I am all poetry and the small waves of this Maine ocean.
Yesterday, I started a post about the last week—challenges, transition planning, things that stoked my unhappiness and my anger. Granted, they were things that inspired forward movement and the business of the next months.
But this morning I walked the beach in meditation. Walked with some friends after reading the beginning of a Pablo Neruda poem:
I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.
And I could walk the beach with awareness of waves, eyes sometimes on the sand. Watching the light imprint of waves on sand, imprints that could have been mistaken for mountain ranges in a landscape painting. I followed footprints and contemplated their size, their shape, how the heal of one hiking boot print sank deeper into the sand on the right side, how the tiny prints of children’s bare feet danced beside another bigger, steady print. How dog prints varied. How even as early as it was, there were fresh prints in the wet sand, someone, many someones has gone before me; how I was merely adding my own booted prints to a shadowy congregation. How there was only a thin unmarked swath of sand and how sometimes I made sure to leave that swath pristine and sometimes I boldly made my mark there.
I recalled without effort walking on Sunday evenings on the cool red floors of my Madison sangha in the middle of summer. Walking in bare feet and feeling my heels roll to mid-foot to toes before a foot left the floor, to return a moment later. That slow, unhurried, intended stepping and breathing into each step.
This morning’s beach was not the red floors that I can call up in vivid recollection. The beach was uneven, marked, sometimes hard enough to step on top of, sometimes so soft it swallowed my steps. I needed to be aware of the stepping, where and how I placed my heel and rolled to misstep to toes, making sure without conscious choosing that the next step was firmly placed before allowing the first to leave the sand. Aware too of my responsibility to a few fellow walkers, keeping track of one who walked far ahead and two who lagged behind.
Turning my chicks to walk back to where breakfast waited, I found at my feet a perfect shell. As if a reward for the early waking and walking, for the words of Neruda, for the caring of others. I felt my pace increase as I turned back; I wondered if I should catch up with, gather together my chicks for some final words that I did not yet have.
But a big curly haired dog bounded up to me and demanded attention. His owner walking behind seemed to long for company, for conversation and I knew those who began the walk with could manage their return without my words. And so, I stood and made very much small talk with the man as I entertained the dog. He asked questions and seemed unaware that I might have somewhere to be, some other ones to be with. And for a moment, the place and time felt appropriate and skillful to be company for this person and to play with his dog.
After talking was finished, the beach had cleared of those I knew. Not one of them remained. Still early and chilly, no one sat or walked or played in the waves. I walked to where the dune fence allowed exit, but it was not the exit that fed onto the retreat house. For a moment, I stood on pavement. Lost. Not completely so. Just turned around, just distracted from my intended destination. That too, the being momentarily where I did not expect to be, contained some message from angels, from deep soul. You are still not on paths you know, it seemed to say. Embrace what is, and do not long for what you have known and been so sure was all the path there was.
And when I returned to what I knew, returned to our company’s meal hall, Julia was there, eating breakfast, with others who graciously listened to her talk about fighting dinosaurs and Japanese boys with long fingers and blue hair.
And Joyce Rupp’s poem, Old Maps No Longer Work, comes to mind:
It is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.
I will walk deeper
into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.
And I felt again that this morning I am all poetry and the small waves of this Maine ocean.m