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Sunday, December 27, 2009

COLD MOUNTAIN

waterfalls creek, air bellows gap
We're in the zone between Christmas and New Years where nothing gets started, very little gets done and party hardy is the spirit. I like stay at home hardy. Full moon for the First. Years of working in Sparta, being away from my mountain all day every day, then staying with Jr and rarely at home, I came to miss home until it became an ideal I looked to at some point in the future. Now I'm at home, have been almost 2 months, gradually feeling in place. I had to start my own momentum here in the place that had gone static. All I want to do is watch movies, read, sit at the computer and write to you, go over emails, feed the cats and sleep. I'll do this until something else happens. I could stay this way the rest of my life and be happy.


First years in these mountains I read frequently and identified in a fantasy kind of way with Chinese poet Han Shan from the period of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Not much is known of his life but what he wrote in the 100 poems of his small book Cold Mountain. Han Shan was a Buddhist monk who left home and took up on Cold Mountain, a mountain remote and difficult for any transport but walking. I identified with him leaving the world of commerce and going to the mountain for a solitary life in simplicity among the clouds. The simplicity I sought could not be as extreme as his; I needed to work to make a living, and needed people to know.



My solitude then was knowing less people than before. I have strong leanings toward being solitary, but not one for all out solitude. I like the company of other people too much. Donna Shumate told me not too many months ago that I'm a people person, which I'd never thought of myself, but when I look, there it is. I think it's always been this way, but it took to a certain point in the life to be able to appreciate other people to the point I pay attention with interest instead of duty. Now that I've got there to some degree, I've come to see it doesn't matter at all if I can't like everybody and everybody can't like me. There's always that, no matter what. It's learning to live with it so it's not a passion in the mind or a guilt to carry, just how things are. Some dogs have spots. Some don't. No big deal. The people I think of as my friends have the highest value of any treasure.




49

As for me, I delight in the everyday Way,

Among mist-wrapped vines and rocky caves.

Here in the wilderness I am completely free,

With my friends, the white clouds, idling forever.

There are roads, but they do not reach the world;

Since I am mindless, who can rouse my thoughts?

On a bed of stone I sit, alone in the night,

While the round moon climbs up Cold Mountain.

-Han Shan
These poems have been with me the whole time in these mountains. I step into them when I walk in the woods among rocks, water, trees, a carpet of leaves on the ground, birds, the self-sustaining world where self-consciousness is unknown until somebody like me walks through with a head full of electrons jumping out of their orbits. Han Shan in a simple hand-made robe as monks wore in his time, me in my sweatshop made in Asia discount store American casuals, bluejeans and tshirt. Han Shan walking in straw flip-flops, me in LLBean sale walking shoes with good tread.
Perhaps it's from Han Shan I learned to take an interest in the everyday Way, everyday life as spiritual path. For years I read scripture and studied. Then came the day, 10 or more years ago, I said it's time to start practicing what I've been studying. That sounds easy until I ask, How? How now brown cow is the answer I get. Find it for yourself, in other words. Like Jr with his banjo, pick it up and figure it out. How to practice what I'd learned, I waited for, let it come forward of its own when it was ready, instead of charging ahead using unreliable mind for navigator. It's not a workshop or a church thing. It's standing at the checkout register in the grocery store, talking with my friends, sitting with a cat on my lap.
I think it has to do with the present moment, being in it. It's whatever I do, whatever I say, whatever I think about being in the present moment, flowing through time with it, not locking down in a belief system following the rules of supposed-to. That gets techous, mountain for touchy. You'd be surprised at the particular people you know who get upset over you not adhering to the unwritten rules. It can alienate a lot of people, especially people who entertain notions of control; in hindsight, people it doesn't hurt to see go away, and sometimes it does hurt. I experienced a big shake-up when I stopped allowing myself to be manipulated by somebody with control issues. People who like to believe they control you, seriously dislike you when they find out they can't. I like to leave the control freaks to people who want to be told what to do. Plenty are about.
Back on my mountain, I feel enriched by the experience with Jr. I feel changed by it. I don't know yet what kind of changed, my reason for sitting back without worries about what's next. I gave myself a new Atlas for Christmas, one with all the -stans below Russia, Waziristan, Kazakhstan, like that, places the Silk Road went through that carried the plague from China to Europe in the 14th Century by fleas, which caravans carry more than anything else. This Atlas has the composite images of every continent from satellites, as well as what they call "political" maps with countries delineated. I can be entertained by an Atlas for a very long time. Things going the way they are, which they're doing, it won't be long before Greenland is prime tropical real estate with reggae and hula girls.

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