Today was the first day of summer vacation for me.
After the boys went to school, I decided to go to the river that I love. It was a lovely morning, the kind that everyone remarks on in passing, because we just can't believe we've been gifted with such a day.
It was sunny-bright and windy and a little chilly with the breeze that was blowing. In the pocket of my sweatshirt I placed a packet of sand that I keep; it is ironic that I keep the sand given its provenance: the sand is from a sand mandala honoring Chenrezig, known as the Buddha of Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism . The puja was performed by the monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery; my keeping of the sand is ironic as the purpose of the puja is to destroy the sand mandala in order to speak certain truths about impermanence. Dear reader, you might follow the link to see for yourself: http://www.mysticalartsoftibet.org/Mandala.htm#top
It is at this point, dear reader, that I must disclose that I have been most in need of cultivating compassion.
I must also disclose that I have been in need of integrating the knowing of impermanence into my life.
The first time I visited this river, I was brought there by a former boyfriend. We had meant to surprise each other, and we did, delightfully so: I brought watermelon, his favorite; he brought me to a river, my favorite.
I visited this place often, even after J. and I parted ways. It was running along the riverbank after my-then-2-year-old son (he, pretending to be the proverbial Gingerbread Boy; me, pretending to be in hot pursuit) that I remember laughing for the first time in years. (Dear reader, I had been isolated and abused for some time before becoming free. More words for another time, perhaps.) When I received the phone call that told me of my brother's death, I immediately came to the river, in the winter; where else would I have turned?
Without any other way to explain this, I know these feelings each time I visit, and there is deep and simple satisfaction in it.
I wished to just sit without words for a while. I work in public education in an elementary special education classroom. Our classroom will miss one of our special people (who I will, out of necessity, give a designated pseudonym---Cerulean).
Cerulean's parents came to feel that Cerulean was not receiving adequate delivery of service in our classroom, and they are seeking a new placement. Cerulean left rather abruptly, and I felt very sad, for many, many reasons. We are always sad when we know we will likely never see people we care for again, are we not? I felt sad that Cerulean and classmates were not able to have a chance to say goodbye to each other in whatever way they needed; one of the manifestations of Cerulean's autism is that Cerulean does not use much verbal language.
Attachment, dear reader, is the cause of much suffering.
So feeling some strong attachments to feelings and ideas about the Cerulean situation, I went to the river.
As I was walking the trail before sitting zazen with the river, I met a woman, a young girl, and a large dog on the path. (No, dear reader: although it sounds as if it is a promising beginning to a joke, it is not. ) After pleasant conversation about the beautiful day, I remarked that I liked the lilac-colored Crocs worn by the girl. I laughed a little as I said this, as I myself was wearing a pair of Crocs. The woman said, they are a pretty color. But she keeps being bothered by the mulch getting into the little holes. Does it happen to you? the woman asked.
Sure, but I don't much mind, I said. I just slip them off, dump them out, and start all over again. The woman looked dubious for a fraction of a second, and then laughed a little. We went our separate ways.
I found a rock that proved a perfect seat and sat by the river. The intent of my sitting was to cultivate compassion regarding the situation with Cerulean. The day that Cerulean left was difficult for us for many reasons. That night, I had a nightmare. I was in a classroom with our students when Cerulean jumped up and ran out of the room. I chased Cerulean through the stereotypical labyrinth of corridors and floors of bad dream architecture. I finally was able to catch up in a stairwell. In my dream, Cerulean began to speak to me, in "I need..." sentences. Complete sentences. Many, many sentences. I didn't have anything that Cerulean requested in my dream. In my dream, I did not think twice that Cerulean engaged me in a wave of verbal language.
When I woke from this dream, Cerulean's speech was most wonderful and very sad, all at once.
When I was ready to return to the rest of my day, I stood up, and poured some of the sand in my pocket into the river.
I had to laugh a little again at this point. I suppose I finally perceived the joke, dear reader: you know, the one about the girl, the woman, the large dog, and mulch in the shoe?
I remembered that Cerulean sometimes wore Crocs. When this occured, Cerulean would, as a habit, deliberately insert mulch from the playground into the holes.