She wants to know why the oriole we sometimes see in the park never visits our backyard feeder. I remind her that she isn’t usually here, only visits occasionally, but she says that I would have told her if I saw one. She says I got excited when I saw the one in the park during our walk. She is right, of course, I would have told her but all I see at the feeders are finches of several sorts, doves and wrens, and when he wants particularly to be seen as he often does, one cardinal who is far less interested in the seed than in having a perch in plain sight, and when he knows were watching, upthrusts his fiery crest and spreads his wings. I tell her cardinals are such show offs. She is seven, laughs and says yes they are, just like grandfathers, don’t you think.
You may seek to follow the path of the dove a fool know many roads. You may wrap yourself in fine linen, an infant wears only his skin and knows this moment is already gone.
Think long before you speak of how to walk along the path, of where it leads. The baby says nothing, will not speak of where he has been, where he is going, for to him there is only here, and silence is descriptive enough.
Wherever you stand still you can see the rainbow but walk to find its end this one or that one and it will be gone on your arrival. Sit in the fine mist and look at the earth – how many colors do you see?
A reflection on case 42 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
He is never certain what to do on days like this one, when the winter takes a particularly nasty turn, the temperature hovers at utter emptiness, and the wind elects to try to enfold everything it can reach in a coat of frost, that bleaches life away. He walks each day, through the nearby park if the weather is the least bit cooperative, through the neighborhood when not, where at least he can take a small shelter from the wind in the shadow of houses closed up tightly, life walled away within, smarter, he imagines than he is, his fingers ill-gloved, slowly losing all feeling, but this is his practice, something he does because it requires doing, heeding an edict from an unspoken voice. And later emerging from a hot shower, feeling limbs restored, he glances at the weather in hopes the next day will be kinder, and slow in coming.
Today was downright exhausting, and my hour long walk along the river left me dripping and drooping. It wasn’t different than most days, same time, same place, and the usual 756 miles, according to my old friend Orion, who was watching from his usual perch, unseen, as he prefers it by day. When I was done, I started to complain about how I felt, when Orion interjected, “Just be thankful you’re not in Florida today, its hotter by far, and your usual walk would have covered a full 930 miles today, and there you’d have reason perhaps to complain just a bit.” Heading home to shower, I called out to Orion, “You know you are one heavenly pain in the ass.” “Yeah,” he replied, “that’s what Artemis said.”
If you ask who I am I will have you close your eyes and walk behind you, or I may step to your left and take your right hand. If you are perplexed, I will ask you, do the four gates open into the city or out to the world beyond, and if I stand still sideways under a gate in which direction am I headed?
A reflection on case 46 of Dogen’s True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo).
He has been walking for hours, or, perhaps for days, it doesn’t matter since he is precisely where he should be at this moment. He is tired, so he sits in seiza and watches a colony of ants working away in a crack in the path, each doing his assigned task. He knows ants have Buddha nature for when they walk, they just walk, like he does, and when they eat they just eat and he has never seen a solitary ant wobble.