Oryoki

japanese-garden-brooklyn-fish

“Stay here forever,” said the little girl in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. We were in the Japanese Pavilion, leaning over the rail to watch the fish.

Cherry blossoms swirled like confetti in the dark water. “No,” said her father. “Gonna see more fish—” and he dragged her away from the ones she was already looking at: their shadowy bodies, their smiling mouths, their multicolored scales. Black and gold and pure albino white; cadmium yellow/charcoal; silver-blue-green-gray. The little girl protested, but her father didn’t listen. “More fish,” he said, as if more and different were always, unquestionably better. More fish. Again more fish.

Oryoki, the Japanese word for a begging bowl, means “just enough.” The Irish word go leor (anglicized as “galore”) also meant “sufficiency,” at least at first, sufficiency being a synonym for plenty. But over time, “plenty” has metastasized into “more than enough,” and finally into “too much.” There is nothing wrong with having “too much of a good thing” on a feast day, or for a celebration. But when one comes to take that “more” for granted, requiring excess on every ordinary day, then its celebratory aspect is destroyed.

“Stay here forever,” said the little girl. All she wanted was to watch the fish: to dissolve into that moment of enchantment.

~ Christian McEwen, “Slow is Beautiful.” From World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down


Photo: faungg’s photos with fish in Japanese Garden, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Saturday Morning

porch-cabin-nature-outdoors

It is an attitude Thoreau would have applauded. As he notes in his journals, “Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumacs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.”

From sunrise to noon is a considerable stretch of time, especially at the height of summer. One cannot imagine a contemporary writer squandering even a fraction of those hours. But Thoreau had a tremendous capacity for patience, as his friend Emerson understood. “He knew how to sit immovable, a part of the rock he rested on, until the bird, the reptile, the fish, which retired from him, should come back and resume its habits, nay, moved by curiosity, should come to him and watch him.”

~ Christian McEwen, “Searching & Dreaming” in World Enough & Time


Notes:

I’m listening.

moon-full-moon

There are many such assignments one can give. When Janet Fout’s daughter was a little girl, the two of them used to spend time together out of doors, playing and inventing nature games. My own favorite was listening for the sounds they could not hear, which Fout called “The Sounds of a Creature Not Stirring.” Examples might include: sap rising, snowflakes forming and falling, sunrise, moonrise, feathers, dew on the grass, a seed germinating, an earthworm moving through the soil, an apple ripening, wood petrifying, a spider weaving its web, a leaf changing colors, a salmon spawning.

~ Christian McEwen, World Enough & Time


Notes:

Not just a 3 pound brain tilted sideways above strained shoulders and neglected legs.

cat-pet-cute-adorable

Returning to ourselves as material beings reminds us to place less emphasis on the flickering ticker tape of verbal commentary, and to focus instead on older, steadier, more grounded pleasures. It is helpful, perhaps, to think in terms of “coming to our senses,” reinhabiting ourselves as living, breathing creatures, not just a 3 pound brain tilted sideways above strained shoulders and neglected legs. A little ease, a little spaciousness. Such things aren’t casual.

Slowly we return to the immediate present, to the flowers on the table, to the cat’s soft fur. Time spreads out around us, a slow and rippling pool. There is time to watch and listen, time to remember. Our animal selves, so long ignored, settle back into the breathing landscape of the earth itself.

~ Christian McEwen, World Enough & Time


Notes: Quote – Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Photo – Mennyfox55

Walking in Woods. Clueless.

trees-woods-light-umbrella

2:30 am.
We’re back on the front seat of the insomnia bus.
Unfinished business from work is clanking around.
No. Don’t get up. Not yet. Keep your eyes shut.
It’s dark. It’s quiet. I listen through my eyelids.
The North winds whistle, and freezing air leaks through the window sills.
It’s cold. I pull the comforter up.  Zeke, at my feet, stirs.

It keeps coming back.
It’s mid-December.  A late Saturday afternoon.  Overcast.  Rain is threatening.  I grab the leash, call for Zeke and we walk.

Baker Park is a small suburban park, a brisk ten minute walk.  It’s adorned with a half-sized aluminum backstop, grassy fields and a small playground.  A wooded area rings the back end with paths carved by the Boy Scouts in a summer project.

Zeke bounds ahead, his feet stirring the leaves that layer the earth.

I pass the first. It’s a glance.
I pass the second. It has my attention.
I pass the third. I slow my pace.
I pass the fourth. I’m troubled now.
I approach the fifth. I stop. Don’t you dare move to the 6th.

[Read more…]

Lightly child, lightly

minimalist-legs-knees-hands

Awareness is your refuge:
[…]
It’s very practical and very simple,
but easily overlooked or not noticed.
When you’re mindful, you’re beginning to notice:
It’s like this

~ Ajahn Sumedho, The Sound of Silence


Notes:

  • Quote Source: Mindfulbalance. Photo:mm by zezn (via Journal of a Nobody)
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

And doubling and doubling and doubling back

que-saiz-je-what-do-I-know

“Ever since Michel de Montaigne, the founder of the modern essay, gave as a motto his befuddled “What do I know?” and put forth a vision of humanity as mentally wavering and inconstant, the essay has become a meadow inviting contradiction, paradox, irresolution and self-doubt. The essay’s job is to track consciousness; if you are fully aware of your mind you will find your thoughts doubling back, registering little peeps of ambivalence or disbelief.”

~ Phillip Lopate, The Essay, An Exercise in Doubt


Notes:

Monday. Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day.

panel,motion

I think the British writer James Meek is accurate when he describes Light Years (1975) by the American novelist James Salter. […]

“There is no complete life. There are only fragments. We are born to have nothing, to have it pour through our hands.”

And this, again, is a common experience [from Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘Modern Fiction’ (1921)]:

“Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

~ Galen Strawson, I am Not a Story


Art: Simon Birch (via Lost at E Minor)

And all that was leading me where?

stone-temple-pilots-yellow-colored-vinyl

I could never turn back
any more than a record
can spin in reverse.
And all that was leading me where?

To this very moment…

— Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea


Notes: Photo – vinylgif.com. Poem: Fables of the Reconstruction

Saturday Morning. Sleeping in? Miracle. All of it. 

Juliet Alpha November
When you fall asleep, your body enters a state of slumber, but it nonetheless keeps ticking,  its life continues, ready to resume where it left off. Your consciousness, however, vanishes completely. In no sense does it keep ticking. You, as we say, pass out. And when you emerge again, either in a dream or when you finally resume waking life, you emerge from nothing – but the very same you that you were before. The fact of your self bootstrapping itself back into existence is such a familiar happening that you may not be as astonished by it as you should be. Nonetheless, you can scarcely fail to notice what goes on. And it could well provide an essential plank in your reasoning about immortality. Such a proven capacity for endless resurrection out of nothing is the one thing that proves everlasting existence.

– Nicholas Humphrey, Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness


Post title inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”


Sources: Quote – Thank you Whiskey River. Photo: Juliet Alpha November – Anne

 

 

 

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