There is something gentle about her,
a softness, as though she arrived
on a gentle breeze, was present before you
felt her on the back of your neck, a smile
that cast your shadow on the snowy walk.
She was often like this, as though knowing
she might be an antidote to the harshness
of winter, and the losses that piled up
as time eroded our lives.
We were never sure of what we should say,
and so often opted for silence, but she
seem to welcome that too, as though it
marked a change from something
we would never fully understand.
We never knew when we might see her,
auburn coat dappled by the sun
but we welcomed the doe, and she us,
and that was always sufficient.
Autumn dropped by this morning,
a wholly unwelcome visitor, and
although her visit was short,
it was a foreboding for which we
were not yet ready, not that we ever are.
The gulls along the river
discussed this at length, and even
the two Red Tailed Hawks
high overhead, swooped in agreement.
We simply turned up our collars
and walked a bit faster, knowing
the heat would soon return,
but that the foretaste of winter
would linger on our tongues
far longer than we would desire.
It was lying there,
on the ground, waiting to be noticed,
unsure of why everyone walked by,
some glancing, most lost in thought.
It hadn’t been there long, but
certainly long enough to be seen,
of that it was certain, yet
there it lay staring crimson
at the sun overhead, and even
the one passing cloud
seemed to ignore it
as it meandered by.
It wanted to shout out,
to demand attention, but
it knew that wouldn’t change anything.
And so it lay there, waiting,
frustrated, until a sudden breeze
lifted it up and a small child
shouted to his mother, “Mommy,
look at the pretty red leaf.”
Origami cranes lumber into flight
and lift into the sky
over the small, back street Temple
somewhere on the periphery of Shinjuku.
They know their flight will be
only temporary, that their wings
will grow quickly tired, that
the rustling sound
of two thousand wings
will soon fall silent
as the breeze bids them
a peaceful night,
and the Temple bell
announces the evening zazen.
As you look out the window
you say the branches of the tree
are dancing, the clouds barely stopping
to gaze down on the scene.
Walk outside and feel the breeze
skitter along your skin, see
the seed pods of the maple
take wing and fly off.
Ask yourself why this is,
is it the wind you see moving things
or is it the things moving
creating a breeze, which?
Consider that it is only your mind
that is moving, for if you do not
look or think of these motions,
how can you know if they stop?
A reflection on case 146 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
She left this evening,
slid away silently
her goodbyes long ago said.
She was a feather
carried on a gentle breeze,
refusing to land,
until at last
the earth reached up
and reclaimed her,
and she settled gently,
her voyage over, our memories
of her smile, her nod,
her knowing winks,
now fixed for eternity.
As you search for the source
of all wisdom, will you stop
along a beach and consider
that it can be found, fully
in a single grain of sand.
Be careful, for the beach
contains countless grains
of sand, so choose carefully.
If you are uncertain which one
contains the source of all wisdom
select one at random
and it will be the correct
bearer of wisdom, but only
if you look deeply within it,
and then cast it back
onto the beach, carried
on the gentle morning breeze.
A reflection on Case 19 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)