FULL DEVOTION

I’ve taken to sitting outside in the mornings. If you wake up early enough then you can beat the black flies and do your meditation in the back with relatively minor discomfort. I face the woods, the upper slope, and Kwan-Yin. Especially Kwan-Yin.

I’ve been wondering about selling my home and moving somewhere smaller and cheaper. I rent out two rooms now but also pay down a steep mortgage. At the same time, there’s our wooden Kwan-Yin, of whom I’ve written earlier. [A high school teacher had a close student who subscribed to neo-Nazi sentiments. He was also a skilled carpenter. One day he asked her what he could do for her, and she said: “Make me a Kwan-Yin.” “What is that?” he asked. “The Buddhist image for compassion,” she replied. He did. Many years later, after she died, it came to the Montague Farm, and then to the back of our house.]

I once asked Tim, the fine carpenter who lives in the house, to look her over. I wondered what to do with the widening cracks in her body. Tim told me that too many critters have made their home in Kwan-Yin, and what with the hollowness inside and the weather damage, it would be dangerous to even try to patch her up. “If you move her even a little bit she begins to crumble,” he explained.

Maybe that’s what happens when you provide shelter to homeless denizens (a one-woman Skid Row). If I stay here, I wonder, will it keep her intact? Is that a good enough reason for staying?

Harry and Aussie come out to say hello after I’ve sat a while, wagging their tails, sniffing the activity from nighttime. Harry’s changed. He’s gotten past his regression from housetraining and no longer pees or poops in the house after we returned to basic training. He never used to say hello before—he had a one-track mind around food—and I’m curious what kind of dog he’s going to grow up to be.

Dainin Katagiri Roshi long ago said that you have to “participate with full devotion.” Participate in life, he meant, not in your head. Wholeheartedly, with full devotion.

The words full devotion have stayed with me over the years.  This has been a difficult summer. I don’t go anywhere, I don’t connect. People go on vacations, they return with stories of summer fun and relaxation. I sit home, write, walk dogs, work. With full devotion.

Aussie comes over and we have the same dialogue that we have every morning:

“Pet me, pet me,” she says.

“Aussie, I’m sitting,” I say.

“Pet me, pet me,” she says, nuzzling between my thighs.

“Aussie, I’m sitting,” I say again.

“Give me love, give me love,” she says.

So you give in and give love, and at some point start feeling so grateful to participate in this co-creation of life, with devotion. You’re one of the co’s, as she is, as are the drops of rain that fall from the tree leaves, the twigs that come banging down because of last night’s storm, and even the f—ing black flies that swirl around you. Suddenly you just can’t believe the life hat you were given.

Milosz wrote:

Love means to learn to look at yourself

The way one looks at distant things

For you are only one thing among many.

And whoever sees that way heals his heart,

Without knowing it, from various ills.

A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things

So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.

It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:

Who serves best doesn’t always understand.