March 20, 2009

Living Life, Living Grief

The photo shows a view of Rebecca's work rack.  There's a small Buddha in the center at the top.  In another part of her studio there's a bell for Zazen and a meditation cushion sitting on the only chair in the room.  It's as natural as water to see these there without pretension, without making them into something special, or putting them onto a high altar of worship.  This is where the artist hangs out; these are the tools of expression.  The statue, the bell, the cushion are at home.

Kobun Roshi used to say that sitting Zazen was like washing your face in the morning.  Just as simple and natural as anything you would do.  And, not done for anything special.  We don't think about washing our faces for any particular purpose.  We simply wash our faces.  That's what we do.  Painting, writing, reading, going to the store, cooking, cleaning the house, roller skating, surfing, skiiing, are all the natural activities of the Buddha.  These activities are just being life.

And being life is also to be in its temporality.  When I say the word skiing, I'm taken by the death of Natasha Richardson and how simply her life disappeared.  I can't say exactly why her death moved me so much.  I didn't know her.  I don't know her family except on film.  Yet her death brings up a level of grief that is a daily undercurrent, perhaps in all of us.  It's there, it goes with us day after day, walking side by side and sitting with us in the car.  "Show me a household where there has not been a death."  Surely many other unknown people died in similarly tragic ways on the same day she did.  It's that we can call out her name and recognize her face.  Her death catches us unawares and touches a pain that we all know.  We are reminded how briefly we are here.

The epigraph leading to the poetry in Joseph Stroud's OF THIS WORLD reads:  "And of this world, what did you see?  What did you make of your life?"  It moves us to do and speak at the very marrow moment by moment.  It urges us to be alive in each moment, completely ourselves on the ski slope enjoying the lightheartedness and play of the snow.  Even that shall disappear, yet we engage it fully while we are there, while we are here.  We live wholeheartedly in the painting studio, at the writing desk, receiving what comes up and allowing the life of the painting, the life of the poem.  We live wholeheartedly on the cushion allowing Zazen to live us and for life to be an unmatchable, incomprehensible, immeasurable voice.