Friday, September 07, 2007

Vegetative States Become Meditative States

“Standing, these last, having come in from the summer, guns on their shoulders: dusty, overheated, blinded by the immensity: stunned by infinite cicadas: with head and cap amid the cloud of flies, up, up, which gave out a humming at times as of an unseen guitar plucked by the phalanges of a ghost.”
- Carlo Emilio Gadda, “Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via merulana.” (That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana)

Although it feels like a mild summer morning, I’m still smarting from the week of extreme heat and humidity where I succumbed to the sweat and the flies working outside. I’m inside and moving into the deeper shadows, the cooler colors, the misty chills of December. I feel the yang softly unwinding as the yin rolls ascendant. As the season slows down, so do I.

Gardening is slower now, we’re both tired: my garden and me. The sun comes in at a sharpening angle, surprising my tired squinting eyes, momentarily blinding me. Suddenly, in that cool dark peace, I relax. Sometimes I can stop talking and listen.

Now in September, my muscles begin to ache sooner and remain sorer longer than in May. But that bodily weariness somehow loostens the invisible stuff inside me and I can feel my breath sinking deeper into my body like a stone into a clear, still pool. I’ve never studied meditation, but I’ve heard a lot about it.

I get a sense of the contemplative peace sometimes when I’m outside on a hot day in the back yard. Some days I can hear the vibrant hum of the world over the background noise in my head, I hear the unseen ghostly guitar. Both of my vegetable gardens will become dry skeletons by Halloween, and their decline is already evident, their phalanges already appearing. But a surprise: there is a comforting peace in that image: As I age, my body forces me to slow down. Only then, do I learn to quiet my restless mind and pay attention. Read the signs.

That state of listening can occur in a single day, and it’s the short term mental reward for the physical cost of gardening. Today, despite the vibrant growth and exhaustive attention, both of my gardens (the backyard and the public Veggie Garden) are, alas, brutal pastiches, awful messes.

And as I am surveying the wreckage, I take a deep breath and sense that same softening and silencing on a seasonal scale. Drifting slowly down the peaceful river of life in the seasonal twilight, with the ocean still a long way to go. Today I feel the undercurrent of a seasonal shift that parallels the daily sparks of brilliance. Brilliance is leaving: now comes wisdom.

Last evening, sitting with a soft curled-up cat, on my favorite blanket, on my lap I felt the deeper, seasonal tug of time. Stop talking. Sit still. Breath slowly. Listen carefully.

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