Dawn is breaking over a fuzzy and opaque coast range. Just as slits in a crocheted blanket let in light so too do the slender gaps in the velvety gray clouds, revealing the clear sky and sun rising aove. I walk along a well-known path in the half light and partial darkness of early morning. This is a time of day when day and night, light and dark seem to merge and I cannot tell which I am in. Is this still night or has morning begun already? With my eyes cast downward looking at the path before me, I find myself lost in thought. My mind wanders and finally settles on an ancient Chinese Zen text – the Sandokai. Often translated as the “Harmony of Difference and Sameness”, the Sandokai was written by Shitou Xiqian, a Chinese Zen master in the 8th Century. As I strode an often traveled path, the following came to mind:
In the light there is darkness but do not take it as darkness.
In the darkness there is light but do not take it as light.
Not one, not two like the foot before and after in walking.
This text and these lines often enter my head for some reason. Perhaps I have something to learn and here is the teaching. Like the foot before and after in walking, I cannot tell which came first: the breaking dawn or the fading darkness of night. And just like walking, my thoughts cannot impede the flowing movement of changing light, so I continue on and enter the orchard to an awakening world. Robins are beginning to sing a welcome to the day and I hear the first white-throated sparrow with its characteristic song. “Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada-Canada,” it seems to be saying. While gray clouds still dominate the sky, slits of light shine through the half-closed eyelids of dawn like a slowly waking up child.
I hear the hens waking up inside the chicken coop and they get louder as I approach. I open up the door and say good morning as they flutter to the ground in order to search for their breakfast. I am surprised at how happy I am to see them foraging on new ground. They had been moved here just the day before. My joy and theirs merge as I watch them forage in the luscious new grass where insects must abound. I love moving them into a new part of the orchard although I am always filled with the trepidation of one knowing how the coop was built and wondering if something is going to break in the move. This part of the orchard is filled with the lush new growth of spring time grass and hasn’t felt their footfalls in several months. They seem happy, which perhaps is just a projection of my mind, but surely they are elated to have so much fresh food to eat. Their world is abundant again and there is joy in that.
As I walk back home, returning the way I had come, to see if my family has awoke yet, I pause and look to the east. The sun has yet to crest the ridge but its light is almost everywhere giving outline and revealing form of forest, cloud and earth alike. Sparrows and robins continue to sing their morning greetings and the chickens move about the new pasture. At this moment of the day, darkness and light, cloud and sky, foraging chickens and birdsong, all merge with the rising sun and with me standing in the middle of the orchard. I take it all in, knowing that I cannot hold on for long, and then continue on my way back home. As I open the back door, I feel the warmth of our home on my skin and I hear my older daughter calling from her bedroom. “Papa, come here,” she calls out, stretching each syllable into a song and bringing a smile to my face due to the sweetness of it all.