pictures from Frank’s Blog
Last summer I spent a couple of days at Tassajara – the wide sky, the endless mountains. The temple bell, the main gate, the fan that turns slowly on the kitchen roof. I climbed a little ways up the slope above the hill cabins, felt the hot sun on my skin, and thought, I’d like to really be here again sometime. I’d like to have this again.
I had a plan to spend the three-month fall practice period there, and that comforted me, as I sat on the hot hill, hearing the rush of the creek and the shuffling of squirrels. Oh, good. I will get to have this again. I’d lived at Tassajara for about five years, but already it felt like a long time ago.
Now that three-month practice period has come and gone, and I confess that before, during, and after have been marked by much the same feeling I had on the hillside. I’d sure like to really be here sometime.
A couple of old sayings come to mind. Basho, and Dogen:
Even in Kyoto / Hearing the cuckoo’s cry / I long for Kyoto
When Dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing.
The truth seems to be that Tassajara, like Green Gulch, like Kyoto, like Albuquerque, isn’t actually graspable. We can never really arrive, because the world and things aren’t really like that.
We can never really get a hold of anything, not because we “aren’t present enough” or are “too distracted” or “not there long enough,” but because what we think of as objects aren’t actually objects, and what we think is this subject isn’t really a subject like that. What we think is of the nature to be held is in actuality completely unholdable.
Frequently people come by Green Gulch, where I’m living now – a different deep beauty I am now failing to grasp – and they tell me how lucky I am to live here. They are right – I can’t account for the rare fortune of this life.
But behind that kind of talk I also hear the same glimmer I felt on the Tassajara hillside: “You must be able to grasp this place, since you live here. You must have it.”
But of course I don’t. I don’t have Green Gulch, and can’t hold it for even a second. I don’t have a family – a beautiful, wise wife or an adorable, brilliant child – because I can’t keep them either. Not in the long haul and not even right now, right in this flash of beauty.
I can appreciate. And I strive to appreciate. And moment by moment that appreciation can be renewed. But that doesn’t mean I get it. It doesn’t mean I’ve exhausted it, or own it, or can get my fingers or mind around it at all in the slightest.
A sense of loss, perhaps, but a sense of relief, too. A sharpening of this unkeepable, fierce beauty.
(A note to our email subscribers: sorry about a couple of recent notifications for drafts of posts. A keystroke error I seem to be making consistently is publishing posts prematurely, sending you all an incomplete post with a broken link. I hope it doesn’t happen again! Thanks.)