It Started With The Grapevines
Please notice that it doesn’t say that the Grapevines started it. In the Buddhist concept of ‘dependent origination’ the precipitator may have been the Big Bang. But, for the purposes of this story, it started with the grapevines – the wild ones. You see, things got way out of balance on the old homestead. The Wild Grapevines had launched an assault at our borders and I had no Hadrian’s Wall to deter them. And it was only when they breached the trees that counter measures were taken. With due respect to the grapevine’s one-ness with all of creation, I began to cut and remove the vines and, in homage to their sacrifice I turned the remains into either compost, mulch, or art. Art, or not, I know it has arete (Greek, with a little hat over the e, meaning – the innate quality of excellence, and implying one-ness in all things) and making these pieces became my summer meditation time. From meditation garden t0 pergola protected stone patio, along the left border and stopping at the entrance path to the back woods are the ‘art projects’, some mature and some still inchoate.
It was on this day that I rolled a 3 foot diameter, 10+ pound grapevine sphere up the incline of the back lawn to the left entrance to the woods. Because it was so well rounded, this particular piece could roll down the slope with barely a nudge or wind sniffle. This being the case, I placed it in what I considered a secure spot and proceeded into the woods to get the next supply of vines to join the sphere. About 30 – 45 minutes later I returned to the secure spot and the sphere was gone, gone beyond, all is gone beyond. Or as the Tibetan Chant goes – Gaté, gate, paragaté, para samgaté, Bodhi swaha.
And So I Wonder
Welcome to ‘far-la-la-land’, on the outskirts of ‘the woo-woo’, beyond which is ‘the gone, the gone beyond’. This is NOT like mis-placing the keys, or finding your eyeglasses on top of your head. Little by little I explored and developed hypotheses. I walked every inch of 2 acres and into the neighbor’s as well. I looked under trees, up in trees, and in the woods and shrubs. No grapevine sphere. My husband thinks it was a hallucination – what?! And he denies coming home from work and sneaking out to steal the sphere while my back was turned. The guess that friends have bought, most readily, is that a yearling buck got his new antlers stuck in the sphere while being curious and playful. I’m not ruling it out but there are still an infinite number of other possibilities. Personally, me’thinks there’s a jokster afoot; the Universe is playing a joke for me.
And I begin to wonder some more. During my 1/2 hour in the woods I was listening to a podcast by Ken McLeod from his Unfettered Mind website. As he began to introduce a meditation I took hold of a secure, thick grapevine and leaned deeply into it. Hanging and resting in the vines I’ve been cutting down. I close my eyes, focus on the breath, and the punch comes. “You have 30 seconds to live. What do you experience?” …. “You have 10 seconds left. What do you experience?” And the silence slowed, filling the void between the sounds, there was nothing, and there was unity in diversity – grapevines and all.
The Second Year of ‘My One Year To Live’ Experiment
Last year was the Bucket List Frenzy and I loved it! I had a whole year, an implied contract that I would live through the whole year. I knew where the power was and I trusted it. Explicit was that the minutes were rolling on, and that there was no time to waste. Time was spent wading through the manure, excavating the scatological remnants of stories stored, practicing and towing the line. Affairs were put in order, conversations conducted, and the out-dated stories were archived, and many were re-written, and I prepared as best I could.
This year, I find that I’m traveling more lightly. I’m more aware of behaving out of intention rather than reaction. But the most startling thing is the thick pillow comfort of knowing that I could meet Death at any breath second only to the confidence that life will surprise me more often than Death.
Back To The Grapevines – It Took 2 1/2 days to re-gain a more sustainable balance
The Grapevine Sphere is not within my sphere of knowing, so what else is there to notice? There’s a no-wind, no-bird, no-plane kind of quiet. The air’s viscosity has become oily. Some may tell me the barometer is dropping, and I would agree. And as I stand where the sphere was supposed to be I see at the edges of what I can see that time has slowed into a gentle sleep. That was when I went inside and started a marathon of ‘Orange is the New Black’ – put your eyebrows down high-brow – I sat by the Bay window keeping one eye open for a traveling grapevine sphere, and the other on the iPad. Every 2-3 hours I’d go outside and walk the land, just checking. The next day it’s raining and I continue on. It’s a thick rain, and gentle. Every couple of hours, rain coat on, I go out, and I come back in, and stream some more. It was probably about 20 episodes in that I began to lean heavily toward the theory that the Universe was playing a joke. The grapevine sphere is gone, just as this body will be gone in the space between two breaths. Last year I made friends with Death. This year Death befriended me, and said “live, until we meet again”, this is the cycle of life, and … I heard it through the grapevine.
A woman wrote a letter to Gratefulness.org that begins “My mother is dying and I cannot help but ask myself bitterly, “What’s it all about?” A part of the response by Jeff Collins, a Social Worker at Hospicare of Ithaca follows:
…One of my Buddhist teachers said: “If you really ask these questions, you won’t get an answer that you can own. But you may get an intuition, a kind of knowing that is more like knowing the warmth of the sun on your skin or the rising of joy in your heart than something you can prove in a science lab.” … I know nothing of grand cosmic plans, but there are times I can directly feel some sense of a profound and inherent value of everything – including your mother, with her dying body, and you, with your pain and what may be your anger – and me, with my laborious efforts in writing this clunky reply to you question. I can sometimes know the inherent value and beauty of gestures of kindness and respect and attention; of the joy of generosity; and the sober beauty of steadfastness. These intuitive senses come and go, but I feel so lucky to be able to say that over time they have started to give me some sort of confidence in that underlying presence of love and awareness in this universe. I am profoundly grateful for my spiritual practice because I think it has focused and concentrated my intuitive experience of the underlying ground of love and awareness that is under all our living….That ground seems utterly non-sectarian, and we are all welcome. I think it was a deep experience of this ground that led Dame Julian of Norwich to say, “All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing shall be well.
I’m ready for a cannoli cream knish to-go.
The Dalai Lama Chanting: