Sunny, warm, breezy. Sitting on the deck with the dogs & wondering if they enjoy the feeling of the breeze ruffling their fur as much as I enjoy feeling it on my neck & the back of my head. Maybe it’s a little ozone coming off the river & the maple leaves, but it can feel almost transcendent.
I’ve always like the word breeze as well as the phenomenon it denotes–quasi-otomattopoetic, I’d have thought it of fairly recent origin, but the first entry in the OED tells me it goes back to Anglo-Saxon. What’s more, the first definition, though now marks archaic, is entirely unrelated to any kind of wind: “. . . a name given to various dipterous insects, esp. of the genera Œstrus (botfly n) and Tabanus, which annoy horses and cattle.” Not very nice, that. It’s only in the 16th century that the second definition emerges, and it is more specific that the sense in which we now use the word: “A north or north-east wind; spec. applied within the tropics to the NE. trade-wind.” A quite specific sort of wind. In fact, my “breeze” today is blowing from the north-east to the south-west.
Gratitude: A Sentence
With the trees in full leaf in high summer
I can only see a little patch of the river
through the lower branches reflecting the sky
with its drifting cumulus & altocumulus,
but like a fragment of mirror, that patch
of river intensifies what it reflects—
especially the hues & values of sunrise
(orange) & sunset (yellow), with every shade
of every other color passing across
the smooth or ruffled surface every day.
Was I flooded by the life force overnight so that I could wake feeling this blissful? Or am I just high on Percocet? I slept only in bits & pieces last night, actually. Haven’t had this sort of insomnia in quite a while, but when I woke just now after sleeping an hour (from 4:00 to 5:00) I felt filled with bliss. Did the pickup (probably) with a bad muffler wake me? Can’t remember, but I was aware of it coming over the bridge & turning left onto Three Falls Road by following the sound it made downshifting for the turn then accelerating slowly up the first hill across the reservoir. The sound of that broken muffler echoing around the woods & open water & off the banks of the river made me aware how far my sense of hearing reaches, orienting me in space–at least out here in the country–on a far greater scale than my sense of sight. Even when I’m watching the moon, I tend to bring the moon down to me rather than gaining some sense of the great distance between myself & it. I make it intimate. But with the sound of a truck laboring uphill on an otherwise silent summer morning, all of space becomes intimate–“I placed a jar in Tennessee . . .”
The spring dawn chorus, robins for sure but some finches too, I think, began in complete darkness at 4:13 am EST. I began to be able to distinguish clouds in a lightening sky at 4:26. It is now 4:30 & the chorus continues, though only robins now & even they are beginning to get on with the day. I think I can detect some males defending territory.
Since we moved my bed to the living room, putting it next to the big window overlooking the river, I have been able to watch the moon rise each night. Several days ago when I began observing, the moon was waxing gibbous until reaching full a couple of nights ago. (Though from my point of view it looked more full last night.) I have been staying up late, patiently waiting fifty minutes longer each night for moonrise. Tonight it rose a few minutes past ten.
In any case, during this same period the leaves on the maples out back have been budding out, obscuring more & more of the sky, though not completely blocking it. When it has first come up over the river these last few nights, the moon has been the color of cream & very close.
Sometimes I can see nearly the whole disk, but a few minutes later, screened by branches & leaves, only a bright fragment or two are apparent. If I wake very late in the night or in the early morning, I can see the moon’s whole face high in the sky, clear of the maples. But then it appears distant & silvery. Cold.
In Zen the moon is usually a symbol for realization (enlightenment) & we are warned “not to mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself,” but even here we are in the realm of symbolic discourse. Realization is seeing the real, but the only way to mark this is with symbols, metaphors & narratives, the latter giving rise to the immense & immensely tricky koan literature, a substantial portion of which features the moon.
So I have been watching the moon, seeing it only partially as it changes constantly through the watches of the night. While I was writing that last sentence midnight came & went, moving me into the frame of a different day. The moon has reached the densest part of the maple canopy & I can see no glint or fragment at all. There is just Mars hanging there above the southern horizon. Let the moon stand for my realization, then. Ever-shifting & moving, sometimes bright, more often obscure & when bright, distant. But there it is, come back out of the blackness of the trees.
Heading down to ZMM tomorrow to a retreat with writer / translator David Hinton. I’m feeling increasingly like one of those old recluse poets like Han Shan. His name means Cold Mountain in Chinese. I’m thinking of taking the name Cold River, or Sông Lạnh in Vietnamese.