Temperatures dropped yesterday, still dropping today, and late yesterday afternoon I finally brought in the houseplants. I tend to leave them out to deal with the cooling temperatures of fall till the first freeze alert.
Bringing plants indoors is one of our seasonal milestones. First the plants, then changing to the winter tires that are stored in the garage, and when the earth really freezes, filling some 5 birdfeeders and hanging them in back. Which means that Boris, the 500-pound black bear, may return. He checked up on us 2 weeks ago, slamming two ladders on the ground and destroying the nearby fence. Which means that we’ll have to get the pans and heavy spoon ready by the back door so that Lori could run out at night and bang away to frighten him.
Boris doesn’t frighten easily.
A teaching method in Zen is the study of koans. The miscellaneous ones especially—How do you stop a rowing boat? Hide yourself in a pillar, and now my favorite one: Stop the fighting across the river—challenge you to collapse space and distance and become the very thing that is far away, or separate from you.
My question since the war in Israel and Gaza broke out has been: How do I collapse the distance between me, enjoying the last of a New England fall, and the brutal reality on the ground there? All the media in the world won’t make me the young people shot down as they run, children buried under rubble, entire families bloodied and dead in their homes or under their homes, bombarded and killed. Stop the fighting across the river. If we’re truly One Body, that fighting isn’t just across the river, or across two seas.
“Sirens are going on in Jerusalem,” my brother tells me on his car phone, on his way north. Incoming rockets.
“They must have known you were leaving the city,” I tease him. even as my heart beats faster and I hurry to look at news on I-Net, the Israeli electronic news, updating all the time. If rockets were coming here, I think, Henry would be shaking without stop, Aussie would be on her way to Canada, and me? I can’t even stand the sound of firecrackers.
My life isn’t at stake, destruction isn’t around the corner. But everything around me has turned permeable, as if I’ve turned into one of those European sponges that start out firm and thin, then plump up as they take in more and more dishwater. I haven’t gained weight, nor has my soul shriveled. But something is changing in the heartbeat of this world—because of wars, radical weather patterns coming out of climate change, mass destruction of species, the loss of curiosity and retrenchment in certainty.
How do you stop the fighting across the river?
There are other koans, too: How do I die in a blaze of glory at sunset (see photo)? How do I stand in the water, fur dripping blissfully, as if an enormous reservoir has become my private, personal pool?
It rained Sunday, temperatures diving, and I felt inside as overcast as it was outside. I went up to bed. Aussie, as usual, slept downstairs, but with my housemate gone for the weekend, her dog, Henry, the Illegal Chihuahua, came to my room and lay on the bed, warming it up for me. Once I’m recumbent and begin to read, he scratches the blanket above me, his sign that he wants to go under. I open up the blanket, he slides in, and settles down, all 15 pounds of him, on top of my belly.
“Henry, get off,” I groan.
He stays where he is. I hear the rain outside, sense the chill draft coming in through a slightly raised window, feel Henry on my belly, and it occurs to me that life gives me many wonderful gifts, that usually I notice just a few, like the last beams of sun hitting the yellow leaves at sunset, or the gurgling sound of water coming down the hill –and now a little dog lying on my belly, snoring softly, his small body rising and falling, the quiet house, the sound of rain.
This coming Thursday we’ll meet on Zoom again to share whatever comes up from the war in the Middle East. The Zoom will take place on Thursday at 14:00 (2 pm) US Eastern time. Please keep in mind that many countries in Europe and the Middle East turned back their clocks by an hour this past weekend, which may reduce the time lag between them and the US, so check what time that would be for you.
If you haven’t yet gotten the link by email, email me at email@example.com and feel free to share the invitation with anyone you think may be interested.
Next week, November 9, Zen Peacemakers will host a forum on the war in the Middle East, featuring some of the people that have been with us on Zoom. The program is free, just go on their website (www.zenpeacemakers.org), scroll down and hit Community Events, and you’ll find it there along with registration info.