From the sunflower blooming to the black soldier fly larvae writhing in my compost, from the hens to the ever-growing grass, and the wrens to the intricate magnolia buds, my garden reminds me of the wisdom and the fresh liveliness I am. In this day of instant communication and global awareness, we all need some respite from the barrage of horrid news, which is partly so horrid because we get so horrible about it. Let me speak for myself. I can get so emotionally sucked in sometimes and deplete my energy on care, sadness, and desperation. “How can I be of service?” my mind drones on, followed rapidly by “How can I be a better, more worthy person?”.
It was one of those sad-anxious days and I stepped outside to rest my mind on the lush green of the back yard, when I caught a mouse making itself comfortable among the soft pine shavings of the hen house. Its presence and fearlessness concerned me, so I caught and released it in the park a few blocks from the house. I know the chances of it surviving the relocation are slim. I feel and know I did what I had to do, yet I thought about it all night. Was it confused, frightened, starving, exhausted? And then in true, self-reflective fashion, the story upon the story, the internal conflict caused by looking back in on oneself: Why did I spare its life, only to prolong its suffering and probable demise? Why do I care so much about a mouse when I stuff my belly with the cooked flesh of dead animals without a second thought?
That night I had a dream:
I am trying to learn how to drive. I keep pushing the button for the car to start, and stepping on the gas pedal. It won’t come on. I keep doing this over and over again. Eventually I open the hood of the car and find a hedgehog, lodged inside the engine. It is wounded and bleeding, but to my great relief it finally rolls over and looks like it’s going to make it.
My daring hedgehog, the nature of me, inner thorny protector, soul, nocturnal witness and guardian, watching in the depths of night when the silly impostor falls asleep. Without regard it lodged itself in the engine of the thing, clogging up the machinery of the ego.
Sometimes I fancy myself a good person. A nice, friendly narcissist. A selfless ego-centric.
How is that for a prickly reminder, for when I forget and believe the lies I tell myself about who I really am.
I am a bit ashamed to say I have lived here for five years now, and I can’t tell the trees apart in terms of species. Maybe it’s because I’m lazy these days, or maybe it’s because I don’t want their freshness to fade away behind a classification, I don’t want their aliveness to hide under a set of propositional knowledge in my mind. Wasn’t it Krishnamurti who said something like teach a child the name of a bird and it will never see a bird again? I have that fear, that I will do to trees what was done to me. I don’t want to take them for granted, they are my friends in mystery, a haven against a rigid world.
There is mystery which is deep and reverberating with a glowing and trembling heart, and there is also a kind of unknowingness which is confusing and painful, and which leaves one vulnerable to projection and wounding. Because I didn’t grow up to have a stable sense of self without ideas and definitions given to me by others, I lost myself in this sea of unknown: “I don’t know what I want. I feel so confused”. It still happens, I still lose myself at sea, until a mouse and a hedgehog come along, prodding me into enough consciousness to snap out of my daze. At those moments I sit down and ask the soul gently “what lifts your energy, what would you like to do right at this moment”, and we go from there. The answers are unexpected, the snowballing effect miraculous, and the flow inevitable.
It’s easy to be caught in the mind. I’ve had a lifetime of training in objectifying myself and giving myself up. So the trajectory seems to have been twofold: identify the scripts that run me, then throw them in the compost and watch what happens as they are consumed by the maggots of the greater scheme of Life.
I wonder if you resonate.
The guilty thoughts told me I wished that the little house mouse would return, but what I was really longing for was the soul’s return to the Light, to its heritage, its birthright. And that return from exile is so sweet, so sweet. The prodigal daughter is always greeted with open arms. The movement of return is important. Because all the sickness, the death, the guilt, the anguish and the narcissism only serve to remind one of the simple truth and joy of life. The impersonal, cool breeze, the silence of the house at midnight, the brightness of the colours on the screen as I type these words. Someone wiser might say one never really leaves the eternal kingdom, but I wouldn’t know for sure. But I am at last so unconcerned about these bouts of ego-woundedness that rear their head and cloud this perception sometimes. I recognize their flavor and their blessing. They knock me off my feet while helping me stay grounded. In their felt, bone-grinding immanence, I am reminded of boundlessness, the ability to taste the four corners of the earth, the prospect of a redeeming answer to anguish. Life is so incredibly dynamic, even as I lie paralysed in my bed. The deep nourishment of a steaming plate of food, the softness of the bedside lamp light transforming the draping curtains into cascading waterfalls of linen, the storied nicks and scratches on the hardwood floors. From within the death rattle itself I can sense the winged lightness of inspiration, and I am blown unencumbered on its cloud like a dry samara.
The horridness of the news brings with it the knowledge of a change of heart, the individualism an understanding of togetherness, the disregard for fellow man a tremendous upwelling of compassion among our community. When the animals and bees and glaciers are gone, when the fires can no longer be stopped, when we annihilate each other with weapons of mass destruction, when we have finally lost the ability to shelter from floods, famine and plagues, this world will see courage, love, cooperation, interdependence, poems and artwork full of light, hope and connection to organic forms of life. Alongside the extinction will come great bravery of heart and healing. The vulnerability of humanity and the fearlessness of spirit will enable us to finally be true in our interactions.
I know this now. I love my world. To be alive is a privilege.
Still, it won’t happen until we are brought, through untold suffering, to identify the scripts that run us, and throw ourselves in the compost to be consumed by the maggots of the greater scheme of Life.