I feel desolate and lonely some mornings. All the encouraging spiritual truisms about being alone—e.g., all-One, etc.—aren’t cutting it for me right now.
I’m a little surprised to feel this way because I’m used to working out of my house. “The streets are so empty,” friends who live in cities or suburban areas tell me. My street is always empty because it’s a country road without too many cars or walkers. And still I sense the difference.
The novelty of it has worn off and I feel the loneliness settling deep inside me morning after morning, waking up to the fact that it’s mostly me and the dogs. If it was me and someone else it might feel different. The house tends to be very, very quiet; I don’t usually put on the TV. So all the truisms about the positive aspects of being alone—it takes you inwards, you can retreat and reflect on your life, etc.—don’t feel very alive for me right now.
A few nights ago the dogs escaped through the fence. I’d forgotten to shut the dog door leading outside, I vaguely remember them barking in the dark, early hours, and my guess is that they ran out to the yard to bark at something, and in the process they discovered a looseness in the wires in the lowest part of the yard, a place they don’t usually frequent, and ran through it.
I didn’t know anything of this till I find Aussie gone when I went down in the morning. A short while later Harry was gone, not to be found anywhere, and then both reappeared in time for breakfast, looking very proud of themselves.
But—it had snowed. All I had to do was put my boots on and follow the tracks they’d made, and immediately I discovered the vulnerable spot in the fence, with their tracks clearly showing on the other side, too. I immediately blocked the hole (if you could call it that) with a big box, held tight by logs I took out of the garage. When Tim returns I’ll ask him if he could re-fence that small area.
I didn’t get angry, I enjoyed tracking how they’d gotten out. I enjoy tracks generally, reading of the people who undertook journeys and challenges, what they learned and left as a precious legacy to us. I follow their tracks, but I never forget that there’s a wide expanse of snow around them, and that expanse is what’s really happening, the big I-don’t-know.
I’ve learned to have confidence in my experience of things, even if it means facing fear, vulnerability, and deep sadness. Tracks are important, but they’re small in that vast field of snow.
It’s not a matter of transcending anything.
One more thing. I keep on thinking how this outbreak of the coronavirus reminds me of 9/11. It was as if everything came to a standstill for a period of time, as if a gap had opened up in what we think of as a continuum. Why? Because things had changed suddenly and we couldn’t trust our regular routines; life no longer made sense the way it had previously. I think of these things as gaps.
Of course, once they pass, life seems to return to familiar ways, but does it really? To my regular way of thinking, it’s a gap in the routine that will resume later on, but actually, life changes all the time, there is no real routine and there is no real gap.
For now, however, it’s fun to imagine I’m living in a gap, in a brief time period when nothing feels familiar, where I can’t trust the old routines of the past. I can’t trust that I won’t get sick; that if I do I’ll recover; that the stores will be open; that if they’re open they’ll stock what I need; when we could re-open the zendo. Sometimes I think that I have no idea what’s really happening outside my home.
Aren’t gaps interesting? We don’t pretend to know in the way we usually do, we don’t know what will be tomorrow never mind next week, which causes us to wonder, to feel vulnerable, fragile, and surprised. Who would have thought? we repeat to ourselves again and again. Who would have thought this could happen?
Two days after the snow spring is back. I bought a bunch of daffodils to put by the Buddha. Lifeanddeathlifeanddeathlifeanddeathlifeanddeathlifeanddeath. We heard it, thought we knew it, but did we really? Do we know it better now?
“Great gappin’ with you,” a friend emailed me after we talked by Facetime together.
Great gappin’ with you, too.
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