Small Travels

Last night, with the full moon rising, a raw wind stirring up, and my daughter saying as we walked into town, Hey, it’s cold, and what about those dark clouds following us?, I remembered walking around this house when it was empty, on a bitter winter’s night, thinking whoever lived here would have an exquisite view of the rising moon.

While spring is the season of sprawl  – get out the garden shovels and pea fencing, wash the winter’s dust from blankets and rugs and pin them on the line – November is the season of drawing in. Gather the stray soccer balls. Press the garlic down deep.

Holding the umbrella,
The mother is behind.
The autumn rain.

– Nakamura Teijo

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Myriad Memories – and Now

Hiking down the Zealand trail with my brother in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, he suggests taking a spur to “somewhere with a really good view.” My 12-year-old is more game than I expect, and we hike along an easy wooded path, in a valley where he and I surmise a railroad must have been laid for logging, many many decades ago. It takes longer than we imagined, because, well, hiking always takes longer.

Suddenly, the woods drop away, and the view is way more than terrific. It’s unbelievable. High above, sheer granite cliffs end in autumn-yellow woods. We step out on enormous granite boulders and gaze up and down the valley, flanked on either side by steep mountains. In the distance at one end, we see the Zealand Falls hut; to the other side, the valley funnels down to silhouettes of blue mountain ranges.

We spread out on the rock. It’s just the three of us and a dog and the sunlight and the leftover blue cheese and chips from lunch. My daughter’s brought beer for my brother, and she’s proud that it’s still cold. In the mountain valley, with foliage turning scarlet in flashes against a muted sea of gold, the place reminds me of Frijoles Canyon in New Mexico, of Washington’s Mt. Baker territory where I lived as a grad student, of so many hikes I’ve taken with my daughters. All the best memories of my hiking life are folded into this one wide valley.

My daughter wanders off with the dog. My brother and I talk about hikes we took together as kids, laughing about how we never packed enough water. A raven calls, and then another answers. We stay there for a good long while, in no great rush about anything, talking, surrounded by all that landscape, all those layers of mysterious life in the forest and the river below, those lines of receding mountain ridges leading to the sea.

The autumn evening.
The buses are in line,
One goes out.

– Nakamura Teijo

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Light and Shadow

While doing errands in Barre, Vermont, today, my younger daughter groaned when she saw a huge new building. More stuff. Where does it come from? Like everyone else, we’re consuming our share of stuff, coming home with a case of paper, a metal leaf rake, and the eternal grocery shopping.

As if to contrast, all afternoon we’ve been outside in this glorious sunlight, readying our piece of world for winter: washing windows, slashing perennials, my rearranging of the woodshed. When the girls disappeared to bake an apple pie, I stood back and admired my woodshed, crammed full with ash and maple, drying incrementally yet steadily.

In autumn, by afternoon’s end, shadows and cold creep in. I yanked out the frost-killed squash vines today, left the sunflower heads for the birds. The wood stove is likely lit for the duration. Our kitchen greets visitors with spicy cinnamon and baking butter.

The roadside plants go right on growing. Everything is fulfilling its part in the whole. Such is life – and of such are the realities of life. Harmony comes in understanding things on their own terms, and in a compassionate and humorous acceptance of the way they fulfill their roles.

– Stewart Holmes and Chimyo Horioka, Zen Art for Meditation

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Books, Given and Taken

As a teenager, I raided my father’s bookshelves, skipping over that dull-looking Leviathan for the far more tantalizing Huckleberry Finn, Henry Miller, and Alan Watts. Looking back now, I think, What better could I have read?

Recently, my daughter opened an envelope with a book my father mailed me, Zen Art for Meditation. She looked at this little book, and asked if I was really, truly going to read it.

I answered, With great pleasure, and, with almost a crazy kind of happiness I’m reading this slim volume in these early, autumn mornings. Mystified, my child asks what’s in the book. Mountains, I answer. RiversThings we love. But the book is also full of Huck Finn’s raft, Miller’s restlessness, and Watts’ cloud-wreathed peaks. In haiku’s odd sense of timelessness, I might be a teenager again, reading these lines, rather than a grown woman, or, perhaps, simultaneously both. And I didn’t even have to steal this book.

The salt of the sea is in our blood; the calcium of the rocks is in our bones; the genes of ten thousand generations of stalwart progenitors are in our cells. The sun shines and we smile. The winds rage and we bend before them. The blossoms open and we rejoice. Earth is our long home.

– Stewart Holmes and Chimyo Horioka, Zen Art for Meditation

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Hardwick, Vermont