REMEMBER YOU ARE LOVED

Looking back I see more than seventy years

have already passed.

I am tired of seeing through right and wrong

in the human world

Snow in the late night covers all traces

of coming and going

A stick of incense burns by the old window.

I sit.

The poet Ryokan describes more and more of my life.

We still have snow outdoors, though much has melted in rainstorms. Lying in bed last night, I could hear gusts and rain slapping the walls, occasional chimes from the chimes over the remains of a big oak tree. Through a slightly open window I heard the stream below us turning into gushing white water, then the sound of a freight train chugging its way up north on tracks half a mile from the house, Aussie jumping down from the living room sofa, her favorite bed, to hop on the big lounge chair or else the futon in my office. Her nights are full of pilgrimages from one bed to another. The surge of heat as the furnace finally, in the dead of winter, comes into its own.

“You were in Israel a few weeks ago? How was it?” This from the eye surgeon I visited, preparing for cataract removal in my second eye. No, I wasn’t in danger, Jerusalem got rockets just one day the entire time I was there. Looking at his name, I ask him if his family’s roots are in Lebanon, and he says his father’s are. He was born here, but I always love meeting someone from that Fertile Crescent, with its extraordinary culture, food, and hospitality.

 “Do you go back?” I ask him. “Do you take your children?”

The answer is no. He’s afraid of the instability and violence, the destructive, percolating passions.

I’ve felt locked in those passions, too, but winter in this Valley is a miracle. The snow covers the earth and all its cacophony and bedlam. In the midst of glaring headlines about the Middle East, Ukraine, and Trump trials, it whispers: It’s time to rest. Or at least sit in a warm office under the gray, woolen shawl Bernie brought you from Colombia years ago, and remember that you were loved. That you are loved.

Work and repose at the same time. The birds are eating at the birdfeeders, squirrel tracks in the snow, dogs running delightedly on the puffy powder. They find winter boring and lately have been barking a lot.

“What are you barking at?” I shout at Aussie. “There is nothing there.”

“Nothing is worth barking at,” she shouts back. Ahh, a Zen dog.

Some go to sleep forever. Our first winter in the house I came out the front door on an antarctic morning to find a dead coyote on the front path. It lay there, skin and bones, no blood spots of any kind; it had starved to death. Perhaps it had come to the house for a last-minute search for food before giving up and lying down on the snow.

It shook me up. Death had been so close by, starvation right out front, and I didn’t know it? I’d slept through it?

I picked the body up with a big snow shovel and carried it into the woods. Didn’t tell anyone, not even Bernie.

The same thought crosses my mind now: Someone died out there and I didn’t know it? The newspapers announce YES!, big-time. The Council on Foreign Relations says there are some 32 conflicts or wars actively going on now. The numbers of those dead from war climbs up from year to year, never mind millions of refugees. And I will go to bed soon under warm blankets and read, just as I did that night when the coyote came to our house looking for food.

My eternal koan.

James Joyce, too, saw the snow, and wrote how it falls on everyone evenly, covering up the home, the asphalt roads, the bare trees, the graves, traces of past loves and irritations of the present. It nurtures the earth underneath while the earth waits patiently and quietly.

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