Thursday, January 13, 2011


The roughly two feet of snow that fell yesterday remains white beneath the street lights. Neatly-gouged trails mark the places where shovels and snowblowers plied their trade. My neighbor, a guy whose self-centered behavior has marveled me over the years, ran his snow blower down the sidewalk in front of my house and then cleared a space where the cars have to get out of the driveway ... the place where city plows had left alpine heapings of street snow. It was a real kindness. The street itself is narrowed by three or four feet because municipal plows simply don't have anywhere to put the accumulation. It's still outstanding weather for ski-joering or cross-country adventures. Strangely and wonderfully, both yesterday and today, the newspaper came on time, a no-joke success story with such a lot of snow.

Yesterday, during the winter lockdown, there was an invitation to speak at some spiritually-inclined center. The writer suggested it was nice to have talks from other traditions. It was flattering to be asked, of course, but the center is some distance away and, more compelling, I really don't have the energy for 'tradition' any more. I admire it and think it is a good thing and am grateful that others have the energy to encourage and support such directions, but I don't want to skew anyone's course by saying I haven't got the energy for 'tradition.'

That sounds uppity or sage, depending on your point of view, and it takes effort and discipline to run a tradition ... who needs to hear that someone ran out of steam? What you need is the Norman Vincent Peale (positive thinking) approach -- up-beat and serious and encouraging. As I have delighted in cap pistols to enhance a game of cowboys-and-Indians, so I have delighted in spiritual tradition. But as I cannot find a single cap pistol around the house, so I have a difficult time finding a tradition I want to play with.

Sit zazen? Sure.
Count the breaths? Sure.
Light a little incense? Sure.
Do some good? Sure.
Refrain from evil? Sure.
Etc, etc, etc? Sure.

Is that a tradition? Well, I suppose if you are making a living doing it, then it is. I know that there are those who find it desperately important, who defend and elevate and spread the good word. And it's probably better than kicking baby robins. So ... go ahead and do that. I once heard that my teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, abbot of Ryutaku-ji monastery in Japan, started skipping morning chanting as his years advanced. Was it age or cap pistols that inspired him? I don't know.

In a day or two, perhaps, the weather will turn warm enough to make snowballs possible. Kids will square off as they always have to battle and laugh and get black eyes. Their faces will be ruddy with effort.

I can't throw worth a damn any more.

1 comment:

  1. When I was yet a youngster, a favorite activity was skipping stones across any reasonably flat expanse of water and, if such was unavaiable, whatever water was at hand. Fewer than eight countable circle of spreading ripples was judged a completely substandard throw.

    I grew up in shale and slate country so the stones for throwing littered the streamsides.

    Now I must search hard for a flat oval stone to throw and eight skips is respectable.