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During a visit with a young friend last night, our conversation touched on plans for career, schooling, family, life in general. Everything’s brightly ahead for her, even as disappointments exert their toll: dashed hopes, quirky twists of fate, and myriad injustices. As we listened more deeply, a quiet settled over us. There we were, at opposite ends of developmental stages, at ease with just being. Tears rolled, laughter erupted. If we’d been near a lake, we’d have heard a loon call her chicks.

This morning I reached for Wang Wei (c.699-761), a ch’an (zen) practitioner, poet, painter, and calligrapher who lived in China during the T’ang dynasty.

Late in life, all I want is peace.
The million pursuits aren’t my concern.
Looking myself over — no future plans.
I just know: go back to the ancient forest.
A breeze in the pines, loosening my belt.
I pick my lute under the mountain moon.
What’s the logic, you ask, of success and failure?

source: Foster, N., & Shoemaker J. (1996) (eds.). The roaring steam: a new Zen reader. Hopewell, NJ: The Ecco Press, p. 33. image:


2 responses »

  1. “Ask me” by William Stafford

    Some time when the river is ice ask me
    mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
    what I have done is my life. Others
    have come in their slow way into
    my thought, and some have tried to help
    or to hurt-ask me what difference
    their strongest love or hate has made.

    I will listen to what you say.
    You and I can turn and look
    at the silent river and wait. We know
    the current is there, hidden; and there
    are comings and goings from miles away
    that hold the stillness exactly before us.

  2. ‘opposite ends of developmental stages’… here’s something from the middle!

    What’s Left

    I used to wait for the flowers,
    my pleasure reposed on them.
    Now I like plants before they get to the blossom.
    Leafy ones – foxgloves, comfrey, delphiniums –
    fleshy tiers of strong leaves pushing up
    into air grown daily lighter and more sheened
    with bright dust like the eyeshadow
    that tall young woman in the bookshop wears,
    its shimmer and crumble on her white lids.

    The washing sways on the line, the sparrows pull
    at the heaps of drying weeds that I’ve left around.
    Perhaps this is middle age. Untidy, unfinished,
    knowing there’ll never be time now to finish,
    liking the plants – their strong lives –
    not caring about flowers, sitting in weeds
    to write things down, look at things,
    watching the sway of shirts on the line,
    the cloth filtering light.

    I know more or less
    how to live through my life now.
    But I want to know how to live what’s left
    with my eyes open and my hands open;
    I want to stand at the door in the rain
    listening, sniffing, gaping.
    Fearful and joyous,
    like an idiot before God.

    ~ Kerry Hardie ~

    Cry for the Hot Belly
    The Gallery Press


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