Lynn and I retreated to the woods this week.
The first of the trilliums are up in their tiny trilogy perfection. Strawberry flowers dot the path down to the river. The underbrush is in bud. Dogwoods in flower. The alders and birch are in leaf.
Chopping wood and clearing brush next day in sunshine the blackflies make an appearance arriving with the sweat on my brow. “They won’t bite” I tell myself (mistaking them for the first mosquitoes) until one crawls past my hairline and digs in. Raising left hand to deal with it, another is nesting in my right ear and the craziness of fighting bugs rises in my chest.
The river runs. And runs. I love its ever-pouring forth when all else seems still. At night I come out onto the porch to view the stars and moonlight and the rush of river fills my ears. I invite it into me and it sweeps down inside. Down into my shoulders and through my arms it rushes to spill from fingertips. The white sound sweeps into my chest where worry and responsibility and heartache grow like moss and it pulls them free from my lungs and I breathe fully as if for the first time.
Down into the pool of belly and bowel it pours. Swirling round in there the sound scourges the organs and squeezes between the rows of intestines where the debris of doubt collects and the ashes of my flare-ups of self-loathing sink into those dark places. The white sound stirs it all into motion until the muddy mess overflows in whitecaps that spill down the trunk of hollow legs and out into the earth giving me sound roots where I stand in the flow – the flow making me part of its inevitable healing, cycling, cleansing.
I am a single tree in a forest, a fish in the stream, a human playing out my part in a cycle and flow so much longer, deeper, and more sweeping than I can possibly comprehend. And yet I’ve been given a unique part to play, born to bring the gifts I carry into the places the current takes me. I am affirmed and not lost in the great currents of time.
Finally comes a good downpour. We’ve been thirsty for this drenching rain for weeks. The river will rise with this offering from the skies.
It all reminds me that change is the only constant.
The elder Zossima, an ancient monk, in Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” offers deathbed wisdom that travels from 1880 to today as fresh and true today as spring.
“Love all God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. love every leaf, every ray of God’s light! Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. And once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly more and more every day. And you will at last come to love the whole world with an abiding, universal love.
Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and untroubled joy. Do not, therefore, trouble it, do not torture them, do not deprive them of their joy, do not go against God’s intent.
People, do not exalt yourself above the animals: they are without sin, while you with your majesty defile the earth by your appearance on it and you leave the traces of your defilement behind you – alas, this is true of almost every one of us!
Love children especially, for they, too, like the angels, are without sin, and live to arouse tender feelings in us and to purify our hearts, and are as a sort of a guidance to us.
You are working for the whole, you are acting for the future. Never seek reward, for your reward on earth is great as it is; your spiritual joy which only the righteous find.
Fear not the great or the powerful, but be wise and always worthy. Know the right measure, know the right time, get to know it. When you are left in solitude, pray.
Love to fall upon the earth and kiss it. Kiss the earth ceaselessly and love it insatiably. Love all people, love everything, seek that rapture and ecstasy. Water the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears. Be not ashamed of that ecstasy, but prize it, for it is a gift of God, a great gift, and it is not given to many, but only to the chosen ones.