Saturday, April 16, 2011


Around some corners, there are edens, not of the bible, nor from lore of any kind. My little edens are reminders of the best I can live, and though part imaginary, part real, part future and part past, they are my most natural state of being.

Walking beside me, silent, radiant, a thoughtful smile dimpling her cheeks, we experienced the most natural peace. We glided when together. I turned to her one evening, having rolled in the grass like children, delivered, and though I didn't know it at first, shared her first bottle of wine after crossing the age barrier, and I told her I was crazy about her. We had looked deep into each other's eyes, wary of a hint of trouble, a crack that didn't already belong, but there was no trouble, no crack. She stopped and looked at me with love, smiling, and explained that she was flattered, but also had been voted the class flirt in High School. I smiled, and we both walked on as before. This little eden is one of few in my life not tainted by questions. I had no questions, no anxieties, and she wasn't waiting for me to speak, nor I for her. It was 1996 and needn't be qualified further.

Corners are hard not to meet with anticipation since then. I recognized the few before, and recognize those since, that have become memories of moments of my own bliss. Compartmentalization has come along now, regular hours, patterns, practical concerns that frustrate and scuttle the nature of my edens. There's no time to share, no reason, no space, because nature and truth are not allotted for - they're not decisions - they just are.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


The letter arrived at my office, the address several degrees off horizontal, written in careful, straight, but shaky, small block letters. It explained that the writer's husband had passed away recently, but had enjoyed receiving the publications we'd been sending him for years as an emeritus member of our organization. I wasn't sure anyone read the publications until this note arrived, which told me in the briefest terms, that her husband loved what he did, even after giving up his practice, continuing to keep up with the literature of his life. "He was 90" she wrote, and the letter I read told a much longer story.

I recently watched the film Александра (Aleksandra), again, about age, wisdom - and the Russian conflict with Chechnya. Aleksandra visits her grandson at his barracks. He is a soldier on the Chechnyan border, and she has not seen him in seven years. He's being what he is, a soldier, and she a grandmother, freed from the bonds of her marriage, wizened by the end of her life, when she complains of her body giving out when her soul is ready for another entire life. After all that she has been through.

The starkness of the fact of so many lives in demoralizing situations - persevering, and the fact of how quickly privilege squeezes life from us, makes me wince a little when I think of the inconvenience I sometimes feel when going to work. Most of the people on this planet feel fortunate to have a sustenance, while I might be brazen enough to have my own guru, to dwell on a good life, to deign to be anything I choose, to believe I can choose. Were I prone to excuse making, I'd call it a natural balance, but there is nothing natural about oppression, nothing. There is a vast chasm between what I need to live and what an average Afghan can ever expect, and it is hard to understand why and difficult to imagine anyone belongs in a 21 room mansion when elsewhere 4 families live in two small rooms with a well a mile away.

Nature balances herself with growth, death, cycles, but never with willful oppression. This is another call to take an example from nature, to be grateful for what we do have, to take only what we need.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Does SIze Matter?

I was walking in the woods a while ago, and found myself admiring the stout oaks in their second century, and wondering what it is about - age, size, greatness of any kind, that moves people, that moves me? I could philosophize, quote the greats, point to the brilliantly exposed paradoxes of others, but then, there I go again. Greatness, grandness. There is the myth of wisdom from antiquity, the idea that what we don't know is something more than what we do, that what once was, was more true than what is, when all it is, is suspicion, and the passing on of experience from a rock to a feather, the belief in common that the extrusion of both is the paradox of sameness and difference, that the contrast, the conundrum, the magic born of them is a higher wisdom, or a grain of sand. I think perhaps that is what draws me to trees - the idea that they have watched over the history of my time, silently. And they 'know' stuff, that no one of us does, and so I know not what color their leaves were, and they needn't ever tell.

It's so easy for me to believe more in something I know less about, as easy as fingering facts to prove a point. What is a 'fact'? There are few not called into question. The Cartesian proof of my existence, that I write this all down, the so often and obvious, that is pointed out as bald wisdom, the mysteries hidden just out of sight on their grand pyres or in the depth of our hopeful or needing hearts, alluring, like any disappointment, never come to fruit.

There is magic in a story, the untold, the imagined lay and textures, colors all conjured by mere words, but only a faith in now is real, if also rare. At times I look at the trees and see them as a breathing slice of time, pulsing right there in their subtly substantial surroundings, and I know that they are my ancestors like the dirt in my yard, and I am moved, but stilled by what I know.

Those grand oaks live patiently, watching the young, often of others, rising up at their feet, and they wait to become the dirt at their own feet. When I compare that knowledge to the mire my mind finds itself slogging through for answers, I know how little I know, how small life is, how far off a path I would tend to go to experience a mystery, how difficult it is to face the simplest facts, how untrue it is to adopt a path not my own, how easily I might tend to assume a path, an understanding as foreign to me as space, some other's tradition, and I'm no better for convincing myself of a higher knowledge, in fact I've strayed further in so doing. How the vale has been cast ever heavier blotting out the time when I had nothing to do but exist inside the womb of the forests.

My achievements pale, my accounts fade, the exotic melds into the mundane, and the trees remain.