TREE OF LIFE

Don’t tell anyone in the Zen world, but I meditate on a rocking chair.

Strange, I know, but see here: It doesn’t rock when I sit. It stops the minute I settle in, and I feel like I’m poised between heaven and earth, between pushing forward towards all the things I want and pulling back from everything I dislike and fear. I seem to sit right on the edge between the two and it feels very stable. The chair doesn’t move.

This morning a card on the adjacent windowsill fell on the rug. I picked it up and saw it was an old card someone had sent me from Europe after Bernie became ill. She wrote beautiful words of encouragement. I turned the card over and it showed a tree on the other side, entitled the Tree of Life. Bernie often referred to the Tree of Life. In the Old Testament, there were two trees: the Tree of Knowledge, which helped you discriminate right from wrong, and the Tree of Life. Adam and my namesake, Eve, chose to eat the fruit of the first tree, but it was the second, the Tree of Life, that was in the center of the Garden of Eden.

Last September, in Santa Barbara, I met a couple. Both were 74 years old. He had lost his wife some 8 months earlier, met an old friend, the two fell in love, and confided to me that they’d just gotten married. They hadn’t done this publicly because of concern over what his children would say.

“I don’t know how you could do something like that so fast,” I told them. We were all in Santa Barbara for a memorial of a close friend, and it brought up Bernie and our 2 years together there. “I’m not judging you,” I said, “I just can’t imagine it.”

He explained that he’d nursed his wife through 5 years of Alzheimers. By the last two years she couldn’t even recognize him.

He left the room for a short while, and his new wife said to me: “You know, it takes courage to fall in love at our age. We’ve had our losses, and we know that ahead of us lie more losses. It’s very different when you fall in love much earlier, and ahead of you stretch many years of loving and planning and building. But what are you going to do?”

What, indeed? Not fall in love? Not go on like that red dahlia that only bloomed in September, living fully in the face of decreasing sunlight and cold nights, evidence that its lifespan was going to be short?

Soon I’ll be 70. I don’t know what love is ahead for me, only that life is. And short and pockmarked as that may be, I want to do it fully.

 

I will lead a Zen meditation retreat from Thursday evening, December 5, till mid-day of Sunday, December 8. Please see here for details if you are interested in attending.