Wednesday, August 02, 2006

reading and rain

It was that kind of day. Not as hot and humid as the past two days, yet it was humid enough. So, might as well make it a meditative kind of day. I discovered that when trying to turn the compost pile yesterday. On hot and humid days like these, when there is also a smog alert, that's a good way to faint or worse!

A very nice repair man came by today to check out my washing machine which is leaking. The machine is so old, he told me, save my money for a new machine. And he showed me exactly what was wrong. Oh well.

My repair man was quite impressed with the tranquility and privacy of my home. When he guessed I must see all sorts of birds and other wildlife, I told him he was right...sometimes my bullie gets a bit too close to the wildlife, as when she goes after the porcupines. That reminded him of a couple of amazing animal stories, which he told me.

The first involved a shepherd cross, I think he said it was. A large dog, anyway, that he taught to walk with him in the woods and leave the animals alone. It must have been a gentle beast and I think, as he said, other animals can sense that. Once, they passed within a few yards of a pair of deer. The deer saw them all right, but weren't the least alarmed. He said a word to the dog and the deer just watched them walk by.

Another time, he heard the dog go around the corner of the house and went to check what had got the dog so excited. There was a porcupine, nose to nose with the dog -- they were checking each other out. Now if a porcupine were alarmed, it would be presenting its rear, quills raised, swishing its tail back and forth...not sniffing nose to nose!

The second story involves a small dog, a yorkie, I think he said it was. Again, walking through the woods, the yorkie raised a hue and cry, and sure enough, it startled a deer which leaped away into the woods. My repair man called the dog back, but as they walked on, the dog became excited again and made it obvious that something was very peculiar in the woods. So the man checked it out. And as unbelievable as it sounds, there was a doe, wedged between two trees. She couldn't get loose.

The man tried to help her loose, but she was struggling and bellowing, making terrified noises something like a domestic cow lowing. He went home and got a friend of his to help. With a board for a better footing under her front feet, and ropes, they pulled her out the way she had got in. She had apparently just given birth to a foal, they felt, and in her panic over the human with a little yappy dog, she had misjudged the gap between the trees, getting her hips stuck. Once loose, she bounded off, stopped, took a look back at her rescuers, then disappeared.

Anyway, our man's friend's daughter had come along with a camera. They got some pictures of the whole ordeal and as his friend was a hunter, they got the story and the pictures published in some hunting magazine. As odd as that sounds, I think that just shows the tension we find in the opposites of this world.

I believe it was Anne Lamott who said, love is the only thing that is not opposite anything.

Other than that little bit of excitement, I spent the rest of the day reading. I finished Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain. Very Christian and Catholic in its doctrine, I nevertheless found Merton's longing and search for a spiritual centre to his life very inspiring.

Then I also re-read Morrie: In His Own Words, life wisdom from a remarkable man, by Morrie Schwartz. A small book, it's a quick read, but would be very worthwhile to read more slowly, contemplating each aphorism by itself, mulling it over, as a sort of daily meditation.

A couple of the aphorisms struck a familiar chord, sounding a lot like Buddhism:

Entertain the thought and feeling that the distance between life and
death may not be as great as you think.

Be grateful that you have been given the time to learn how to die.

Buddha called death and impermanence the most important teaching: "Just as the elephant's footprint is the biggest footprint on the jungle floor, death is the greatest teacher."

I love the Eight Similes of Illusion, from the Prajna Paramita Sutras, quoted in Eight Steps to Enlightenment, Awakening the Buddha Within, Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World, by Lama Surya Das:
The Radiant Buddha said
Regard this fleeting world like this:
Like stars fading and vanishing at dawn,
like bubbles on a fast moving stream,
like morning dewdrops evaporating on blades of grass,
like a candle flickering in a strong wind,
echos, mirages, and phantoms, hallucinations,
and like a dream.


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