If you stare
at a large stone
and call it a mountain
the ant will agree with you.
If you gaze on a mountain
and call it a stone
there can be no argument.
If I call that tree
clean your teeth carefully.
A reflection on Case 112 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans
There was always breakage. You accounted for breakage. You measured breakage. You didn’t know when breakage would happen, but you knew it would. You hoped to minimize breakage, but not to totally avoid it. It couldn’t be done and there were those who relied on some level of breakage to make a living, who cleaned up after it when it happened, who logged it and measured it, who devised plans to avoid it. And there were those who had a hand in creating it, or seeing it through, but no one really liked matrimonial lawyers except other matrimonial lawyers.
Today I again took up the brush,
carefully mixed the sumi-e ink
and with hand poised over a sheet
of anticipating rice paper waited,
knowing that the moment for a stroke
was imminent but not yet at hand,
and I dare not force it for brush
painting is a practice that cannot
be compelled, a gentle merger
of idea, brush, ink and paper,
and if any are missing, a sadness
that can only be irreversible.
Today the brush considered the ink
and decided it was not a good day
and so I cleaned it carefully, set it
aside with the block of ink,
and rolling the rice paper, promised
it, myself, that we would repeat
this exercise until the moment was
right and the image was ready to appear.
My mother was a firm believer
In lecturing, offering vast bits
of knowledge, culled from here and there.
One of her favorites was Edison’s
1% inspiration, 99% perspiration,
and she leaned toward quantity,
“It’s all about hard work, go
clean your room, clutter
will get you nowhere.”
Sitting here today amid
what I prefer to think of
as eclectically arranged items
of potentially great importance,
I see her picture, before
the chemo took her bottled red hair
looking disapprovingly at me,
saying, “You are killing your genius,
Edison would agree with me.”
I want to say to her, “But I’m with Einstein
and if a cluttered desk is evidence of
a cluttered mind, why was hers always empty.