised her gentle head and whispered, “We weep because Man will come and cut us down, and offer us for sale in the markets of the city.”

And another flower added, “In the evening, when we are wilted, he will throw us on the refuse heap.  We weep because the cruel hand of Man snatches us from our native haunts.”

And I heard the brook lamenting like a widow mourning her dead child and I asked, “Why do you weep, my pure brook?”

And the brook replied, “Because I am compelled to go to the city where Man contemns me and spurns me for stronger drinks and makes of me a scavenger for his offal, pollutes my purity, and turns my goodness to filth.”

And I heard the birds grieving, and I asked, “Wy do you cry, my beautiful birds?”  And one of them flew near, and perched at the tip of a branch and said, “The sons of Adam will soon come into this field with their deadly weapons and make war upon us as if we were their mortal enemies.  We are now taking leave of one another, for we know not which of us will escape the wrath of Man.  Death follows us wherever we go.”

Now the sun rose from behind the mountain peaks, and gilded the treetops with coronals.  I looked upon this beauty and asked myself, “Why must Man destroy what Nature has built?”

Kablil Gibran


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Every sunset unique and fresh, a place where the tension of the opposites embrace,  this  still point a promise of balance. Sunsets are where  thankful hello and grateful goodbyes shake hands.  Sunset is when wild turkeys take their miraculous flight to old tall Cottonwood tree and coyote, deer, cottontail, jackrabbit, badger and possum  gather at the  homestead pond to share a drink of cool water as i sit and watch in silence and wonder. The edges of other/outer dissolve as the  contrast of daylight fades into shades of silver and gray .  It is here  i  becomes minute as  glimpses of  oneness are held within the Great Mother’s embrace of sky and earth.

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lover of Nature

“The Lakota was a true Naturist-a lover of Nature. He loved the earth and all things of the earth, the attachment growing with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth. Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The birds that flew in the air came to rest on the earth and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing.”That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him…”Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a real and active principle. For the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them and so close did some of the Lakotas come to, their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue. .

“The old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man’ s heart away from Nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. So he kept his youth close to its softening influence.”

-Chief Luther Standing Bear, Lakota Sioux (born 1868)

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the same story

All Nature’s wildness tells the same story: the shocks and outbursts of earthquakes, volcanoes, geysers, roaring , thundering waves and floods, the silent uproot of sap in plants, storms of every sort, each and all, are the orderly, beauty-making love-beats of Nature’s heart.

John Muir

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Nature in rhythmical motion

Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.

John Muir

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an ear to the ground

And the ground we stand on is a field without signposts, in which we must find our way without conventional supports. There is a passage in Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs that aptly describes the nature of our situation. Almiry Todd, a character who while describing a tree could just as well be describing herself, says,

There’s sometimes a good hearty tree growin’ right out of the bare rock, out o’ some crack that just holds the roots, right on the pitch o’ one of them bare stony hills where you can’t seem to see a wheel-barrowfull o’ good earth in a place, but that tree’ll keep a green top in the driest summer. You lay your ear down to the ground an’ you’ll hear a little stream runnin’. Every such tree has got its own living spring; there’s folk made to match ’em.

While a Zen Buddhist may cherish and recite her preceptual vows each day of her life, she nonetheless learns to keep her ear to the ground, listening to her own living spring and trusting that above all else. She receives the waters unwittingly, the living spring flowing into her from all sides—the scrape of shoes on the city street, the studied precision of the cook cleaning the kitchen counter, the girl swinging her hair with a twist of her neck, the guard with his feet planted, an old woman’s cough heard from an adjacent room, a hand nervously clenching and opening, the tone a voice takes, a hesitation in mid-sentence, a child snatching at a pebble sunk in the creek. She doesn’t accumulate these bits and facts of life like evidence on which to base a judgment. She doesn’t accumulate anything at all, nor does she form an impression of what she sees and hears. She lets the waters enter her body like sap rising from roots. She trusts that the limbs will grow in their own way and that the leaves will unfold in time.

Lin Jensen is the author of Bad Dog and the forthcoming Pavement: A Buddhist Takes to the Street (Wisdom Publications, Spring 2007). He is the founding teacher of Chico Zen Sangha, in Chico, California.

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It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Even in this
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.

That great calm being,
this clutter of soup pots and books —

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window.
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.

Jane Hirshfield

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