An elk stands at the edge of a placid mountain lake and sees only the clouds of an approaching winter. A black bear leans over the mirrored surface of the lake and sees only the fish that will soon be his repast. The young man draped in saffron robes looks calmly into the water and sees a pebble, the spirit of his ancestors. I look carefully into the water looking for an answer to a question always lurking out of reach and see only my ever thinning hair.
FirstAppeared in Green’s Magazine (Canada), Vol. 29, No.1, Autumn 2000.
The morning was indistinguishable from so many others. Lorenz was taking his morning walk around the pond or lake, it was of that intermediate size that could be either or neither, when in a break with his habit, he sat down on one of the four benches, and stared out over the water. He hadn’t seen the usual egrets or herons or ibis, which did strike him as a bit odd since they were as regular in attendance as he was. As he pondered their absence he was startled by what felt like a tickling on his arm. He looked down to find a Painted Lady butterfly perched on his forearm sitting placidly. He stared at what seemed to be the eyes on its wing staring at him. Neither moved, he for fear of dislodging his visitor, the butterfly for its own, undisclosed, unfathomable reasons. This mutual staring continued until time lost its shape, its defintion, and puddled at his feet, no longer mattering at all. But evenutally a breeze came up and it lifted from his arm, flitted about as if in some farewell and was off. He had no idea that moments later the tsunami warning sirens began up and down Fukushima Prefecture in Japan.
There are no monsters in this lake I tell my granddaughter, answering her unasked question. There are bears in the woods around here and there used to be an owl which made an afternoon visit. There are deer, certainly and there could be a coyote or two. If you don’t believe me, ask the crows, everyone knows that they can never keep a secret.
First published in From the Finger Lakes: A Memoir Anthology, Cayuga Lake Books, 2021
You have heard that when the student is ready the teacher appears, and you believe you are ready, but no teacher has appeared. I can tell you that you are ready, that you will never be ready, that I am not the teacher, that the teacher is here, and that the teacher will never appear. But the path you seek to find with a teacher is all around you, that there is not path to find. If I give you a small bowl and you stand by a lake of fresh water just how much water can you hope to drink?
A reflection on Case 11 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)
The sun slowly climbs up onto the mountain’s minaret and announces the call to prayer. The waves in the quiet Lake dip their heads watching trees with the reverence reserved for morning. The loon sits on the altar and intones the sermon, the waves stilling for a moment, then ebbing into the day.
Coyote no longer inhabits the hill south of our city. Yet we know he is there, staring down at the lake, watching the grape clusters fatten on the vines. We cannot see the orange-red orbs of his eyes on a still winter night. We know he sees us. Coyote cannot be found, no carcasses attest to his presence. Coyote is everywhere, walking among us, living in parks, living in plain sight, knowing he is invisible. We see his tricks, know we were once again outsmarted, know we can outsmart him. Coyote no longer inhabits the hills here, for he has morphed, and we are coyote.