The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose. Heda Bejar
East of the endless retail, and
the keeping it weird of Portland,
lies a land forgotten.
Far from the fir & fruit trees,
the nation imagines,
is another Oregon.
Beneath the infinite sky,
the sage grows wild, and
wheat, wind, & warmheartedness sustain.
In the arid landscape,
the rare rain & tree are treasures,
as beloved as family and history.
The tiny grocery, the pub,
& soda fountain are the venue
for a shadow vibrancy unseen by passersby.
Beyond that neighborliness,
using only my feet and legs to carry,
I step along a rocky path once walked by rancher.
Deep in the canyon,
beneath the hot spring sun,
my ears are baptized with silence.
Beside the deep blue river,
and beneath the azure dome,
my thoughts come easily.
Purifying sage reaches my nostrils,
the Spirit descends,
and divine love & clarity permeate palpably.
The rocks beneath & sky above are me.
My toes hug the rocky soil,
and my spirit soars among fluffy clouds.
I am one. We are One.
Candid shots are my preference but the things that move on the trail do not always want their photos taken. So today, I tried to gently coax this beetle to pose for its portrait on all legs. Instead, it rolled on its back. Then it stood on its head. Repeatedly, it stood on its head. I suggested one last time, “You’re portrait will be engaging if you stand on your legs!” My friend stood on its head once again.
I interpreted this to mean it was striking a pose.
Beside the fir’s olfactory balm,
I step and step again.
Pausing I breathe in Mama Gaia.
The silence and chittering creatures,
lose their dominance as I continue.
Trickles and gurgles become roars.
Beneath the green canopy,
the end of tunnel light beckons.
Emerging solar warmth embraces my skin.
Hopeful yellows, purples, & reds
dot the spring shoreline beyond the roaring.
The icy danger disrupts my forward journey.
In the mountain’s domain,
far from she and far from he,
I stand beneath the blue skies.
Beside the rushing waters,
I gaze beyond the treacherous sea.
No steel or human-crafted expanse facilitates my journey.
Fear and desire compete.
“Maybe here. Maybe up that way.”
Turning around feels like giving up.
“There!” I spy rudimentary clues.
Those who’ve come before point the way.
Challenge, skill, and hope lure me across the rushing risk.
A little muddy, damp, and chilled,
I look back to where I’ve been.
Ethereal kindred united self with me.
In the mountain’s domain,
the breath of divine wholeness reveals,
the dusty camaraderie of humanity.
I tend to favor less developed parks. Trails that are narrowier, more treacherous, and less groomed challenge my physiology and spirit. Rocks or moss (sometimes both) are my preferred benches. The Oregon Parks Department, however, has a knack for placing benches within oil paintings.
Sometimes, I find myself along a well-groomed, safer trail. When I come across a bench in the divine art gallery, I sit upon that bench. As I admire the painting before me I soon realize the divine artist has also been busy to my left, my right, and behind me.
Tuning in to the chatter of squirrels, the rushing water, and the breath that tousles branches stretching to the sky, I notice my own brushstrokes. I am part of this divinely created masterpiece!
Like the splendor of the falls, the mud in my boots, and the early budding trees, my allure and beauty are created in the artist’s own image.
Awhile back, I was inspired by the abundant life still present in the parched late summer at the Tom McCall Preserve near Rowena, Oregon. The dry conditions were not unusual that year. I confess the sound of the hot wind blowing through the dry grass and crinkling leaves brings me peace when I hike there in the summer months.
Instead of the Columbia River Gorge’s hot breath, I experienced its bitter winds on my early February hike. There was no crunching to be heard, only the sloshing sound of my (thankfully!) waterproof hiking boots on the muddy and floody trail. There was subtle beauty in the winter moisture just as there was in late summer.
Last fall, much of this area was under a drought emergency. Mt. Hood was rapidly losing its snowcap. Areas I hiked in July had the same lack of snow that is typical of late September. This winter we’ve been blessed by moisture falling as rain at the lower elevations and snow in the mountains.
Certainly we need to be concerned about climate change; we should be taking more drastic actions than we have been taking. Nonetheless, spiritually we need to remember that the very nature of existence is change. What is now, will not last forever. Droughts become an abundant winter of snow and rain.
Writes Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, “Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.” I confess that I’ve recently been in a funk. I’ve been struggling with the wilderness, the “no-man’s-land” as Chödrön refers to it, on and off for some time.
The result of course is I’ve been out of harmony with reality. By allowing myself to resist and struggle against the impermenance, failing to be in the present, I allow myself to be out of sync with the joy, the contentment — the divinity — within myself and others. So, I confess my sin and pledge to continue the wandering, the learning to be.
Below are photos of the moisture from my recent trek through McCall Preserve. The image that looks like a small stream? That’s the trail.
keeping us on the straight & narrow,
showing us the proper way.
Navigating the painted lines,
we puff up in pride & righteousness
when we stay within their rigidity.
“I follow the rules!
“I’m the right kind of person!”
“You gotta stay inside the lines
if you wanna avoid hell!”
permeable in reality,
impenetrable in thinking.
keeping us from the grassy meadow,
forested enclave, and expansive view.
separating us from new ideas,
our creative essence, & the divinity within.
keeping us away from fellow sojourners,
from warm hearts & cozy hearths.
Navigating the painted lines,
staying within their safety,
we lose our way.
“I’ll be safe if I stay within the rules!”
“The right kind of person stays away from the boundaries!”
“God only loves me if I stay within, avoiding mistakes!”
impenetrable only in our minds,
only in our hearts.
Focused on rigidly staying within,
we lose sight of what matters:
the expansive divinity of love.