A poem by Nanao Sakaki from his collected poems called “How to Live on the Planet Earth.”
If you have time to chatter
If you have time to read
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
Sing songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot
Autumnal river flows
Slow and shallow, breathing
Golden light radiates.
Alder, willow, maple and cottonwood
Emerge out of its banks, skyward
Roots dipping downward, drinking.
We dip our tender feet in
Tentatively, tantalizingly, invigoratingly
Cold long known to salmon and steelhead.
Solar warmth radiates everywhere
From rock, tree and sky
Soon overtaken by cool, upriver wind.
Beginningless wind, always flowing
Deep in the Pacific a storm forming
Does the river know?
Nourishing rains carried on the wind
Dark storm clouds form and reform
Bringing salmon in their embrace.
We walk the riverbank, warm and cool
Lost in reverie, autumn river reverie.
Soft scratching way up
High in the canopy breeze
Ah, now I feel it!
Green needles dancing
On the wind, woodpecker call
Looking up, needles fall.
A lone needle falls
Dark red giants stand still.
So far inside boundlessness
Beyond words and ideas
Dwelling in wholeness.
Empty of selfhood
Brimming with fullness
Interconnected beyond belief.
Beyond, gone gone way beyond
Emerging spontaneously from silence
Into the cacophony of life.
Equal wholeness of beginning and ending
I merge with oneness and am myself again.
Seamless soft sand, a roaring sea
Featureless, smooth sky
Gray fog obscurity.
Godwits in tawny plumage, gulls wrapped in clouds
Forage in the margins, each doing
Their dance with the tide.
Brought in daily from somewhere
Nowhere at all, the ocean’s graveyard
A detrital line of gifts from the sea.
Reminders of our frailty
Here just for a moment
Breathing in the long now.
Following a line of pelicans following waves
I traverse the arc of my own disappearance
And am gone before I know it.
Trinity Alps Wilderness, California
As I sat on the granite monolith, simply breathing in and out, I began noticing the sounds, smells, sights and sensations of this mountain world. There was the gentle lapping of lake water on the rocky shore, the green dots of conifer trees on the light gray granitic mountainside, the call of Steller’s jay, northern flicker and red-breasted nuthatch, and the feeling of cool stone on my bare legs. But before this intellectualizing and naming of experience, there was just the experience itself. Before I turned this momentous world (a world in the moment) into something extraordinary that I could capture and consume in words and concepts, there was just the world in all its ordinariness and intensity.
Elisabetta Corrà said, “The extraordinary seeks something beyond reality. Intensity forces us to experience reality…” There was still the lapping of the water against the shore and the birds…
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For Ted, Willard and all the others that made last week so great. Thank you for all that you taught.
There was once a great tree that stood in a forest of other great trees, between the mountains and the sea. The great tree stood tall and proud since the beginning of time until one day it was brought down by men who did not understand. But the great tree stayed, refusing to be taken by men who did not understand for it had another purpose, a gift yet to give.
Many salmon came and went and the great tree remained, waiting and watchful. The men who did not understand busied themselves with taking down the great trees as they destroyed forests ancient beyond imagination.
The great tree waited a long time, silent and still, for a people-who-understood to regain the ground upon which it lay. It waited for those who would ask and not simply take what is not given. Meanwhile many rains came and went.
Thwack, thwack went the sledge and the wedge and the great tree spoke for the first time in many, many moons. Thwack, thwack went the sledge and the wedge again – the great tree spoke again and the people-who-understood listened. Thwack, thwack went the sledge and the wedge and the great tree began to see, its heart beating the rhythm of the world. Singing, singing the great tree began to open, open, opening and the people listened.
The great tree opened like a blossoming flower to reveal the gift within – two perfect halves, each reflecting the whole and promising two canoes and the renewal of the world.
In gratitude I pray that we may all listen and learn to walk in beauty throughout our days.