Monthly Archives: September 2013

Dead Frogs Still Say I Love You

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Yesterday, we were drawing with chalk in the driveway and the kids got very excited to show me something.

Mummy, Mummy! Jack takes me by the hand and walks me towards the basketball hoop.
Oh no, it’s a frog. It’s mushed. I ran it over with the car.
Like the bat, Colin says.
Yes, like the bat. I also just backed over a wiffle ball bat, mushing it into a very suitable cricket bat. Apparently the concentration and clarity developed by my meditation practice have not permeated my skill of backing the car out of the garage.
Look! Look! says Jack.
I know, the yellow jackets and the ants are eating it. Two yellow jackets and a collection of ants are feasting on the carcass. I had no idea that yellow jackets were omnivores. Oh. I’m so sad I killed this poor frog. I did not mean to do that. Do you want to say a little prayer with me?
I kneel down. Jack kneels down. Colin kneels down.
Little frog, I’m so sorry I ran you over you and killed you.
I’m sorry we killed you frog, Colin repeats.
Sorry frog, says Jack.
I feel really sad. I love frogs. I think about our frog from the garden. I hope this is not the same frog. It’s too mushed and dried out to tell what kind it was. Its entrails are still moist, but its back feet are leathery and curling up from the blacktop.
But look, do you see what the bugs are doing? They’re eating its body.
Yeah! Jack is full of earnest enthusiasm.
Even though the frog is dead, its body will still help these bugs. They will eat it and have energy to be healthy and strong, and they will take some of the food back to their nests, and feed the other bugs. Isn’t that cool?
Colin looks up at me.
It’s like saying I love you.
Yes. Yes honey, that’s exactly right. It’s just like saying I love you.

Collateral Heartbeats

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The soul will starve on hope alone. It must be fed with presence, and yoked between a body and mind snugly bound. Fantasy is a cruel place to ask our bodies to dwell. Our bodies are here, now. They are not capable of being any other way.

What good would our heartbeats be, if they were still beating in last Tuesday? Or last year, or the last time we remembered our hearts racing? What good would a promised heartbeat be? One that should be delayed so that it might be better than the one offered right now.

Our hearts beat, and our blood inches. Our cells lap at the viscous, creeping river, and pulse with life as they march towards death, now and now and now, and now. When we send our hearts back and push them forward, thin becomes our blood, weak becomes our pulse of now; stretched across an entire lifetime, already past and not yet lived. We trickle through each moment, too diffuse to feel our own experience.

The heart knows where it is. It has its own eyes, its own ears, its own flesh, and smell and taste. They are ours. The heart beats for them. It beats for us. In service. In love. In the devotional act of now, and now, and now, and now. So when we lie, when we tell our eyes and ears and flesh and smell and taste, we are not here, we are somewhere better, our hearts break a little. We steal its vitality as down payment on a promise, and we denigrate its practice. When we lie and tell our eyes and ears and flesh and smell and taste, there is no pleasure here, we are somewhere worse, they wilt from our inattention, at their sadness and embarrassment for not being enough, and our hearts break a little more.

Our poor hearts. It is very difficult to live this way. So they beat harder, do not wilt, do not fade. I love you. I love you right now, and now, and now, and now. Our hearts, they do not know how to stop loving – it is only our minds that stray. Our bodies are so faithful, so earnest in the face of nonattendance. Clear attention dissolves only that which is imagined – pain, anger, physical boundaries. But it does not dissolve love. It can not dissolve the essence of its own nature. Clear attention is bound to the heart; it is the fuel and product of love, and it only ever occurs right now, and now, and now, and now. Still, it is the hardest thing to give myself, to give others, so sumptuous and hollow is a diet of hope.

Goldenrod

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I recently sat and watched a patch of goldenrod.

Goldenrod is a succulent firework, each spiraling arm a tumble-out explosion of itty, bitty buds. Its color, the bright, white light of sunshine, layered over and over, until it becomes the dark, golden quiver of yolk. It was crawling with bees, honeys and bumbles. They would land and pick their way over the blossoms, trolling their faces through the bloom. Lift off, repeat. Sometimes they bumped each other out of the way. One bee would land on another, but there was no conflict, the first bee just moved on. It’s very random, it looks…inefficient, but it’s a pattern that ensures ample pollination. How sterile a planning matrix would make it.

A breeze gently bumped one set of flowers into another. More pollination. I felt a swell of emotion rise in my heart, and in my throat. What was I feeling? It was like when you are walking next to a good friend, someone you love. You walk slowly and close, like there is a little secret between you, perhaps just the pleasure of walking this way. And one of you leans in, on the rise of the step and touches the shoulder of the other – the gesture that is balanced precisely between a press and a bump – held for a beat until the foot touches down, and then you draw apart again, smiling. It was like that. I felt love. I felt pride at being the living compatriot these flowers, these bees, this breeze. Of being part of this system that was so beautiful, so prosperous, and so unmanaged. I felt humility for how much I construct in the name of making things better than they already are.

I sat. I watched. I sighed. The breeze sighed. The flowers sighed. Jonah, strapped to my chest, shifted and sighed. There were aphids. There was a pair of lady bugs were locked in a carnal crawl, dragging pollen behind them, their red shells winking in and out of the gold. I sat. I watched. I marveled. The humble golden rod, passive master of its own success by sweet invitation, and by simply allowing the world around it to act according to its own nature. It was such a gentle resiliency, it was stunningly beautiful.