Every spring, after changing the clock, I look out after dinner and see the sunset west of the house, retiring over the Berkshire Mountains. We don’t have much of a view where we live because we’re in our own little valley in the Happy Valley, surrounded by trees. But I love that early evening light.
This time I also caught below the broken big planter that has been out in front of the house since we moved here more than 13 years ago. One of two big planters out front, it’s finally been done in by the snow and ice this winter.
Spring on top, broken planter at bottom.
I didn’t go to the zendo this evening. Bernie needs care after his radiation treatments, and I was so focused on other things I didn’t even notice till around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, when it hit me: What am I doing in the zendo when I’m needed right here?
There isn’t a day that this thought, in some form or other, doesn’t come up at least a dozen times: What am I doing writing when I need to see to the wounds on his face? What am I doing on my way to a yoga class when I need to talk to him as he gets up? What am I doing working on this or that in my office, talking to this person or that person, when I need to put a cool wet towel on his painful eyes?
No, don’t call it Jewish guilt. It’s holding contrasts together, keeping each opposite in a separate hand, fist closed tightly around it, and saying: So where is it now? Where is it now?
That’s what I thought of when I looked out at dusk and saw the spring sun, and the broken planter in the garden. But, too, the sun sets and the planter can mend. As Roshi James Ford wrote me, quoting Hemingway: The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But I also love how Wendell Berry described the sycamore not far from his house:
Fences have been tied to it, nails driven into it,
hacks and whittles cut in it, the lightning has burned it.
There is no year it has flourished in
that has not harmed it. . . .
It has risen to a strange perfection
in the warp and bending of its long growth.
It has gathered all accidents into its purpose.
It has become the intention and radiance of its dark fate.