In certain sunlight, the craggy tops of the Himalayas look as delicate as roses. I enjoyed Matthieu Ricard’s book of photographs, Motionless Journey, taken when he lived there for a year on retreat. (M. Ricard is a Buddhist monk and French translator for His Holiness the Dalai Lama.) His book records the beauty of many moments in the same place.
It inspired me to look at my own everyday places with the same attentive, present looking. Less dramatic than his, one of mine is the Fens, the elongated, scruffy, lovely park in my neighborhood.
Early in the morning, first light is a rich pink grapefruit color, carried overhead on the bellies of herring gulls while I still walk in twilight. But later in the morning, when the light has found its daytime sharpness, it can catch a flock of pigeons on their pale bellies, and be stark white instead of soft rose, erasing their dark backs from view. A flock of thin white butterflies appears.
Another day, leaning over the stone bridge, I found the great blue heron on a snaky log just a couple of feet below me. It heard me coming, but I was startled and thrilled to look right into that ringed yellow eye. Then it flew off, a little disdainfully I think, all bent wires and slow grace. Later, on a smaller bridge where I like to pause, I met a male mallard’s dark eye, as it stood by its sleeping mate. We looked. No thought, nothing imagined, no blog in the making. Two Beings. Or one. There was only the looking.
I think of that moment of stillness when I remember standing in that spot to watch two mini-flocks of Canadian geese approach just above me, from opposite directions. Just above me. Opposite directions. I think I panicked before they did, but suddenly the honking started from both sides, Boston morning rush hour in flight. It grew more intense, but neither group veered into another path. I don’t know why. Ever heard the sound of two small-grazing-animal-size birds crashing overhead? Feathers shmeathers. That was muscle colliding in that epic thud. No one was injured, except their dignity. They flew on, leaving a violent, charged memory in one of my most peaceful places.
Even the Muddy River, sinewy as it is, changes. When gulls are the rose fingers of dawn (thank you, Homer), the river is still the night sky. Later on a fall morning, the wind plays rhythm on the surface, spinning the reflection of wood-colored reeds into a windmill. After an autumn rain, the river rushes at its center where the current flows. The brown and beige oak leaves get caught in that flow, creating a second river of leaves. Or Muddy seems to arch a backbone of spiky brown fur.
In winter, on a colder, quieter morning, the windmill site is a frosted window hiding a sleeping house, and the reeds are stuck together and crushed down like a sagging haystack. Nothing moves but my eyes.
Except on the morning of our recent Nor’easter, when the river’s surface spread like crisp sheets of paper scattering in the wind. The ducks looked blown one way by the flapping of the wind gusts and driven another by the choppy water. They and I opened our eyes wide at the world, and they moved on into the silver-gray beauty of the storm. Before I did the same, I held the railing of the bridge and felt it shake and hum. As an ancient wrote:
When I pass over the bridge,
Lo, the water floweth not, but
the bridge doth flow.
Change is the world’s breath. A CPT can go with the flow and experience endless Creativity. I will take the time and attention to look. To resist the dark clamor of our days now. Because of it. It will not control my mind or my spirit. I will walk back toward reality, toward the world, and write down what I see.