January 02, 2011

New Year Begins

Fruit trees in the Central Valley, California

I didn’t especially choose Piedmont as my place of respite.  Rather, it was somewhat known, a place well located, and it was excellent to be in relationship to my daughter for this while.  It was startling on the drive down, once I’d entered California, how emotions that I’d forgotten came sweeping over me in the space of the wide landscape - emotions necessary to the artist in order to dream, to connect to myths, to understand vision and translate it into expression.  I felt I’d hindered some genuine articulation by living away from a topography that speaks to my soul.

It isn’t that I think I’ll do something great with art.  I simply want to remember how to contemplate in the natural way that I do.  As a teacher and leader, there is no choice but to put one’s own needs aside and care for what has to be done.  There is no room to grieve, no room to “simply be” even though that is what we teach.  People’s projections weigh heavily on our public leaders, teachers, ministers.  Can we imagine the weight of expectation and demand that we place on President Obama, and on other public people?  My heart aches for what the President, the human-being-man must carry.  Our Zen teachers are simple human beings, but still we weigh them down with who and what we want and think they should be, what we think “Zen” is.

I’ve come to deeply sympathize with the poet-priest Basho who also became abbot of a temple.  Numerous times in his life, he left the demands of the temple behind and went off for years at a time to find himself, to be in the world as a free agent, to be away from pastoral care and listen to the sound of the wide world, to walk where no one knew him, to recover the heart of compassion, to live in a natural way.  Because of this we have his great travel poems and we have an example of the priest-artist who must live his art in order to survive.

So, for better or worse, here I am for the next three months.  This is where I hang my hat.